After a best-ever finish on the streets of Long Beach, the Mazda Prototype team will attempt to improve on that third-place tally this weekend at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The Advance Auto Parts SportsCar Showdown is a two-hour, 40-minute endurance test on the 3.4-mile course outside of Austin, Texas.
Both Mazda Prototypes ran in the top-three for the first half of the Long Beach race, in part due to improved handling and braking performance. After the Southern California race, the team completed two days of testing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. to further develop the entire package. Braking is a key element to do well on the 20-turn COTA Grand Prix circuit.
“There’s a lot of focus on braking because there are three long straights followed by big, high-speed braking zones, going from top speed down into very tight first- and second-gear corners,” said Tom Long, driver of the No. 70 Castrol Edge/ModSpace Mazda RT24-P. “Plus, there are a lot of quick transitions. From Turn 2 through Turn 9, it’s one entire complex of left and right switchbacks. It’s really fun to drive, and focuses on the car’s set-up and your driving to most efficiently get through. If you can do those things well, your chances of doing well will greatly increase by the end of the race.”
Adding to the team’s optimism is the power being generated from the 600-hp, two-liter inline four-cylinder turbocharged Mazda engine, which has propelled the Prototypes to high straightaway speeds in 2017.
“Our top speeds have been really good this year,” said Long. “We’re excited to try to play that to our advantage at COTA. That is what creates the opportunity to make a pass going into the braking zones. Coming from top speeds three times a lap, we know our cars brake so well that we will have a good shot at making passes.”
Driver Lineup for the Mazda Prototype Team
No. 55 – Mazda RT24-P (Soul Red) – Jonathan Bomarito, Tristan Nunez
No. 70 – Castrol Edge/ModSpace Mazda RT24-P (Machine Gray) – Tom Long, Joel Miller
Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Races Friday Afternoon
The two-hour Continental Tire series race takes place Friday, and will feature a trio of Mazda MX-5s from Freedom Autosport in the ST class. The team raised a lot of eyebrows at COTA last year when the No. 25 ModSpace Mazda with Chad McCumbee and Stevan McAleer suffered with a balky gearbox, which meant teammate Andrew Carbonell (teamed with Liam Dwyer in the No. 26) helped “bump draft” McAleer to the finish and into the series points lead. Hopefully such dramatic measures won’t be needed this year. Those two cars and the same drivers are back this weekend, alongside the No. 27 Trumpf Mazda with college students Britt Casey Jr. and Robby Foley behind the wheel.