The Mazda Motorsports team leaves Sebring tired but fired up for the season ahead after an extremely tough test of drivers, team and equipment. In one of the closest finishes in the history of the race, five DPi class cars took the chequered flag in a tight group, covered by only five seconds, with the number 55 Mazda RT24-P fighting right to the end for the lead while still having to defend an aggressive attack from behind. Although the second place finish would have placed Mazda and its drivers in a clear lead of the championship, a penalty given to the third place number 48 Cadillac pushed it down the order and allowed the number 10 Acura to gather enough points to jump the number 55 Mazda by a slim eight point margin.
Despite not having the outright pace of the Cadillacs, the team used a combination of outstanding driving, creative strategy and impeccable pit stop execution to stay in the hunt and ultimately take a shot at the win. Unfortunately, in the last laps of the race, Harry Tincknell got caught between the number 5 and number 48 Cadillacs with Bourdais and Kobayashi behind their respective steering wheels both driving with a win-or-crash approach. Holding position for the last few laps was the only guarantee of any kind of finish.
In addition to a good haul of points towards the IMSA SportsCar Championship, Mazda also gathered maximum points towards the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup standings at both the four and eight-hour marks of the race by leading the race.
Twelve hours of racing at Sebring can be as gruelling as 24 hours at Daytona and ‘gruelling’ was the word on everyone’s lips after the 2021 race. Every single lap was run at sprint race pace but while other DPi competitors were involved in multiple dramas, the Mazda stayed out of trouble, stayed on the lead lap, and took the best possible result in an event where the Cadillacs were strong on pace and aggression.
Last time he raced at Sebring, Harry Tincknell joined a long list of famous outright winners of this event. He wanted to do the double but second place is the next best thing and, in terms of championship position, the team is now in a good place.
“That was another great race at Sebring,” said Tincknell. “We’ve had a consistent start to the year and after 36 hours of racing we are in a good position in the standings. We didn’t have the fastest car today but we maximised everything we had. Perfect pit stops and clever, well-executed strategy and maximum attack from everyone got the job done for us today. I had no radio for the last two stints, which made it pretty intense as I had no communication with the spotter or the stand so I had to navigate the safety car procedure without guidance and also had to work out when to come in for fuel, which really adds to the mental stress. You can’t win every race but the next best thing to do is finish second and we’re now looking good in terms of the championship fight.”
Oliver Jarvis knows how punishing Sebring can be and it’s not just the notorious bumps that you have to look out for. With numerous incidents throughout the race, all three drivers did a great job to steer clear of trouble.
“That was probably one of the toughest races of my career,” said Jarvis. “It was gruelling from start to finish. We didn’t quite have the pace, of the Cadillacs in particular, which didn’t make life easy but the team was flawless throughout in the pit stops and the strategy so we came away with a hard-earned P2. It’s a great result for the team and also for our championship challenge. We’ve got lots of work to do as we need to find a bit more pace before Mid-Ohio but the important thing is that we really managed to grind out a result this weekend.”
Jonathan Bomarito resisted an intense challenge for the lead during his second stint, coming under incredible pressure but the cool Californian wasn’t about to let anyone go by.
“That was a gruelling 12 hours,” said Bomarito. “We pushed through and never stopped challenging. It was a super stressful nail-biter at the end but we are now in second place in the championship. Onto the next one!”