Mazda has “eye on the championship” but also going for wins
Mazda’s Harry Tincknell, Oliver Jarvis and Jonathan Bomarito say that their priority remains the IMSA championship in the marque’s final year, but admit it’s time to go for wins in the WeatherTech Championship.
Jarvis and Tincknell currently lie second in points, after scoring three podium finishes in the opening four rounds, with third driver Bomarito helping them to seal third at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and second at the 12 Hours of Sebring.
This weekend the trio will compete for victory in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, scene of Mazda’s breakthrough win in IMSA Prototype competition two years ago.
Said Jarvis: “Naturally at this stage in the season, we've got an eye on the championship, but we're also approaching each race on a race-by-race basis. …We've had a very good start to the season, but I think now certainly going to Watkins and Road America, it'd be really nice to be getting podiums but also fighting for the wins. I think it'd be a really nice way to sort of develop into the season if we could pick up that win in the first half of the year…
“We expected Mid-Ohio to be a tough race. It was surprising how quick we actually ended up in qualifying and the race itself… That was fantastic work by the team to constantly improve the car. And I think that puts us in a good position for the rest of the year, because if we do arrive at a circuit and we're not where we want to be, we know we have the tools and the capability to continually improve.”
Due to IMSA being forced to halt its ventures outside of the USA due to restrictions caused by the COVID pandemic, the race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park has again been canned. In April, it was announced it would be replaced by a 2hr40min race at Watkins Glen, to be held just five days after the famous six-hour race at the north-east’s most famous road course.
This helps compensate for the fact that New York state’s restrictions last year meant that not even the Six Hours was held at the Glen, replaced by an extra race at Road Atlanta.
Jarvis commented: “Obviously two races in a row, back-to-back weekends at Watkins. … If you put a fast racecar down this weekend, you're probably gonna have exactly the same next week, as well. So it's kind of like double points are up for grabs, potentially.
“But it doesn't always work out the same way… so we're not taking anything for granted. I think it will be a little closer this time around, but I definitely think we have a car to be in the fight. The fact that we were on the front row in Detroit, which is traditionally one of our weakest circuits, gives me a little confidence that we're going to have pace. We’ve still got to go there and prove that we can do it, but I think everyone's excited and motivated.”
Said Tincknell: “In a prototype around Watkins Glen, it doesn't really get much better to be honest. That always does shock you the first few laps – how a corner you think is going to be third gear is fifth gear! It’s just incredible. You have to readapt your horizons a little bit…
“Clearly a couple of the Cadillac teams had some bad luck or some incidents in the start of the season, but they've come good recently, too. So it's all still very tight… At some point, we're gonna have to start taking race wins and take the points with them.”
Bomarito, who since Mazda decided to cut back to just one RT24-P, has become the endurance-race ‘extra’, said he’s got his eyes on the Michelin Endurance Cup, a separate points race for the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, Sebring 12 Hours, Watkins Glen 6 Hours and Petit Le Mans (10 hours). The Mazda team lies just four points behind Wayne Taylor Racing in that battle.
“Obviously my first goal is to contribute to the team so we can get a championship for Harry and Olly and Mazda and Multimatic and all the partners. But the Endurance Cup would be huge. It’s pretty cool that IMSA does that for teams that are just wanting to come over and run the four biggest races in the States, and for the third drivers that we can still fight for a given championship, as well.
“We're still right in the hunt for that with two races to go [Watkins Glen and Petit] and feel good about it. We have arguably the two hardest races for us out of the way with Daytona and Sebring. We had great podiums at both. I think we have a good shot at that – and the overall championship.”
While Jarvis said that “in an ideal world, from my personal point of view, we'd be running two cars”, partly because two cars can investigate more setup options during practice, Tincknell commented: “I'd say Multimatic has so many good people, talented people in the program, and the big thing to me is that pretty much every single person as it’s gone from two cars to one car, has stayed…
“That's a key factor, really: that while it has gone down to one car, we haven't lost half of the brainpower. We’ve still got very, very intelligent engineers and guys and girls on the car, who remain pretty much there.”
Larry Holt, executive VP at Multimatic, said: “Lots of pressure this weekend going back to where the RT24-P winning started. I race engineered the #55 car to the win back in ’19 and it remains a personal highlight for me.
“We should be good again on the return. Some of our competitors have been testing there but I’m confident in our simulator work this week, and correlation is strong, so no stress. The BoP [Balance of Performance] is pretty equitable so, once again, there should be some close racing throughout the whole six hours.
“We have JB back and that gives us the strongest driver line-up in the field; all we have to do now is execute!”
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