John Doonan, the Director of Motorsports for Mazda North American Operations, recently sat down and answered some questions about the 2013 racing season as well as what to expect in 2014. Hear what he had to say below.
Question: How did the 2013 season go for Mazda? What were the highlights and lowlights?
Answer: I hope 2013 is most remembered for the debut season of the Mazda6 SKYACTIV-D Clean Diesel. This was an amazing accomplishment by Mazda and SpeedSource. We took production engines straight from the Mazda assembly line and developed them into race winning power plants while retaining a majority of production parts.
Question: What was so important about it being a production engine?
Answer: Mazda believes in racing what we sell. Within some circles, Mazda is known as the rotary company, but we are really much more than that. We are a company of gearheads, car geeks and racing fans who want cars that are exciting to drive. With racing we can demonstrate our quality, durability, reliability, and performance. BUT to be authentic to the hardcore fans – the influencers within their circle of friends, we need to do it with our cars. Our engines. Our engineering. While we remain committed to the ongoing development of the rotary engine, the current market requirements are such that a performance diesel and our SKYACTIV technology is a logical fit for Mazda. It’s a fantastic challenge that has benefits to our customers.
Question: So the future is diesel?
Answer: Partially. No one powerplant matches every need, nor does any one car. Mazda needs to have a portfolio of car and engines, both for the street and the track. Clean Diesel will be a key part of our product lineup, thus it makes perfect sense to race the diesel.
Question: What are the Mazda plans for the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship?
Answer: We can’t wait for the new series to begin. We have a number of teams who have approached us about becoming customer teams for our SKYACTIV-D program.
Question: Can you be more specific?
Answer: Not yet. Just like a car company not discussing future product plans, we don’t wish to talk about our specific race plan for 2014 just yet. We are about 90 days from the Roar before the 24 test at Daytona. I can promise you that we’ll be making some news between now and then.
Question: Let’s get back to that first question, about highlights and lowlights of the 2013 season. Besides the SKYACTIV-D program, what stands out?
Answer: We had a number of highlights. We added another dozen national championships at the SCCA Runoffs and NASA Championships. In addition to the nine Grand-Am GX race wins and the GX Manufacturers Championship, we had six wins in the Continental Tire ST Challenge. Those six wins were more than all other brands combined. In Pirelli World Challenge, our customers had good success. Ernie Francis Jr. scored seven wins in his Mazda2 and Michael Cooper won four times with his MAZDASPEED3. Those four series combined for a total of 26 wins from 51 races. As CJ Wilson might note, we had a .510 batting average this season. We’re very happy about that.
Question: How is CJ Wilson’s team doing?
Answer: Quite well. Mazda is very fortunate to have some great teams racing our products. CJ Wilson is among the newer teams, but they have quickly developed a solid operation that is winning in both MX-5 Cup and Continental Tire ST. CJ, as a person, is in for the longterm having also bought a Mazda dealership. We are also proud to work with SpeedSource Engineering, Freedom Autosport, i-Moto Racing, Breathless Performance, Atlanta Motorsports Group, and Dyson Racing.