DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – As if Mazda Team Joest needed further incentive to keep its torrid streak in the DPi class going in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, there’s a looming tidbit from John Doonan.
The director of motorsports for Mazda North American Operations has overseen the development of the brand’s sports car program that has culminated in victories in each of the past two races.
First there was a win by the No. 55 entry at Watkins Glen Int’l on June 30, and then there was another by the No. 77 a week later at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
In each of those events, Mazda posted a 1-2 finish.
As monumental and gratifying as those triumphs were, Doonan is keen on making it three in a row in Sunday’s IMSA Road Race Challenge at Road America. The Wisconsin circuit holds a special place in his heart.
“I certainly don’t want to make it about me,” Doonan said, “but I want this one pretty bad. This is a place where I grew up with my family, coming here with my dad when he was racing in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I was here when I was six weeks old.
“Out of all the races, you want to win the big ones – Daytona and Sebring – but I told the guys at Multimatic when we were testing here a while ago that I’d love to get one here. We’ll see what happens.”
With three weeks off following the back-to-back wins, those involved with the Mazda Team Joest program have had the chance to take in the achievement.
That includes Tristan Nunez, co-driver of the No. 77 with Oliver Jarvis that captured the most recent triumph at CTMP.
“With a couple weeks off to let it all set in, it’s pretty special,” said the 23-year-old Nunez, part of the Mazda program since 2013. “It’s something we’ve been trying for the past six years, so to complete it in that style, there’s no words to describe it.
“We’re here at Road America now, so we’ve just got to keep the momentum going and get some more results, and maybe we’ll be in the championship fight.”
As one of the long-tenured members of the Mazda program, Nunez has taken extra satisfaction in the recent results after years of hard work.
“I’ve been through it all – all the highs and lows – but I never gave up on it,” he said. “I know how special this brand is and it’s a great brand to be a part of. I love everything that they stand for.”
Nunez believes that his car and the No. 55 co-driven by Jonathan Bomarito and Harry Tincknell will continue to be a threat at Road America and beyond, despite recent Balance of Performance adjustments from IMSA.
“I don’t think the momentum’s going to stop now,” Nunez said. “I’m really excited to get this weekend started and see where we stack up. The new BoP did come out and we did get hit pretty hard, but I really don’t think it’s going to make that big of a difference. I trust the IMSA system.
“The track is amazing; it’s a true driver’s track and it’s just a beautiful course. I’m really excited.”
Doonan also believes Mazda teams are still in the hunt for the championship with four races remaining. The No. 77 is tied for fifth in the standings, 19 points behind the first-place No. 6 Acura Team Penske. Meanwhile, the No. 55 is just 20 points out of the lead.
Doonan credited Multimatic’s influences for making the car so solid on permanent circuits.
“They have made this race car love natural terrain road courses,” Doonan said. “We’ll be quick at a lot of places, but surely seeing how the car came alive at The Glen and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (was impressive), and now the last three races of the season are all on those types of circuits.
“God willing, we could be in the championship hunt heading into Petit (the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta), I hope.”