Mazda drivers offer heartfelt sendoffs as manufacturer shutters DPi program after 2021

Mazda leaving IMSA DPi

Mazda will be leaving the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Series’ DPi division after the 2021 season, the team announced Friday.

In a statement to the media, Mazda Motorsports said it would be focusing on the MX-5 Cup (a support series for IMSA’s sports cars) as “the cornerstone of (its) racing efforts” along with other grassroots racing. The five-year run of racing in IMSA’s top prototype class will conclude with the Motul Petit Le Mans, IMSA’s Oct. 9 season finale at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

IMSA will be discontinuing DPi after the 2022 season, rebranding the premier division as Le Mans Daytona hybrid (LMDh) and allowing the new car to compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Having joined Porsche and Audi, Acura is the only active DPi manufacturer to commit to LMDh, though Cadillac has indicated its interest in the division.

Mazda, which cut back to one car from two last season, is one of five full-time entries in DPi this season.

Harry Tincknell, who teamed with Oliver Jarvis and Jonathan Bomarito to finish third in the Rolex 24 at Daytona last month, confirmed the news in a tweet and also vowed the No. 55 Mazda would end on a strong note.

Jarvis, who is the full-time co-driver of the No. 55 this season with Tincknell (with Bomarito at endurance races), also posted a similar tribute on Instagram.

The No. 55 with Bomarito, Tincknell and endurance race addition Ryan Hunter-Reay won the 2020 Twelve Hours of Sebring season finale and finished third in the points standings. Tincknell is in his fourth season of racing full time in IMSA for Mazda, posting four victories (two in each of the past two seasons) and seven podium finishes.

Mazda becomes the latest of some high-profile manufacturer pullouts for IMSA. In GTLM, the division lost Porsche (which is moving to LMDh) and BMW as full-time entrants this season, leading to the GT classes being overhauled for 2022.

The WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will return March 20 with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.