ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – On Sunday morning, all involved with Mazda Team Joest were thinking they’d have a third-place finish at best in the two-hour, 40-minute IMSA Road Race Showcase at Road America.
After all, Acura Team Penske – and specifically the No. 6 ARX 05-DPi shared by Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya – had been the class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Daytona Prototype international field throughout the weekend.
The No. 6 led all three pre-qualifying practice sessions and Cameron took the Motul Pole Award on Saturday afternoon to lead a front-row qualifying sweep.
The No. 7 Acura DPi shared by Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor led another 1-2 sweep in the Sunday morning warm-up. And when the green flag dropped on the race shortly past 1:30 p.m. local time Sunday, it was again the pair of white and dayglow orange Penske Acuras showing the way for most of the first half of the race.
But long, green-flag runs happen to be the Mazda RT-24P’s strong suit. And as luck would have it for the Mazda team, this race would run its entire distance without a full-course caution.
Harry Tincknell took the lead for the first time an hour and 14 minutes into the race in the No. 55 Mazda DPi he co-drives with Jonathan Bomarito. He did it in turn one, sweeping past Montoya – who combined with Cameron to lead 20 laps of what would be a record 83-lap race – in the No. 6 Acura.
Tincknell’s move turned out to be a turning point in the race. Once he got the lead, he only surrendered it two times for two laps each time as the DPi pit-stop sequence played out.
Tincknell had his hands full in the final two laps of the race, with Cameron hot on his tail. Tincknell even ran wide exiting turn five on the final lap, briefly opening the door for Cameron to pull alongside. There was slight, side-to-side contact between the two cars heading into turn six, but Tincknell kept the lead.
He then won a final drag race uphill to the finish line, taking the checkered flag just .227 seconds ahead of Cameron to secure Mazda Team Joest’s third consecutive WeatherTech Championship victory.
“Fantastic race,” Tincknell said. “I couldn’t believe it. On the cooling down lap, I had tears in my eyes. I couldn’t believe we had done it. All weekend we had been there, or thereabouts, but never the ultimate pace. I think we saw that a little bit in qualifying. Honestly going into the race today, I thought P3 would be a really a strong result, but it was very clear very early on the Penskes weren’t pulling away. Once we got into third and on the back of the Penskes, I thought maybe there was a chance.
“We came in right behind them when I jumped in the car. I saw the one car had an issue and we were up to second. We were both saving fuel. Obviously, we knew there was going to be quite a lot going for a splash at the end. We tried to minimize that as much as possible.”
It was the second win of the season for Tincknell and Bomarito in the No. 55, as they scored the first victory for the Mazda DPi program two races ago in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen along with endurance co-driver Olivier Pla. It was the team’s third straight win, as Tristan Nunez and Oliver Jarvis won the most recent DPi race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on July 7.
“It was just a flat-out race, no cautions,” Bomarito said. “It was managing traffic, managing rear tire wear, managing fuel numbers. And pushing like crazy the whole time trying to keep pace with Penske, build gaps in traffic.
“We had no AC in the car at one point. It was super-hot and very physical. Just a tough race. We really had to work for that one today. To come through again on top, we were talking about it on the way (to the post-race news conference). This one almost feels more special because (at) Watkins we had the pace, and it was kind of ours to lose. We just had to fight so hard. It’s almost a little more of a rewarding feeling in the end. What an amazing day.”
While they narrowly missed out on winning the battle at Road America, Cameron and Montoya may have taken another crucial step in winning the season-long WeatherTech Championship war. Their runner-up result was their sixth consecutive podium finish, helping extend their lead in the DPi championship standings to seven points, 239-232, over defending champion Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani with two races remaining on the season.
Nunez and Jarvis combined to deliver the third straight double podium for Mazda Team Joest with a third-place showing in the No. 77. The consecutive podiums have helped them vault from eighth in the DPi standings following Round 5 at Detroit’s Belle Isle in late May to third following Sunday’s race.
No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R co-drivers Nasr and Derani came home fourth, keeping them in contention for the DPi championship. Renger van der Zande and Jordan Taylor rounded out the top five with a fifth-place run in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R.
In the LMP2 class, the No. 52 PR1-Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA co-driven by Matt McMurry and Patrick Kelly scored the victory by 31.356 seconds over the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA shared by Cameron Cassels and Saturday’s LMP2 Motul Pole Award winner, James French.