Mazda Team Joest set for 2018 debut
In a surprise announcement, Mazda Motorsports announced the creation of “Mazda Team Joest”, which will become its new factory Mazda Prototype team in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship beginning with the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The announcement brings Joest Racing back to top-level endurance sports car racing. The team created in 1978 by Reinhold Joest most recently operated the Audi factory prototype team from 1999 through 2016.
“If ever there were a benchmark example of a top-level prototype endurance sports car racing team, on a global scale, Joest Racing is it,” said IMSA president Scott Atherton. “We are thrilled to welcome what now will be known as, ‘Mazda Team Joest’ back to North American sports car competition.”
Mazda Team Joest will begin an aggressive testing programme in August on racetracks in Europe and North America, utilising the four current Mazda Prototype drivers: Jonathan Bomarito, Tristan Nunez, Joel Miller and Tom Long. The driver lineup for 2018 is expected to be confirmed before the end of the 2017 WeatherTech Championship season.
The team will work closely with Multimatic Motorsports to refine and improve the Mazda RT24-P Daytona Prototype international (DPi) chassis, which will continue to be powered by the 600-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder, 2.0-litre inline Mazda MZ-2.0T engine developed by Advanced Engine Research (AER).
“This is an important moment in Mazda Motorsports history as we align our brand’s top-level sports car racing program with one of the best sports car teams of all time,” said John Doonan, director of motorsports for Mazda North American Operations. “What Mr. Joest, Ralf Jüttner (Joest Racing managing director) and the entire Joest Racing organization has accomplished is not likely to ever be matched.”
“We are excited and proud about this new opportunity with Mazda,” said Jüttner. “Mazda has such a long tradition in motorsport and, especially in America, has created a huge platform for racing enthusiasts. For us, this is not only a return to American racing, which we have always enjoyed, but also great news to the big group of our Japanese fans, who have always warmly embraced us.”
The testing and development programme means that Mazda will forego the remaining three rounds of the 2017 WeatherTech Championship in order to prepare for the 2018 season.