Photo: Courtesy of IMSA

Mazda Frustrated by Double Podium at Mid-Ohio

By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer

LEXINGTON, Ohio– Mazda Team Joest had their podium finish as an entity at the 2018 Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and the team managed to get two cars on the podium at this year at Sunday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at Mid-Ohio.

However, despite the second and third place finishes, the team is frustrated by their lack of stepping on the top step of the podium.

“We’ve been fast every weekend, started on the front row three of the four weekends, pole twice, fastest race lap a couple of times, led every race, we’ve just got to close the deal,” said John Doonan, Director of Motorsports at Mazda North American Operations. “So even though it is a double podium, it still feels a little bit like a letdown in the results. I’m really proud of the effort of all the guys at Multimatic, AER and the Joest guys. We’re continuing to make progress, we’re knocking on the door, we’ve just got to kick it in.”

Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez started on pole in the No. 77 RT24-P DPi entry but lost the lead early to Dane Cameron in the No. 6 Acura Team Penske machine in traffic. From then on it was a dogfight between manufacturers and Acura came out on top after a late race restart thanks to Juan Montoya’s skill on cold tires.

“We were really poor on cold tires so I was really working the tires hard going into the restart to hopefully have a good shot,” said Nunez. “To be honest, the Penske’s were just really strong on cold tires and I really didn’t have anything for them so I was just waiting until the tires came in and hopefully make a move on [Montoya] using traffic but never got to that point.”

Jarvis was frustrated after losing three places in the pit cycle at Long Beach and after having everything mostly right heading into Mid-Ohio, the frustration returned for the British racer.

“I’m absolutely gutted because once again we’ve led the race and we’ve not come away with a win,” said Jarvis. “That’s what we’re here to do but yeah, it’s huge progression. P2, P3, on any other day you’d be happy with that. I just think there was a shot at the win, hats off to Penske and Dane Cameron and Juan Montoya, great job from them.”

The biggest variable from Sunday’s race was traffic. Mid-Ohio has a lot of corners in the second sector and catching the wrong break can massively affect a battle for position.

“The fact that we didn’t have any dry running, it meant that we weren’t in a rhythm but also the GT guys weren’t in a rhythm with where we were going to pass and how to let us past,” said Jarvis. “You can pull a ten second lead and in three corners it’s gone. If you catch a car in the wrong place or the wrong car, it’s incredible, you work your butt off to pull a lead, there’s not seconds between any DPi down the paddock and then you catch the wrong car and it’s five seconds gone.”

Last year’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle would’ve been another positive result for Mazda had their lead car not run out of fuel close to the end of the race. Jarvis predicts that Cadillac will be strong on the streets of Belle Isle but has positive vibes for Mazda heading to the Motor City.

“I think there’s no reason why we can’t be strong so it’s going to be a real fight and a street course always throws up the unknown so I’m looking forward to that one,” said Jarvis. “It’s a tough track, actually, for a driver. Really quick first and last sections, no room for error so we’ll have to see what we can do.”

The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will be on June 1st and it will be a DPi/GTD race only that will last an hour and 40 minutes.

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.