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.

3-time NHRA champ Larry Dixon gives back to save lives on the streets

Photo courtesy Larry Dixon Racing
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Three-time NHRA Top Fuel champ Larry Dixon is a man on a new mission: to save lives on the streets and highways as perhaps the fastest driving instructor in the world.

Because he’s not currently hurtling down a dragstrip at 330 mph on the NHRA national tour, Dixon is at a point where it was time for him to give back and help youngsters the way so many individuals helped him in his own life and career.

Much like when he became the protege of mentor Don “Snake” Prudhomme – first as a crew member and then as Prudhomme’s hand-picked choice to replace him when he retired as a driver – Dixon is now imparting some of his vast knowledge behind the wheel upon thousands of impressionable teens and young adults around the country.

Dixon recently signed on as an instructor with fellow former Top Fuel champ Doug Herbert’s nationally renowned B.R.A.K.E.S. (Be Responsible and Keep Everyone Safe) driver safety training program. Since Herbert formed the free, non-profit program in 2008 to honor the memory of sons Jon and James, who were both killed in a tragic car crash, B.R.A.K.E.S. has trained over 35,000 students across the U.S. and five countries to be better and safer drivers.

MORE: Drag racer Doug Herbert turns son’s deaths into program that has helped over 35,000 teens

After putting two of his own teen children through Herbert’s program (with a third child to go through the program soon), Dixon was so impressed with the training that his kids received that he told his old buddy he wanted to become involved with B.R.A.K.E.S.

“I’ve known Doug since we were in high school,” Dixon told NBC Sports. “We both worked at a chain of speed shops in Southern California, Doug at one in Orange County and me at one in the San Fernando Valley in Van Nuys. We came up together racing Alcohol cars and Top Fuel cars kind of along the same lines. That’s how long I’ve known Doug.

Photo: Larry Dixon Racing

“I ran my son through the course a couple years ago when it came through Indianapolis (where Dixon and his family now live), and then my daughter signed up for a class a couple months ago, and that kind of got the talk going because I’m not on the (NHRA national event) tour now and I’ve got more time and the conversation just snowballed and here I am.

“I obviously believe in the deal if I ran my own kids through the system. The program is very methodical but still personal. When you put the kids in the car, you’ve got one instructor and three students, so they’re getting taught one-on-one almost.”

Even though he’s been driving for nearly 40 years, Dixon, 52, readily admits with a chuckle, “I’ve even learned things from the program already, which shows you’re never too old to learn.”

In a more serious vein, Dixon said from his perspective as both an instructor and a parent of two of the program’s graduates is how parents are so vital to the program’s impact.

“It’s mandatory that when you’re running a student through the program that at least one parent or guardian is also there, so the message you’re teaching the teens, you have to rely on the parent to not only be on the same page as what we’re teaching, but to also drive that message home for the rest of their lives.”

Dixon isn’t teaching students to drive 330 mph or to become aspiring drag racers. On the contrary. Dixon is right at home giving instructions on how students can avoid incidents or accidents on streets and highways at speeds typically between 30 and 50 mph.

“It’s more impactful as far as your legacy,” Dixon said of his motivation to teach. “Obviously, I’ve won a lot of races, but what I have to show for those wins are trophies but they’re in the basement, and if you don’t dust them, they get dusty.

“What I’m doing with B.R.A.K.E.S., you’re making a difference for people hopefully for the rest of their lives, and that’s bigger. I remember when I first got my own racing license. The first day I had my license, I was a race car driver but I wasn’t a great race car driver right away, I just had a license. It took a lot of years and a lot of runs and laps down the racetrack to be able to be good.

“It’s the same thing with a driver’s license. You go through the driver’s education course and such and they hand you your license, but that doesn’t make you a great driver. It takes a lot of road time to be able to get that experience. And the great thing about this course is you’re trying to ramp up that experience and put the teens in situations ahead of time so that when they’re in the real world, they’ll know how to react to them.

Larry Dixon is interviewed recently during his debut as a driving instructor for B.R.A.K.E.S. Photo courtesy B.R.A.K.E.S.

“These cars nowadays have so many safety features on them, but they don’t get taught. When you go through a basic driver’s education course, they don’t teach you that you can slam on the brakes and if you have an ABS (anti-lock) brake system, let alone how to use it, so that’s part of what we’re running the kids through. It lets them speed up and then slam on the brakes and feeling what ABS does and that a car isn’t going to spin out or flip over like you might see in a ‘Fast and Furious’ movie. Most people don’t know what you can do with a car and how great cars will take care of you as long as they use the tools you’re supplied with.”

Dixon has already taught three different classes in the last month, with five more sessions scheduled primarily in the Midwest in the coming months. You can immediately hear the passion and self-satisfaction he’s getting from being a teacher.

“I really do enjoy it,” Dixon said. “You get to see the difference you can make in someone’s lives. When you get them on a skid course and they’re learning how to get out of a spin or slide, they’re having fun but also learning a valuable lesson.

“After they’ve taken the course, they have a bounce in their step and know and understand cars better and have a good time doing it. That’s what Doug has done, out of his tragedy, he’s really making a difference in other people’s lives. We’re not trying to turn the kids into Mario Andretti or anything like that … just to be better and safer drivers.”

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