IMSA: Mazda updated livery released; JDC-Miller, CORE add drivers

Photo: Mazda
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The news keeps coming in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for 2018, in its marquee Prototype class.

On Wednesday, a day after Mazda Team Joest revealed its new-look lineup, it revealed its new-look “evo” Mazda RT24-P in its “Soul Red Crystal” livery. All but Rene Rast of the six drivers were on site with the car at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Photos and the updated logo are below.

Photo: JDC-Miller Motorsports

The JDC-Miller Motorsports team has signed its first driver to its second Oreca 07 Gibson, with Swiss sports car and open-wheel veteran Simon Trummer confirmed in the team’s No. 84 entry. Trummer has tested for the team in Sebring, and comes off a four-year FIA World Endurance Championship stint with the Lotus, ByKolles and CEFC TRS Manor teams.

“With the team moving to a two-car program in 2018, we felt it was important to include someone like Simon to our program that knows the car and fits very well into our program on a personal side. When he tested with us at Sebring he was right up to speed for being at the track for the first time while also driving on a new tire. More importantly, he fit right into the entire group, it was like he had been with us all year,” said team principal John Church.

Trummer added, “I have always wanted to race in the US and IMSA at the moment is for sure very attractive with all the new cars and manufacturers joining the championship. JDC-Miller had an incredible season in their first year competing in Prototype and when they decided to expand to a two-car program for 2018 we started discussing the possibilities of doing something together.”

Of note here is JDC-Miller listing No. 84 for its second car, a number that was listed on the D3+Transformers Racing Ligier at Road Atlanta.

CORE autosport has stacked its lineup for its prototype return, its debut in the top-flight Prototype class, with team regulars Jon Bennett and Colin Braun joined by Romain Dumas and Loic Duval at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Dumas passes up a drive at the Dakar Rally for a drive at the Rolex, as he makes his return to the race for the first time since 2013 (GT class with TRG). Surprisingly, next year’s Rolex will be Dumas’ first start in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship since the GRAND-AM and ALMS series came back together prior to 2014.

“I’m really happy to go back to Daytona. For a long a time I’ve been looking to come back, but Dakar is always at the same time. This year, as soon as I get the opportunity with CORE, I decided not to do Dakar,” he said.

“Loïc and I were teammates at Audi in 2012 and as soon as I heard it was a possibility for him to be part of the team, I was very enthusiastic. We live very close to each other—eight miles away—so we have a good relationship. It was clear when I spoke with him that we are there to achieve the best result and we are old enough to understand that we are here for the team and that’s very important for Daytona.

“I drove this car [ORECA 07 Gibson], this year at Le Mans with Alpine and at Spa. I know it’s a very cool car. I think its pace will be pretty good. I know we have a lot of competition ahead of us. First, we have to do our own race, without looking at everyone else, then the race will come to us if we are doing a good job.”

Duval made his Rolex debut in an identical car last year with DragonSpeed and now links up with his longtime friend and colleague, Dumas.

“The main thing I know about CORE is they are the GT factory team for Porsche and to be honest that is about it. I spoke a little but with Romain and he explained to me about how professional the team is. It wasn’t a surprise though, because when you are a factory team for Porsche it means a lot already. I knew that the team was first class,” he said.

“I’ve been doing some testing back in Europe and I was racing in Bahrain in WEC in the ORECA. It’s definitely good training for me because I will not race any car from now to Daytona, so I’m quite sharp in the LMP2 ORECA, which for me also makes a lot of sense to be fully fit for Daytona.”

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”