DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Despite the addition of the years of sports car expertise that a new partnership with Team Joest brought to the table, the Rolex 24 at Daytona got off to a rough start once again for the two Mazda DPi entries on Saturday.
After a ninth-place qualifying effort by the No. 55 entry on Thursday, the wheels literally ran off with Jonathan Bomarito behind the wheel as the left-front tire dislodged itself from the axle just an hour and 17 minutes into the race at Daytona International Speedway’s 3.564-mile road course.
Meanwhile, just 23 minutes later, the No. 77 entry ran into throttle calibration issues and was forced to the pit lane, having to be pushed by the team as their dreams of a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona quickly began to evaporate.
As of the three-hour benchmark, the No. 55 Mazda sat 27th overall, four laps down to the leading No. 5 Cadillac DPi from Action Express Racing, while the No. 77 Mazda languished in 44th overall and second-to-last in class, eight circuits in arrears.
But despite the early problems, Mazda Motorsports head man John Doonan refused to lose his smile, knowing that brighter times are coming after the team showed promising speed during the Roar Before The 24 test earlier in the month.
“It’s been a very busy year. One year ago this weekend was our first meeting, and since then, what’s happened is a complete transformation of the program,” said Doonan. “From the car by Multimatic, to aerodynamic and weight, to the cooling program … it’s a completely different car, to the point that we’re now in the game and 3.3 seconds faster than we qualified a year ago.”
“You need a little luck here, and we’ve had some bummer luck in the first couple hours. We had a throttle issue on one car (the No. 77) and losing the wheel on the (No.) 55, but I think the fact that we’re able to fight up front now with the lead group says a lot. It’s an amazing level of competition that we have in the series now and we have a lot of confidence going into the rest of the season.”
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Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
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