Photo courtesy of IMSA

Another fire ends Mazda’s potential podium hopes at Rolex 24

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A near flawless race from the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P has gone up in flames, thus putting pause to Mazda Motorsports’ best hopes of a podium finish for the second straight IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race.

Jonathan Bomarito, Tristan Nunez and Spencer Pigot shared the Soul Red entry, with Pigot running fifth when flames appeared out the back of the AER-developed, Mazda MZ-2.0T, the same 2.0-liter, inline four-cylinder turbocharged engine that raced last year.

The flames turned to more smoke on pit lane as Pigot brought the car into the pit box, and the crew extinguished the fire. Mazda confirmed via social media Pigot was OK, and it will diagnose the cause of the issue.

This will actually be the first expected retirement of the race among the 12 debuting Prototype cars, split between the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) and 2017 LMP2 chassis, which means the reliability has been really good up to this point.

If this feels like deja vu all over again, it does, because at Petit Le Mans last year Pigot was also in a fantastic scrap with Simon Pagenaud, Ricky Taylor and others with hopes of a podium well within reach.

But with what looks like a similar fire out the back of the car, in the-then Lola Multimatic built chassis, Joel Miller limped into the pit lane as the car retired.

The agony of running this well, this long for Mazda – with the car otherwise only delayed by radio issues that caused Pigot to complete an improper wave by in the early hours – is why this GIF from the @IMSA Twitter account is entirely appropriate.

The No. 70 Mazda, in Machine Gray colors, continues although was delayed in the garage for nearly six hours with a gearbox change. Miller, Tom Long and James Hinchcliffe share that car.

F1 2017 driver review: Romain Grosjean

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Romain Grosjean

Team: Haas
Car No.: 8
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P6 (Austria)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 28
Championship Position: 13th

After leading Haas’ charge through its debut Formula 1 season in 2016, Romain Grosjean once again stepped up as team leader for the American team through its sophomore campaign despite scoring one point fewer.

Haas did not expect any major step in performance heading into 2017, having dealt with building all-new cars for two different sets of regulations, but the team was able to match its season one points total by the halfway mark this time around.

The big boost was the addition of a second points scoring driver – Kevin Magnussen – to partner Grosjean. Grosjean looked increasingly comfortable at Haas even if the car often presented problems, particularly under braking.

Radio rants were frequent, with Grosjean unable to drive around the issues as Magnussen did. But he was nevertheless able to finish the year as Haas’ top scorer, with his highlight moment being a perfect run to sixth in Austria.

Greater consistency was evident from both Grosjean and Haas through 2017, yet there were still swings in form that need to be ironed out in the future. The team was unable to capitalize on Renault and Toro Rosso’s late season difficulties that could have seen it jump to sixth in the constructors’ championship.

Grosjean once again proved himself to be a very competent and talented racer through 2017, but needs a little more panache – perhaps down to the car more than anything – if he is to put himself in the frame for a top-line drive in the future.

Haas continues to offer a good platform, though, and its third season should be its best yet thanks to the stability in the regulations. It will be a real chance for Grosjean to show what he can do.

Season High: A perfect run to sixth in Austria, leading the midfield cars.

Season Low: Crashing early with Ocon in Brazil, hurting Haas’ constructors’ hopes.