Mazda Team Joest will be entering the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in almost unchanged form.
The team will once again run two cars throughout the season, and hopes that all the small niggles have been removed after 2018. Team Joest got the deal with running the cars, and had plenty of mechanical issues, which they surely have been working hard to solve.
The season was finished with both cars on the Petit Le Mans podium, and was only 20 minutes away from taking their first victory at the penultimate rounds at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, until they had a collision with a slower competitor.
The #55 will be piloted by Harry Tincknell and Jonathan Bomarito throughout the fill season, just like last year, while Olivier Pla will be third man in the Michelin Endurance Cup races at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta. Pla drove for the ESM outfit last year, but after they closed down, Mazda managed to grab the rapid Frenchman. That leaves Tincknell and Pla very busy at Sebring, where they also will be in the two Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK cars in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Bomarito will probably be a given during the first few minutes of each session, until the two others show up.
Tristan Nunez and Oliver Jarvis will once again share Mazda RT24-P #77, with Timo Bernhard joining as the third driver at the MEC races. Strangely enough, he was also a part of the ESM squad throughout some of the 2018 season.
There will be new people on the radios for both cars. Dave Wilcock will be the new race engineer on #55, while Leena Gade will have the same role on #77. Gade got her big break-through at Team Joest, when she was an engineer on Audi’s Le Mans programme and was part of the winning team at several Le Mans victories. Another “old” Audi face, Brad Kettler will also be present in the team, where he will be in an advisory role – just like with his former employer.
Ralf Jüttner will no longer do the trip to the USA, but will instead focus on a different programme for Team Joest back in Europe. He will be replaced by Jan Lange, who has been a part of Team Joest through many years.
The two Soul Red Crystal – yep, that’s the actual colour name of the cars, will be on the track for the first time this Friday, where the ROAR Before the 24 will be run, prior to the 57th Rolex 24 at Daytona will be run on 26-27 January.
Update – Mazda Motorsports has rectified that Rene Rast also will be racing the #77 during Daytona and Sebring, but don’t mention why they want a fourth driver in that car, and on three in the other. It could be the previously mentioned double programme for Tincknell and Pla, in case they all of a sudden aren’t available, and the team then would be able to swiftly move Rast from one car to the other. It is a bit strange however, that they don’t share that car at both rounds, but it could be something to do with driving style and seating/pedals positioning, and a potential swap would be the last option only.