Photo courtesy of IMSA

Mazda Team Joest adds Jarvis, Tincknell, Rast to DPi lineup

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The new-look Mazda Team Joest, which will feature an “evo” version of its Multimatic chassis as the Mazda RT24-P, has revealed its driver lineup for the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.

As has long been expected, Mazda will blend a fusion of European drivers with either an Audi pedigree or lineage along with some Mazda legacy drivers.

Jonathan Bomarito, Tristan Nunez and Spencer Pigot stay on from the Mazda fold for 2018. Bomarito and Nunez continue as full-season drivers with Pigot, who will become an IndyCar full-time driver for the first time in 2018, confirmed for the endurance races.

26-29 January, 2017, Daytona Beach, Florida USA /55, Mazda DPi, P, Tristan Nunez, Jonathan Bomarito, Spencer Pigot /©2017, Barry Cantrell/ LAT Photo USA

Pigot has starred more often than not in his handful of Mazda Prototype starts and is the only IndyCar driver who’ll stay part of the lineup next year, which means James Hinchcliffe will have to look elsewhere for additional drives at Daytona. All three have been part of testing; Nunez hailed the revised chassis after testing at Daytona last month.

The changes come with the Europeans added in. Oliver Jarvis and Harry Tincknell join up as full-season drivers, with Rene Rast confirmed as the other endurance driver. Jarvis and Rast both raced for Audi Sport Team Joest in LMP1 and Rast, the eternally rapid German, won the DTM title this year in his rookie season. Jarvis balanced a dual role between Bentley’s Continental GT3 program and an LMP2 drive with the Jota Sport-run Jackie Chan DC Racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship this season, and Tincknell has raced the last two years in the FIA WEC with the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT outfit. The young Englishman is Audi legend Allan McNish’s protege, and has prototype experience from Jota’s previous LMP2 chassis as far back as 2014.

This round of changes means longtime Mazda drivers Joel Miller and Tom Long won’t be back in the prototype lineup, but both have expanded their horizons in other areas with the manufacturer. Miller has been a driver coach on the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires while Long’s family team, Long Road Racing, builds the new Global Mazda MX-5 Cup car.

Bomarito and Rast were linked in 2017, Rast having driven for VISIT FLORIDA Racing at Daytona and helping that team take the Riley Multimatic Mk. 30 Gibson chassis – on which the Mazda DPi body runs – to a debut podium at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. With Rast unavailable for Motul Petit Le Mans and Mazda having halted its race program to focus on testing, Bomarito filled in for him at VISIT FLORIDA Racing there.

“Whether you’re a young driver or an accomplished driver, the dream is to align yourself with a manufacturer,” said Bomarito. “So, I can check that box with Mazda. Second, it’s best to be with a good manufacturer, and I check that box with Mazda. Look at their involvement in motorsports history. It’s a really hard industry to find stability, so I’m glad to be with one of the heavy hitters in IMSA. And now, to be aligned with a team like Joest and their history with the sport, it’s great.”

Oliver Jarvis. Photo Jean Michel Le Meur / DPPI

Jarvis and Tincknell, meanwhile, are bullish on their new full-season opportunities in America in the stacked DPi portion of IMSA’s Prototype class. Both are LMP2 class winners at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Jota; Jarvis  this past year in second overall co-driving with Ho-Pin Tung and Thomas Laurent in the No. 38 Oreca 07 Gibson, and Tincknell in 2014 the “Mighty 38” open-top Zytek Z11SN Nissan with Oliver Turvey and Simon Dolan.

“I am absolutely delighted to be joining Mazda at such an exciting time,” Jarvis said. “I have followed the project closely since the launch of the stunning RT24-P and I am convinced that the project will be successful. It was an easy decision when the opportunity arose to be part of it. Having raced in and won both the Daytona 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours, the IMSA championship is one I know very well. It has always been a goal of mine to race in the championship full-time and I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be part of it as the championship continues to grow.”

Harry Tincknell. Photo: Drew Gibson

Tincknell added, “I am really honored to be able to race for Mazda Team Joest this season in the WeatherTech Championship. The whole Mazda team has put in so much effort and made a lot of progress in every area, and after my first test in the car I can’t wait to see how we get on at Daytona. The Mazda RT24-P DPi has taken huge strides over the winter and I immediately felt comfortable in the car. I know the championship is very competitive and it will be a tough fight, but the spirit of the whole team is so determined and ready for it.”

Mazda Motorsports North America director John Doonan explained the rationale for the lineup adjustments.

“Mazda has had a driver development program since 2007,” he said. “So, it’s a big part of our Mazda Prototype program to feature drivers that have come up through the Mazda ranks, whether that’s in sports cars like Tristan Nuñez, or the open-wheel side of things with Bomarito and Pigot. We’re thrilled that those superb young men are back with us again in 2018.

Rene Rast. Photo courtesy Mazda

“Working with Joest, we were also able to secure fast, winning drivers from their recent history, which makes Jarvis and Rast a good fit, as is Tincknell, who has been successful in both GT and Prototype cars. We ask a lot of our drivers outside the car as well, so it’s great to add drivers who will fit the chemistry of what we hope to achieve as a team.”

Mazda’s lineup confirmation brings the number of confirmed DPi full-season lineups up to nine. Mazda, Acura Team Penske, Action Express Racing (with both its No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing and No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.Rs) and the pair of Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPis have both their full-season and endurance lineups announced. The No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R has its full-season lineup set, but has not announced its endurance driver or drivers.

Mazda is set to reveal further program details later this week.

Title contenders stumble on the streets of Toronto

Photo: IndyCar
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The championship picture of the Verizon IndyCar Series saw a massive shakeup after Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto. While points leader Scott Dixon ended up in victory lane, his third win on the streets of Toronto and his third win of the 2018 season, all of his championship rivals stumbled.

Josef Newgarden, the pole sitter and second-place man in championship – he trailed Dixon by 33 points entering Sunday – led from the pole and looked to be a contender for the win, but a Lap 34 restart saw his day come apart.

Newgarden ran wide exiting the final corner coming to the green flag and smacked the outside wall. He plummeted through the field and pitted under caution – for a Turn 1 pileup involving Graham Rahal, Max Chilton, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power, and Sebastien Bourdais – to allow the No. 1 Hitachi Chevrolet Team Penske group to examine the car for damage.

Newgarden continued on, but was never a contender the rest of the day, ultimately finishing ninth.

“I knew it would be low grip, but not zero grip. I just lost the front end completely,” Newgarden said in describing how the wall contact happened. “I feel terrible, it’s not fun to make a mistake.”

Alexander Rossi, who sits third in the championship, ran a steady sixth in the first stint until Lap 27, when contact with Will Power damaged his front wing. Rossi was then caught up in the melee on the Lap 34 restart, getting airborne over the left-front of his Andretti Autosport teammate Hunter-Reay.

Rossi again pitted for a new front wing – he had six stops in total – and ended up eighth on a day when he felt like a podium beckoned.

“It’s a pretty disappointing result. I don’t think we had the car to beat Scott (Dixon), but for sure with the problems that everyone had, we could’ve finished second. It’s been a difficult string of races,” Rossi said afterward.

Hunter-Reay, too, had a day forget. After going from sixth to third on the start, he spun his No. 28 DHL Honda into the Turn 3 Barrier on Lap 27. And like Rossi, he was caught up in the Lap 34 pileup, falling off the lead lap in the process.

Hunter-Reay languished in 16th at the checkered flag.

“It was a very unfortunate day and a big loss for us in points,” Hunter-Reay lamented. “The DHL Honda was running comfortable in third and pushing hard, but I had too much front brake lock and found the tire barrier – that’s my fault. Then after that, we got caught up in a wreck, which put us a lap down. From there we just fought to stay in front of the leader.”

Power, too, hit his struggles after the first stint, when contact with the Turn 11 wall, an incident similar to the one that his Team Penske teammate Newgarden had, bent the right-rear suspension of his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. He also had contact with Rossi later that lap.

Power lost two laps in the pits as the team made repairs, and he took the checkered flag in 18th.

“In the last corner, I brushed the wall and bent a rear toe link, so the car was a little bit out of whack. I didn’t even know that (Alexander) Rossi and I touched. I was just kind of trying to hang on until we got a yellow and could pit,” Power explained. “I’ve never had so many DNFs; not DNF for this race, but like a DNF in a season. Still, it’s kind of how this sport can go.”

All told, their struggles mean that Dixon leads the championship by 62 points over Newgarden. Rossi sits third, 70 points of the lead, followed by Hunter-Reay and Power, who sit 91 and 93 points out of the lead respectively.

And the next race, the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (July 29 on NBCSN) won’t make it easy for them to make up ground, as Dixon’s record there is astoundingly strong. The four-time IndyCar champion has five wins at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, his most recent triumph coming in 2014, a race in which he famously came from last on the grid (22nd) to win.

Conversely, Newgarden, Rossi, Hunter-Reay, and Power have a combined one win at Mid-Ohio (Newgarden, last year).

However, the likes of Newgarden and Rossi still appear confident that they can make up for their Toronto struggles.

“We have to move on now and try to pick it back up. With the championship battle, we’ve got a long way to go. This doesn’t help but look, we have plenty of racing (left),” said Newgarden. “We need to keep our head up here. We’re going to be just fine, we’ve got fast cars and the best in the business. If we get our mistakes sorted out, we’re going to be just fine.”

Rossi, who finished sixth at Mid-Ohio last year, echoed similar sentiment, and thinks Mid-Ohio presents an opportunity to get back on track.

“We’re very good at Mid-Ohio, we’re kind of circling Toronto and Mid-Ohio as two races we were going to be pretty good at, so we got to reset, man, and just execute,” Rossi explained afterward. “We’re fast. We’re there every weekend. That’s the important thing. It’s a lot harder to be outside the top 10 and looking for answers. We’re fighting for pole every weekend. We’re in the Fast Six virtually every weekend, so you’re putting yourself in position to have a good result, it hasn’t come really since Texas.”

The 2018 championship is far from over – the season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma being a double-points event helps ensure as much. But, if Dixon does claim the 2018 title, Toronto may be the race that serves as the turning point.

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