The fast-qualifying pair of DPi Mazda RT24-Ps battled start to finish in this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, and notched the Japanese manufacturer’s best-ever finish in the tough round-the-clock event.
The No. 77, driven by Oliver Jarvis, Tristan Nunez and Olivier Pla, wound up second, completing 833 laps and finishing just over a minute behind the winning Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac.
Jarvis qualified the re-liveried white machine on the pole, and, from the drop of the green flag, the No. 77 was a factor for the victory, leading 190 laps of the race.
Forced to serve a stop-and-go penalty just before the halfway point, the team’s three drivers battled back into contention, holding down second throughout the final hours of the race, with Jarvis taking the checkered flag just 1m5s behind the No. 10 Cadillac.
This result improves on Mazda’s previous best overall finish in the Rolex 24 which was a fifth place in 1989 with a Mazda 767B.
“We missed out on the victory by just a little bit, but when you consider how much progress we’ve made in two seasons, this feels like a victory,” said Jarvis. “And I have to say, the car was really good at the end of the race.”
Teammate Pla was similarly pleased: “Finishing the 24 Hours of Daytona and being on the podium is an amazing result for Mazda Team Joest. Thanks to the crew, to everyone at Multimatic, and to my teammates Olly and Tristan. We had a very fast Mazda RT24-P, pushed hard the whole race, and battled for the lead from the start all the way to the end.”
The No. 55 RT24-P, meanwhile, driven by Jonathan Bomarito, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Harry Tincknell, overcame an incident-filled race to finish sixth overall, 10 laps behind the winner and sister car. Its drivers had to battle back from a Tincknell collision with Helio Castroneves’ Acura in the early going, slowed by damaged bodywork as well as a penalty; but they, too, remained in contention for the victory until being slowed with unspecificed mechanical problems in the final hours.
“We weren’t able to show the true potential of the No. 55 at the end of the race, which is unfortunate,” said Hunter-Reay. “Overnight, the car was really hooked up — the best car I’ve ever driven at Daytona. On the positive side, both Mazdas completed the 24 hours and the No. 77 car finished a strong second place, which is great for the program and for the championship. We will keep working and come back stronger at Sebring.”
“It’s a great day for our program to finish on the podium at Daytona and to bring both cars to the checkered flag,” said Nelson Cosgrove, Mazda Motorsports’ new director. “One of our goals for this season is to win one of the endurance races, and this result shows that the work the team put in during the off season has paid off. No one team in the field had a perfect day, but our guys had to be patient and battle back from the adversity they faced throughout the race. It’s a great result for Mazda and one that every person on the team should be proud of.”