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.