Mazda Returning to IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge in 2020 with New Mazda3 TCR Race Car
Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Mazda is coming back to the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge in 2020.

The manufacturer has 36 Michelin Pilot Challenge victories but has not competed in the series since the race at Lime Rock Park in 2018. That’s about to change dramatically, as the new Mazda3 TCR race car was publicly unveiled this afternoon at the manufacturer’s U.S. headquarters in Irvine, California.

“TCR represents a great opportunity for us to showcase the new Mazda3 and provide our customers another avenue to race Mazda vehicles,” said Masahiro Moro, Chairman and CEO, Mazda North American Operations. “Some of our most important successes in IMSA and SRO TC Americas have been thanks to dedicated customers who chose to race with Mazda, and we hope the next generation of Mazda racers see the same potential in the new Mazda3 TCR.”

The new car will be powered by a turbocharged, four-cylinder engine with 350 horsepower and a six-speed paddle shift transmission. The car is homologated to compete in any of the 36 TCR-sanctioned championships around the world, including the Michelin Pilot Challenge TCR class.

“The Mazda3 features the outstanding design and engineering that Mazda is known for, and because of that, it is a fantastic foundation for our new Mazda3 TCR,” said Mazda Motorsports director, John Doonan. “We have looked forward to returning to the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge for several seasons, and everyone at Mazda is very excited that we will do just that in 2020.”

The Mazda3 TCR is expected to make its Michelin Pilot Challenge debut in the four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona International Speedway on Friday, Jan. 26 as part of the Rolex 24 At Daytona event weekend. The car has been developed and is supported by Long Road Racing, which also manufactures the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup race car.

Speaking of Global MX-5 Cup, the first driver of the Mazda3 TCR also was introduced as part of this afternoon’s unveiling and it is 2019 Global MX-5 Cup champion Bryan Ortiz. The Puerto Rican driver won the championship on Sept. 21 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and is utilizing the $200,000 career advancement scholarship from Mazda to return to the Michelin Pilot Challenge.

Ortiz actually debuted in the series in 2005 and also was part of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program for three seasons before shifting his focus back to sports cars. He has competed in Global MX-5 Cup since 2017, with six victories and 18 podium finishes.

“To have this opportunity that Mazda has given me is a huge honor, Ortiz said. “Mazda gives aspiring drivers an opportunity that no other company does, and that’s to advance to the next step in their career. Now that I am the Global MX-5 Cup champion, I’m proud to represent Mazda and have the trust of the company to race the new Mazda3 TCR. Now, I’m focused on working with everyone at Mazda Motorsports to be ready for the first race at Daytona in January.”

“One of the reasons we launched the Global MX-5 Cup platform was to provide an equal playing field that would enable driving talent to shine through, and to then provide a career advancement scholarship to help the drivers make the next step,” Doonan added. “Bryan has taken full advantage of that, and having seen him compete and getting to know him over the past three seasons, I’m very excited that he will continue to be a part of the Mazda family as part of our Mazda3 TCR program.”

The 2019 Michelin Pilot Challenge season wraps up on Friday, Oct. 11 with the two-hour Fox Factory 120 at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta as part of the Motul Petit Le Mans event weekend. The race will be streamed live on IMSA.tv at 1:15 p.m. ET, with NBCSN television coverage airing on Friday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. ET.

Tickets are available now at RoadAtlanta.com.

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