Coming off a dominant showing through six hours of the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, coupled with a near-podium at Sebring last year, Mazda Team Joest is confident entering Saturday’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
“We came here with a clean slate,” said Jonathan Bomarito. “We come here with a lot of optimism and a lot of positive thoughts coming into this weekend. We had a strong car at Daytona, and a strong car here last year.
“Once the cars roll in that first session on Thursday, we will be very disappointed if we’re not close to the top of the timesheet.”
Bomarito returns in the No. 55 Mazda DPi, joined by Harry Tincknell and Olivier Pla. Oliver Jarvis, Tristan Nunez and Timo Bernhard share the team’s No. 778 DPi.
Last year’s hopes were dashed when the team had trouble restarting the car following its final pit stop. The team finished sixth.
At Daytona in January, Jarvis shattered P.J. Jones’ 26-year-old track record in qualifying after the Mazdas dominated practice. Both cars were in solid contention before the team experienced double calamity within a 15-minute span during the seventh hour. The No. 55 pitted when Pla heard an explosion in the rear end. The team lost valuable time in the garage, finally tracing the problem to a fuel leak. Moments later, Bernhard came to a stop beyond the entrance to the chicane and the car burst into flames, leading to its retirement. The No. 55 experienced a recurrence of the problem during the 17th hour; this time, the damage was terminal.
Unbowed, the team continued to work at Daytona until they solved the problem.
“We didn’t leave Daytona scratching our heads,” Bomarito said. “The problem was found – and solved. It was just unfortunate, bad luck deals – but they’ve been solved.”
“We’re really proud of the records that fell at Daytona, but obviously, we’re not satisfied based on what happened in the race,” said Mazda Motorsports Director John Doonan. “We had some unfortunate, unexpected luck, but we know exactly what went wrong and it’s been addressed. We had a great couple of test days here two weeks ago, so we enter the race with a strong feeling about our potential. We ran really well here last year and darn near won the thing if it wasn’t for a battery issue on our last stop. I’m glad to be back here, and we’re real excited for all that’s going to happen on Friday and Saturday.”
Bomarito and his co-drivers are all doing double duty at Sebring, also racing in Friday’s 1,000-mile World Endurance Championship event. Bomarito and Tincknell will join Andy Priaulx in the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GT, while Pla co-drives that team’s No. 66 Ford GT with Billy Johnson and Stefan Mucke.