#55 Mazda Team Joest Mazda DPi, DPi: Jonathan Bomarito, Harry Tincknell, Ryan Hunter-Reay, podium

Confidence Still High, Mazda Aiming for Sebring Repeat

The No. 55 DPi Recovered from Multiple Issues to Finish Third at the Daytona Opener

By John Oreovicz

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Mazda Motorsports rolls into the 69th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts on a wave of confidence, despite enduring a fraught start to its 2021 campaign.

After suffering a series of unrelated problems and falling as many as three laps behind in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the No. 55 Mazda RT24-T DPi prepared by Multimatic Motorsports and driven by Oliver Jarvis, Harry Tincknell and Jonathan Bomarito rebounded to finish third in the season-opening race of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Mazda executives often use the phrase “Never stop challenging” to describe the manufacturer’s fighting spirit.

That same philosophy clearly applied to the racing team at Daytona, where Mazda’s drama actually started before the 49-car field took the green flag and continued through the race’s 24th and final hour.

The podium finish – both overall and in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class – left Tincknell “gutted and happy in equal measure.” But he came away impressed with the speed and reliability of the Mazda and the heart and stamina of the crew.

“The last two races in IMSA for us have been very, very strong,” Tincknell said. “Going into Daytona, we were hopeful for a strong result. The team has been on an upward trajectory for the last two or three years.

“Of course, we had a few problems at Daytona, but we were still very close to wearing those Rolexes out of there,” he added. “We fought back, but we didn’t quite get it. Daytona 2021 was the best I’ve ever seen the team operate, the most confident and calm it has ever been. Everyone had their ducks in a row and we did a really good job.”

Tincknell, Bomarito and the No. 55 Mazda arrive at Sebring as the defending champion of the Sebring Twelve Hours, which was delayed last year from its traditional March date to November, serving as the WeatherTech Championship season finale.

This year they are joined in the No. 55 by Jarvis as part of Mazda’s consolidation from two cars to a single entry. Jarvis and Tincknell are the full-time pilots, with Bomarito stepping into the third driver role for events in the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup.

Bomarito has been part of the Mazda prototype program since its inception in 2017. He and Tincknell shared in the first victory for the effort at Watkins Glen International in 2019 and have combined to earn four of Mazda’s five wins in its current era of IMSA competition.

The 39-year-old Californian is proud of how the once-fragile Mazda has evolved into a reliable tool for endurance racing.

“Finishing these hardcore endurance races is a big feat and proves the development we’ve done over the last five years with the car,” Bomarito remarked. “Multimatic took over the program from a constructor’s perspective and completely redeveloped the whole back half of the car. They changed a lot of suspension geometry and there’s constant evolution of the dampers.

“Year after year, the whole car as a package – whether it being suspension, engine, drivetrain – the whole thing has become more and more reliable, as we saw winning last year’s (Sebring) 12 Hour and finishing two years in a row on the podium at the Daytona 24 Hour.”

Prior to the start at Daytona, the Mazda drivers had to overcome an electronic glitch that prevented the car from engaging first gear and nearly put it a lap down before the race even started.

Things got worse before they got better. The Mazda lost a lap to the leaders in the fifth hour when an air jack malfunctioned. A longer, unplanned pit stop came in the 11th hour to diagnose what extinguished the car’s mandatory taillights. It was a failure in the pins that hold on the rear bodywork, and it put the No. 55 car three laps down approaching the halfway point.

A stirring comeback drive put the Mazda in contention for the win. But a repeat breakage of the rear deck mounting pins with about an hour left in the race caused a loss of performance and any chance for victory.

That kind of heartbreak has the Mazda drivers and team ready to get to grips with Sebring this weekend.

“You want to have that feeling like when we walked out of Sebring as the winners,” Tincknell said. “Coming back as the defending champion gives you even more motivation to do the double. It doesn’t happen that often, and we have the opportunity in the No. 55 car this year to do that.

“Definitely hopeful of another strong result,” he added. “We know it’s not going to be easy, of course. Sebring is obviously one of the hardest endurance races in the world. Even though it’s only a 12-hour, it’s the equivalent of a 24-hour at most of the other tracks. But we have big momentum and there’s a big air of confidence in the team.”

Bomarito rates winning the 2020 Twelve Hours of Sebring for Mazda as a career highlight.

“It was super special,” he said. “I’ve been participating in that race for a lot of years. To win it overall for the first time makes it all that much more special. You’re part of the amazing history of that track. It’s so historic.

“Both our cars were so strong at that event last year, and it wasn’t that long ago,” he noted. “We’re excited to go back. I think we have a pretty good shot at it. It would be pretty amazing to do two in a row, that’s for sure.”

WeatherTech Championship action on the legendary Sebring circuit begins Thursday with practice sessions starting at 9:05 a.m., 1:55 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. ET. Qualifying is set for 11:15 a.m. Friday and streams live on IMSA.com.

The 69th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring takes the green flag at 10:10 a.m. Saturday. Live television coverage starts at 10 a.m. on NBCSN, moves to the NBC Sports App and NBCSports.com at noon and returns to NBCSN at 7 p.m. for the concluding hours. Complete flag-to-flag coverage is also available on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold. IMSA Radio coverage airs on IMSA.com and SiriusXM Radio (Sirius channel 216, XM 392, Internet 992). Tickets are available at SebringRaceway.com.