The Multimatic-run #55 Mazda continues to fight a no-holds-barred battle for the WeatherTech SportsCar championship against the #10 WTR Acura, maintaining second place, despite a bruising race through Detroit’s ‘Concrete Canyons’, resulting in the RT24-P crossing the finish line in fourth place, just behind the #10 Acura in third.
Qualifying was incredibly tight and it was Harry Tincknell who put the #55 Mazda on the front row of the grid beside the Ganassi Cadillac of Kevin Magnussen. His time was a mere two-hundredths of a second shy of pole position, such was the ferocity of the competition at the top of the class.
The start of the race was delayed for an hour due to red flag stoppages in the preceding IndyCar race but once it got underway, Tincknell was pushed back to third by an aggressive Pipo Derani and then to fourth by Tristan Vautier. Traditionally a hard charger at the start, Tincknell struggled with the Michelin tyres taking a few laps to come to life on the Mazda. However, once up to speed, Tincknell was then frustrated to be behind Vautier as they dropped back from the leading pair. Although extremely difficult to pass on the concrete-lined street course, Tincknell went for it at the 30 minute mark using an opportunity in traffic, making the pass for third and immediately pulling away from the #5.
“I knew the start was going to be tricky,” said Tincknell. “Starting on the outside at Detroit isn’t easy and as we were on straight after the IndyCar race the track was very slippery to start with. Once I got the tyres up to temperature my pace was there but it still wasn’t as quick as in Warm-Up when I was the fastest. I managed to get past Vautier in traffic to take third place back, which was satisfying.”
Tincknell pitted just before the halfway mark; a lap earlier than planned as it looked like there might be a yellow due to a crash and debris scattered on the track, but it unfortunately didn’t occur. In fact, the sportscars fared much better than the IndyCars and got through the 100-minute race with just two, short Full Course Yellows.
With Jarvis now behind the wheel of the Mazda he also suffered the same fate as Tincknell and spent two laps getting the tyres up to speed whilst the #10 stayed out and enjoyed two blisteringly fast laps before taking its pit stop. The Acura came out just ahead of the Mazda, having been able to execute an ‘overcut’ and take advantage of the #55 cars slow ramp-up laps.
The final 45 minutes showcased some spectacular racing with third-placed Albuquerque in the #10 being relentlessly hunted by Jarvis in the Mazda, as he was himself hounded by Loic Duval in the #5 Cadillac. The Mazda enjoyed a slight pace advantage once up to speed but the narrow track, constant GT traffic and a questionable move by the #10 at the final caution period restart combined to keep Jarvis where he was, in fourth.
“It’s disappointing that we lost the podium the way we did,” said Tincknell. “We need to analyze exactly what happened so that we can maximize our potential going into the second half of the season. We’re now going on to circuits that suit our car so I hope we can go there and start taking the top results again.”
Larry Holt, Executive Vice President – Multimatic Special Vehicle Operations, said: “That was a tough one, with a constant threat of contact with other cars and the walls. Harry and Oliver did a great job, showing great pace once we got rolling, and the team was awesome in the stop, but the slight lag in our ability to come up to full speed cost us a spot on the #10. That’s sub-optimal as they are our competition in the championship battle. The leading Cadillacs were out of reach but we had the pace of the others. I figured the caution right at the end was going to be our shot at the Acura as we had the tyres up, our fuel numbers came good under yellow and the pace was obviously better than the #10 in clean air, but Albuquerque backed it up ten car lengths from the #31 at the restart and dropped Olly, wiping out a hope of a pass through corner one. Not very sportsmanlike but it clearly establishes the boundaries for the next races. We’re heading to Watkins Glen now which is a strong track for the Mazda, I can’t wait to pick this up where we left off Saturday evening.”
Next up for the IMSA Weather SportsCar Championship teams is a double-header of races at Watkins Glen, where the Mazda RT24-P took its first win, during the summer of 2019. The first race, a six-hour test of endurance, will get underway on June 27th.