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.