Mazda RT24-Ps grab 5th and 6th at Road America
This race was expected to be a tough one for the Mazda RT24-P, as the Acura teams were given balance of performance (BoP) power ups. Nevertheless, in the official qualifying session held on Saturday 1st, the #77 car driven by Nunez and the #55 car driven by Tincknell grabbed the 2nd row of the grid with 3rd and 4th, giving the team high hopes for a solid race result.
The 2-hour and 40-minute race started just after noon on the 2nd under summer skies. Due to the fact that pushing too hard in the first half of the race could lead to running out of fuel too quickly, as was the case in the previous race at Sebring, the two Mazda RT24-Ps maintained a close distance to the top cars as they ticked off laps. However, the #6 Acura, which had qualified 2nd, dropped from the top group early due to some kind of technical trouble. Nunez, who was in charge of the first half in the #77, steadily and patiently ran on the heels of the #7 Acura. Tinknell’s #55 also maintained about the same pace. After 90 minutes, there was no change in the order, with the #7 car leading, followed by the #77. After that, the teams began to make their regular pit stops for fuel, tire and driver changes. Upon returning to the track, Jarvis in the #77 caught the #7 car while the tires were still fresh and moved up to a position to take the race lead.
However, right after that, it started raining hard. In some places, puddles of water formed in the blink of an eye, and a number of cars spun out. 105 minutes after the race start, a full course caution came into effect, and the race was entered a Safety Car (SC) run. Due to this confusion, the #77 missed a chance to head into the pits was forced to follow the Safety Car with its slick tires while still in the lead. From then rain came down even harder and the race was red-flagged by the organizers, who decided it was too dangerous to continue. The cars lined up and waited in the pit lane and the race restarted with 30 minutes to go. The formation was restarted, but from there it would be another long SC run. The rain got heavier at one point and there was a chance that the race would finish behind the SC. If it did, the #77 car would be declared the winner. However, with 7 minutes and 30 seconds remaining, the green light was lit and each car returned to racing speed. However, only the #77 car, which was still on slick tires that were not adapted to the heavy-wet conditions, came into the pits. The #77 missed out on a chance to win just before the finish line. In the end, #55 and #77 finished the race in 5th and 6th place, gaining them essential championship points.
Nelson Cosgrove, Director of Motorsports for Mazda USA, said, “What a disappointment! Today was a day that the Mazda RT24-P had amazing pace and we fought up front throughout the race. The unfortunate timing of heavy rain following our last pitstop put us in a bad position to finish. Thanks to everyone at Mazda Motorsports, our great drivers, Multimatic, and AER for working so hard throughout this stretch of races.”
Text by MZRacing, Photos by Mazda USA