By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — Mazda Team Joest had one of the fastest cars at the 57th Rolex 24 at Daytona but their pole-sitting No. 77 RT24-P suffered turbocharger failure just before seven hours were completed while the No. 55 machine had a brief fuel leak causing some lost time.
Timo Bernhard was behind the wheel when suddenly the car had no drive and flames came out of the exhaust system. The car was towed to the garage and after a quick once-over, the decision to retire was made.
“It’s very much disappointing because we try to do our best and we had a good bunch of people around,” said Bernhard. “It’s a pity, it seems like we have to try again and I mean we all know motorsport can be hard.
“The car felt really good, really competitive, balance was good and I think the race was coming toward us with more and more laps with the balance.”
Tristan Nunez drove early in the race and has been a Mazda driver since 2013. Despite the disappointment of retiring, Nunez is upbeat about his team’s future despite a setback like this.
“It was the most fun I’ve had in a race car in a very very long time,” said Nunez. “I think we’re getting there, we’re closer than ever. I say it all the time, each year, each season we get closer and closer, the whole program itself takes a huge step forward. It’s unfortunate that it had to end this way and early but we’ll take what we learned from here and we’ve got a long season ahead of us. We’ve got our sights set on a championship so we can still bounce back from this. It’s just the first race of the season, unfortunately it had to be the toughest race of the season but it’s the first race of the season.”
The team finished eighth in the championship last year and despite the retirement from this year’s race, they will not finish as far back as they did last year. Nunez did win his class in his first Rolex 24 but is trying to get Mazda back into winner’s circle.
“I’ll have plenty more Rolex 24s in my career hopefully that I can bounce back from and I hope to do it with Mazda as well,” said Nunez. “They’re a great company, very loyal, they make life really fun so it’s unfortunate but I definitely have the best job in the world. It’s gutting but I wake up every day pinching myself. It’s a great life I live.”
The No. 55 machine as of this writing is in seventh place with just over eight hours completed.