Other than the branding changes from Mazda Team Joest to Mazda Motorsports, the pair of RT24-P IMSA prototypes that will race on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway won’t look much different from their last appearance at DIS in January.
Despite the lack of major external cues, the rest of the post-Joest operation has changed in fundamental ways after the American arm of the Japanese auto manufacturer parted ways with Reinhold Joest’s team in mid-March and shifted full responsibility for its Daytona Prototype international program over to Multimatic.
As the manufacturer of the RT24-P chassis, Multimatic played a significant role in Mazda’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship endeavors from the outset in 2017. And as fractures began to emerge with Joest, more of the Canadian firm’s resources – both mechanical and engineering – were secured with each new season. By 2019, Multimatic was wholly responsible for the team’s performance as the RT24-Ps claimed three wins, and followed it up at Daytona earlier this year with an all-time best result of second overall at the punishing 24-hour contest.
With the Joest contract fulfilled, Mazda Motorsports boss Nelson Cosgrove worked with Multimatic to move the program from its base in Georgia to a new shop in North Carolina and begin the process of building out a new IMSA home.
“In the week leading up to what would have been Sebring, we did an exchange of assets, went down and got all the cars and parts and everything from the Atlanta workshop and brought them back to Mooresville where Multimatic has set up a facility and they’re running the race team out of that building,” Cosgrove told RACER.
“It’s actually right in the same business park as Penske. Once they got all the parts and everything from the race team side, then Multimatic brought over a lot of their equipment and staff from their remote base in the UK, and those guys got started on the RT24-Ps.”
Multimatic veteran Charlie Cadieux has been appointed team manager of the Mazda Motorsports effort, and Stephen Charsley, another long-time Multimatic employee with close ties to the RT24-P team, is working alongside Cadieux as project manager.
“It was really Charlie and Stephen up there putting the shop and team together, and then as things began to look like we were going to go back racing again, and we got a schedule, the U.S. based people that they had hired were brought in and we’ve got five guys from the UK now that are going to stay through the end of the year,” Cosgrove said.
“And we’ve got four guys from our engine partner AER that came in about two weeks ago, now. Three engineers and a mechanic, and they’ll stay probably through the end of Road America, and then they’ll go back and then they’ll come back from beginning the September race through the end of the year. Those guys normally would have gone back and forth every event, but we have travel restrictions to consider.”
IMSA implemented a testing ban for its pro-grade WeatherTech Championship classes during the coronavirus shutdown, leaving the likes of Mazda Motorsports and the rest in DPi and GT Le Mans to turn up this week at Daytona without the benefit of test mileage to get back into the racing groove.
A day or two at the track would have been beneficial for the revised Multimatic-led Mazda team as it learns to run the RT24-P operation without Joest’s involvement. In its place, Cosgrove says the crew turned their attention to the one area of practice they could perform away from the circuit.
“There been quite a bit of pit stops going down in the shop, and honestly, it’s been a big help because we have to do it with less people since IMSA limited each entry to 15 people at Daytona” he explained. “So almost everybody has to participate in a pit stop because you’ve got to have people to pull hoses, and grab tires, and hold the sign and all that stuff. And there’s no driver helper, so the drivers are having to help each other get the driver exchanges done.
“And doing all the pit stop work has given us the opportunity to set up all the pit equipment last week, check all the radios and get all the electronics working, check the telemetry, and do a run-through and make sure that everything could be set up and taken down carefully. I thought that was a really positive exercise.”
On the vehicle side, the Nos. 55 and 77 RT24-Ps were readied by Joest to contest the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, but with the three-month delay in racing, and the handover from one team to another, the cars have been examined and prepared anew by Multimatic’s crew.
“We’re using the same cars that raced at Daytona, but as there were needs to change gear stacks for a different track, that led to the back end so the cars coming apart, and there was quite a bit of work done,” Cosgrove said. “There was actually time to do some of the wiring and electronic maintenance changes that had been inline to do and just didn’t have time before Sebring to do. The cars are actually in great shape, and later in the season, there’s a couple of new tubs that are there that will be utilized.”
As the new-look Mazda Motorsports team gets ready for Saturday night’s 2h40m race into darkness at Daytona, it can feel confident in the two areas within the program that have undergone zero changes. Continuity on the driver and engineering sides can only help as the outfit seeks to improve its January finish by one position.
“It’s the same engine people, same data people, same performance engineers, same race engineers,” Cosgrove said. “Even some of the people that were with the previous service provider, truck drivers, tire guys, that work closely with the people on the timing stand, they’re the same. They’ve been hired and brought in by Multimatic to keep some consistency in the program. A lot of familiar faces. From a performance standpoint, I don’t expect there’d be any drop-off at all. Leena Gade is still engineering on the 77 with the same driver lineup. Vince Libertucci is still doing the 55 with the same driver lineup. It should be good.”