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 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.
“Mazda looks really, really strong. I think everyone’s question with them is reliability. I don’t think they even know how good they’re going to be because they’ve been having some issues.” —@jpmontoya, proving to be very prescient in an interview about 31 hours ago. #IMSA50
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.
After winning the pole position for the Iowa 300 earlier in the afternoon, Simon Pageanaud was fastest in this evening’s final practice session for the race, turning a lap of 174.462 mph around the 0.875-mile Iowa Speedway bullring.
Pageneaud’s teammate Joesef Newgarden finished the session second-fastest, with an 173.775 mph lap. Newgarden was fastest in the first practice session earlier in the morning.
Ed Carpenter (172.636 mph), who is making his third start of the year this weekend in the No. 20 Chevrolet, completed the session third-fastest. Scott Dixon ended the session fourth-fastest with a 173.775 mph lap.
Conor Daly (170.316 mph) turned some heads and raised some eyebrows when he finished fifth-fastest in the session. Daly is making his second start of the season for Carlin Racing after a respectable 10th-place finish in the Indianapolis 500 for Andretti Autosport.
Colton Herta was sixth-fastest at the completion of the session with a 169.189 mph lap, while Marcus Ericsson (169.089 mph), Will Power (168.558 mph), Ryan Hunter-Reay (168.427 mph), and Alexander Rossi (168.326 mph) rounded out the top ten.
Live coverage of the Iowa 300 begins tomorrow evening at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.