Countdown Begins for 2021 Daytona 24 Hour Race
The 24 Hours of Daytona, now in its 59th year, is highly regarded as a legendary sports car endurance race. Daytona International Speedway is a permanent track located on the Atlantic coast of Central Florida. It is a 3.56-mile (5.7 km) high-speed track that connects a 2.5-mile triangular oval course with an infield section called the International Horseshoe. On the back straight, there is a chicane called the Bus Stop, and from the infield to the back straight and from the Bus Stop to Turn 1, there is a bank of up to 32 degrees of incline. It is not uncommon for the brakes to be damaged by doing this over 800 times in 24 hours.
The participating cars are the Daytona Prototype International (DPi), LMP2, GTLM (FIA GTE), and GTD (FIA GT3), which are based on the LMP2 standard of the WEC series with more freedom in engine and body design. In addition to DPi, LMP2, GTLM (FIA GTE), and GTD (FIA GT3), from 2021, LMP3, the unified standard for privateers, will be able to compete, and a total of 49 cars have entered this event. In the DPi class, the top category, a variety of power units are allowed. 4 Cadillac DPi cars are powered by a 5.5L V8 naturally aspirated engine, 2 Acura DPi cars are powered by a 3.5L V6 twin-turbocharged engine, and the Mazda RT24-P, which only has one entry this year, is powered by a 2L inline 4-cylinder single-turbocharged engine. However, the engine output of each car is BoP-adjusted to around 600PS by restrictors and other means to ensure fairness. This year, the Mazda RT24-P of Mazda USA Motorsports will be donning the traditional Mazda number “55” with the image livery of its sponsor Idemitsu Kosan. In last year’s 24 Hours of Daytona, the Mazda RT24-P finished in second place overall, 65 seconds behind the Cadillac DPi, after a fierce battle for the top spot that resembled a sprint race. Mazda, which started the rotary boom in the 1980s, has won this race many times in the GTU and GTO classes, but has yet to take overall victory. Last year, following the 24-hour race, the COVID-19 pandemic occurred and US motorsports had to suspend the racing for a time, but when the competition resumed in July, the Mazda RT24-P won the 240-minute Daytona race. The Mazda RT24-P continued to battle for the lead with the Acura team, which ultimately became the champion car, and finished the season with an overall victory in the final race, the 12 Hours of Sebring.
This year, ace drivers Oliver Jarvis (UK) and Harry Tincknell (UK) are the regular drivers for the #55 Mazda RT24-P, and Jonathan Bomarito (USA) will be registered as the third driver for long distance races such as the 24-hour race. The week before the 24-hour race, official practice sessions were held, and on the last day, the 100-minute “Pole Award” race was held to determine the grid. The RT24-P started from pole position, but as the wet conditions were expected to change to dry, the team pitted in early for a tire and driver change. This put the team at the back of the DPi class, but they gradually caught up and by the end of the race, they were closing in on the race leader, the Cadillac DPi, and finished in 2nd place. With this result, the team confirmed that they are capable of fighting for the top position in the 24-hour melee. The team is now fully prepared and ready to go this weekend. This will be the third year in a row that the Mazda RT24-P will start the race from the front row.
This year, the opening round of the Mazda MX-5 Cup race will also be held at Daytona. There will be one race on Thursday and one race on Friday.
Text by MZRacing, Photos by Mazda USA