John Doonan, Jonathan Bomarito, Tristan Nunez – they all know what it is like to win with Mazda, but they could never have imagined it would take them this long to celebrate their first Mazda prototype victory in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Five and a half years since the Japanese brand set off in the prototype class they went without a race win until luck was finally on their side at the Watkins Glen 6 Hours.
Still reeling from that very special first DPi victory, we asked Mazda Motorsports director John Doonan if now that the pressure of that maiden win is gone, the next one will come easier.
John Doonan (director of Mazda Motorsports in North America): “There’s nothing easy about the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – it’s amazingly close competition and the best endurance sports car racing in the world. It’s a relieve, no question, but it’s not going to make Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Road America, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta any easier – it’s going to be as tough of a battle as it was here today.”
Jonathan Bomarito has been with Mazda for ages, having joined the team back in its GT days when Speedsource still served as Mazda’s works team before Joest Racing took over that responsibility. The relationship goes even as far back as 2004 when Bomarito first competed in the Star Mazda and Atlantic Championships.
Jonathan Bomarito (driver #55 Mazda Team Joest): “It’s huge! I’ve been with the program for many years now, through all the highs and lows, new people coming in… John made the comment earlier that this is for everybody, all the people who have worked on this program for so many years. They may not be here right now, but so many people deserve this win. It’s an amazing feeling and I’m so thankful to still be part of this program.”
The toughest task at Watkins Glen was handed to Harry Tincknell, who not only had to deal with retaking the lead from Juan Montoya with one hour remaining, but a loose engine cover and stalking Oliver Jarvis in the #77 Mazda sister car as well.
Harry Tincknell (driver #55 Mazda Team Joest): “To be honest, I was just trying to focus on going forward. I thought that Montoya was going to get a penalty, so I didn’t really attack on the restart. Once I knew that wasn’t happening, I just had to fight for the position myself. I tried a couple of moves – that didn’t work – and then I just finally lunged down the inside and we had a little bit of contact, but rubbing is racing and all is fair in love and war. After that I noticed the bodywork was a bit loose. Actually, in the car it didn’t feel too bad and I could just manage it until the end of the race.
“It’s a great team effort, a 1-2 for the team. Both crews and the whole team did a fantastic job all weekend. I’m thankful to all of the fans who have supported us all season and for the past four, five years.”
Sports car veteran Olivier Pla joined the team at the start of this year bringing along a wealth of experience and sheer speed.
Olivier Pla (driver #55 Mazda Team Joest): “It feels really great. We knew it was coming – we had so much pace this year in Daytona and Sebring and for some reason we couldn’t do it. This car is just fantastic, what Mazda and Multimatic have done… We knew coming here that we had a chance and we did it. I’m grateful to the team because they never gave up, always kept pushing hard. I’m really happy to have done it with these guys.”
Mazda’s #77 Multimatic-built Mazda RT24-P finished second. It’s this car that scored three pole positions already in 2019 and was the only constant threat to its sister car’s victory. Mazda loyalist Tristan Nunez, who finished second, celebrated along with the rest of the team. Their victory is also his.
Tristan Nunez (driver #77 Mazda Team Joest): “It’s a really emotional day today. It’s been a long time coming. We haven’t had a win since 2013, but this is playing with the big boys in the DPi class – it feels so good! And it wasn’t just Mazda’s first win in the prototype class; it was a 1-2 finish. You can’t get any better than that, it’s crazy!”
Christian Rodriguez contributed to this report.