Mazda RT24-P takes overall victory legendary 12 Hours of Sebring
This traditional 12-hour endurance race is usually held in mid-March each year, but this year’s race was postponed to November due to the effects of COVID-19. Although it is rare for the race to be held in early winter, race day was held under weather with the temperature reaching 27°C. In official qualifying the #55 secured 5th and the #77 grabbed 7th on the grid.
The race was a tumultuous affair from the start. The No. 10 Cadillac DPI, which started from the front row of the championship contenders, received a drive-through penalty for violating the rolling start rules while running behind the Acura DPI No. 7 car, which started from pole position. With the championship at stake, this gave the No. 7 an advantage, but it later was forced to pit due to mechanical problems and had to spend 25 minutes in the garage for repairs, while the No. 10 car also had to pit irregularly to repair tire damage after colliding with the No. 77 Mazda RT24-P. The Mazda team followed the top group on the same lap, but when the two cars in contention for the lead collided in turn 5, the No. 77 driven by Pla broke away and became the top runner. As a result, the #55, which had been running in 4th place, moved up to 2nd place. The #77 car continued on its way to the finish line, but with 27 minutes to go, the left rear tire burst and the car went off the track in turn 17. Shortly afterwards, they pitted in for a single tire change, but were passed by the #6 Acura and fell to 3rd place. The #55 Mazda took over as the race leader and maintained its lead and took the checkered flag at the end of the 12 hours to take its first overall win at Sebring. The third-placed No. 77 fiercely pursued the No. 6 ahead of it, closing in to within 0.4-seconds towards the end of the race, but was unable to find an opening to get passed and finished in third place.
“I said to myself, ‘This is what you dream of,’” related Tinknell, who was behind the wheel of the No. 55, for the final stint of the race. “Twenty minutes to go, leading one of the biggest races in the world. You just have to go for it, give it everything you have. No regrets. I just pushed like crazy.”
Nelson Cosgrove, director of Mazda USA Motorsports stated, “I am really excited to celebrate this historic win at the 12 Hours of Sebring with everyone at Mazda. We join an exclusive group of manufacturers ever to win this endurance classic. I am thrilled for everyone on our whole team. I would like to thank everyone at Idemitsu, Multimatic, and AER for the tremendous support during this unusual season.”
The season’s IMSA WeatherTech Championship came to an end with this race, which was marked by frequent contacts and full course yellows. The championship was won by the Acura DPI No. 7, with the Mazda 55 finishing the season at 4th in the standings, and the No. 77 finished the season at 6th place.
Text by MZRacing, Photos by Mazda USA