Nunez and Bomarito. Photo courtesy of IMSA

Nunez: Revised Mazda ‘so confidence-inspiring’ after Daytona test

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Mazda Team Joest undertook its first official test on U.S. soil with the heavily revised Mazda RT24-P at Daytona International Speedway this afternoon, with four Mazda regulars behind the wheel.

Full-season drivers Jonathan Bomarito, Tristan Nunez and Joel Miller were joined today by Mazda endurance driver Spencer Pigot at the first U.S. running of the updated car, which has had extensive revisions now under the Joest partnership announced earlier this summer.

Nunez received a bulk of the driving work today as a proper 22nd birthday present, and couldn’t hide his enthusiasm for the updated car run on the Riley Multimatic base chassis.

“It feels completely different now. It’s so confidence-inspiring to see the changes made to how it is on track. It’s a completely different car,” Nunez told NBC Sports.

The car was a lot more responsive and predictable to handle at the 3.56-mile Daytona “roval,” Nunez said.

“It seemed like the car was a lot more compliant. It’s easier to drive. It wasn’t doing anything ‘evil,'” Nunez admitted.

“You knew what it’d do, and it did it every time. At times before, you didn’t know what you were getting yourself into. Now it’s a lot more confidence-inspiring.”

While the initial testing of the revised Mazda had been done in Germany at Hockenheim, and a further test got done at Donington Park by Bomarito shortly thereafter, this marked the first time the fusion of both the Mazda and Joest entities were running together on U.S. soil.

That meant the respective entities have had more time to mesh and gel, beyond the team-bonding and team-building that has occurred earlier this year.

“They’re a top level team and they understand that one of the biggest parts of being a team is getting to know everyone on a personal level,” Nunez said of Joest.

“We’re all working with each other to the max capabilities. We’re all getting along great. And they all knew it was my birthday, so that was a great start! We’re building trust and friendship. That’s exactly what needs to be done.

“If you talked to John (Doonan, Mazda Motorsports chief), the smile on my face, was from ear to ear – that alone was seeing what how hard everyone has worked, what they’ve done, it’s the first real official test of the new setup. It gives us a lot of hope leading into the season and finishing on top.”

The test is the first in a two-day test at Daytona this week, with more to come tomorrow.

“They made a good plan of attack so we all got decent time. But I got a ton today, birthday boy and all,” Nunez deadpanned.

Mazda wasn’t alone testing today, as per IMSA, Audi also tested its new R8 LMS GT4 car this afternoon.

While Mazda has not confirmed its driver lineup for 2018, it’d be a surprise if at least two of Mazda’s 2017 drivers aren’t retained in full-season roles next year, if not more.

Photos and quick videos from Mazda of today’s test are below.

IMSA: Heavy news week leading into Thanksgiving holiday

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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After the weekend and before the Thanksgiving holiday this week, IMSA has rolled out a number of announcements itself, while IMSA could be set for further announcements in the weeks to come starting next week.

Here’s a roundup:

QUALIFYING AT ROAR SET FOR PIT POSITIONS, GARAGES AT ROLEX 24

Here are key notes from IMSA’s Monday release about how Sunday at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 will take on a greater significance:

  • The pit boxes and garages each team will use during the Rolex 24 will now be allocated based on fastest qualifying times set during Sunday’s third and final day of the Roar. Each of the three WeatherTech Championship classes – Prototype (P), GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) – will have a 15-minute qualifying session on Sunday, Jan. 7.
  • The fastest-qualifying Prototype will receive the first pit box on pit lane starting at pit-in and also will be assigned to the first garage in the Prototype section of the WeatherTech Championship garage. The fastest GTD car will receive the second pit box on pit lane and the first garage in the GTD section, with the fastest GTLM car receiving the third pit box and the first garage in the GTLM section.
  • New for 2018 – P and GTLM will pit together under a full course yellow. Therefore, to give class separation in the pits, P and GTLM teams are assigned pit boxes to ensure they are separated by a GTD Team.

This, coupled with the addition of the first IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda one-hour, 45-minute race with two drivers, will make this a more shaken up Roar.

REGS, REGS, GET YOUR REGS

IMSA has released the Sporting and Technical Regulations for 2018 this week. The aforementioned note about P and GTLM teams pitting together is a change from P and Prototype Challenge (PC) class cars pitting together, with GTLM and GTD together as it was this year.

Restart procedures changed will see P cars moved to the lead ahead of GT cars; this created confusion at times throughout 2017 as sometimes another class leader in PC, GTLM or GTD had been the first car behind a pace car.

Each team will be limited to one car change in-season only, subject to “force majeure.”

On the off chance a driver is racing in two cars, his or her maximum drive time will be counted cumulatively between the two cars.

There are other tweaks, of course, but most are largely procedural or within the fine print.

RATINGS REVEALED

The good news with IMSA going down from four classes to three for 2018 is that only one designated pro-am class remains in the form of GT Daytona, which requires at least one Silver (or Bronze) full-season driver alongside the designated pro. Those sneaky “Super Silvers” remain an invaluable asset for using his or her results to their benefit.

The FIA released the initial driver ratings for 2018 this week with a few changes, some young pros going up from Silver to Gold and others getting their request to get downgraded from Gold to Silver approved. Drivers have a couple weeks to appeal if they so desire.

Here’s your friendly reminder of what drivers can be in what GTD cars for the first two races at Daytona and Sebring:

  • Daytona (5 drivers max): GTD: In any nominated two (2) or three (3) Driver combination, a maximum of one (1) Platinum or Gold rated Driver is permitted. In any nominated four (4) or five (5) Driver combination, a maximum of one (1) Platinum and (1) Gold rated Driver are permitted or a maximum of (2) Gold Drivers.
  • Sebring (4 drivers max): GTD: In any nominated two (2) or three (3) Driver combination, a maximum of one (1) Platinum or Gold rated Driver is permitted. In any nominated four (4) Driver combination, a maximum of one (1) Platinum and (1) Gold rated Driver are permitted or a maximum of (2) Gold Drivers.

MAZDA KEEPS ON TESTING, CLOSES ON ANNOUNCEMENTS

The Los Angeles Auto Show, held after Thanksgiving, is a likely landing spot for Mazda Team Joest to reveal, officially, its revised “Evo” version of the Mazda RT24-P and its driver lineup for the 2018 season. While most of the Prototype class lineups (DPi and LMP2-spec cars) have been revealed, Mazda’s has been an exception. In the interim, not long after its Daytona test late last month, they’ve also been testing at Sebring.

FROM SPACE CENTER TO DOWN UNDER

Jordan Taylor undertook testing of a different kind not long ago at, of all places, the Kennedy Space Center. One of this year’s Prototype class champions was undertaking a straight line test in his No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. Taylor being Taylor, the moment couldn’t pass without him winning at social media (see third tweet).

Taylor goes from down a long runway to down under, visiting his first Virgin Australia Supercars Championship race this weekend at its season finale in Newcastle.

‘MAKING OF A CHAMPION’ PIECES ROLL OUT

The fourth installment of IMSA’s “making of a champion” series highlights Jordan Taylor, who co-drove with brother Ricky to the Prototype class championship this year. These two are part of four done by IMSA so far, along with Pato O’Ward (PC) and Christina Nielsen (GTD). More should follow in the coming weeks.

SPEAKING OF CHAMPS, HINDMAN, AGOSTINI, PRESTIGE WIN LAMBORGHINI WORLD FINAL

The Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Final was held last weekend at the Imola circuit in Italy and the American Prestige Performance team won the World Final overall, with co-drivers Trent Hindman and Riccardo Agostini.

The World Final brings together teams from North America, Europe and Asia that campaign the spec Lamborghini Huracán LP 620-2 in Super Trofeo regional competition. Hindman and Agostini got the weekend off on the right foot by winning the North American championship first, then followed it up at the World Final itself to topple all other domestic and international entries.

You might remember we profiled Hindman last month, as the 22-year-old’s star in the sports car world is clearly on the rise.

Somehow, someway, at the end of the day today we received the title 2017 Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Champions. Race 2 was not perfect and much more nerve racking than we would have hoped but fortunately in the end the job was done. I am honored to be sharing this with @rickyagostini as well as the entire @prestigeperfctr @waynetaylorracing team and I thank them for their incredible effort all year. With this result, we are the first ever American team to win the Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Championship overall. 3/4 overall wins along with the Super Trofeo North America and World titles marks the end of a successful 2017 campaign. Back to reality tomorrow. Thank you all for following us along on this incredible journey.

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