A fiery ending for the pole-sitter of the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The pole-sitter’s bid for the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona went down in flames Saturday night as part of dual mechanical problems for Mazda Team Joest at Daytona International Speedway.

The No. 77 Mazda DPI, which Oliver Jarvis qualified first Thursday with a record-setting lap, suffered a fire after completing 220 laps. About 20 minutes later, the team determined the car was beyond repair and retired after just more than seven hours of the 24-hour event.

“The car suddenly stopped working,” said Timo Bernhard, who was behind the wheel of the car at the time and was unable to extinguish the fire. “We were competitive and fighting for victory.”

There were some prerace questions from rivals about whether Mazda had traded speed for reliability.

But Bernhard dismissed those suggestions. “Not a concern,” he said. “I think we had good preparation for sure. A lot of experience and good performance. Just a little disappointed because we had a great car.”

A few minutes earlier, the No. 55 Mazda also had a problem with an apparent fuel leak, losing three laps while making repairs.

It was an unfortunately familiar storyline for Mazda, which had both of its car suffer problems in last year’s Rolex, too.

Tristan Nunez drives the Mazda DPi through a turn during the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

IMSA’s Bill Auberlen joins NASCAR America to discuss this weekend’s race at Lime Rock

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Turner Motorsport GTD driver Bill Auberlen joined NBC Sports’ Marty Snyder on NASCAR America Presents the Motorsports Hour Thursday to discuss a variety of topics, including Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship race at Lime Rock Park.

Auberlen, alongside co-driver Robby Foley, enters Lime Rock with a great amount of momentum after finishing on the GTD podium at Watkins Glen and taking the GTD class honors in the most recent IMSA race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.

There’s also an extra incentive for the duo to win this weekend as well, as Auberlen is one win away from tying Scott Pruett for the most IMSA victories all-time.

Both drivers will have to be on their A-game this weekend, however, as Auberlen stated that Lime Rock is one of the tougher circuits on the IMSA calendar and compared the 1.5-mile Connecticut road course to a short track.

“It’s what we call the bullring of our season,” Auberlen said. “It is a 54-second lap and we’re going to go around it a million times before the end of the day. It’s going to be a hot one, and I think whoever survives this is going to be on the podium.”

Luckily for the GTD and GTLM teams, with no Protoype and LMP2 entries competing at Lime Rock this weekend, the worry of having to yield to entries from the faster classes is gone.

“These Protoypes are so fast now, that interacting with them, you can’t imagine,” Auberlen said. “We have radars in our car that can alert us when they are coming.

“They get on you so fast that if you’re not always looking or something is not telling you they’re coming, you could have a problem and catch into them. That’s gone. Now it’s going to be focus-forward. You’re going to be focused on everything ahead of you. You got GLTM in there at the same time, but they’re virtually the same speed as us – just a little bit faster.

“It’s going to be nice. When you stand on that podium you might be able to go for an overall victory.”

Live race coverage of IMSA’s Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park begins at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBCsports.com and the NBC Sports app with an encore presentation of the race airing later in the evening at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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