Mazda's Doonan never gives up
John Doonan is the man who manages all of Mazda's professional motorsports involvements. And there is a lot of racing going on under his watch as Mazda prides itself as being one of the most raced brands in the world. No matter what level, Doonan says that it is all important to Mazda. He takes pride that Mazda is "anywhere from grassroots racing to the American Le Mans Series."
Doonan describes Mazda factory-supported racing as a ladder system. Mazda drivers have the potential to move up through the ranks as they progress in their racing careers. 2007 B-K Motorsports drivers Raphael Matos, Ben Devlin and Jamie Bach are all products of the ladder system, each coming from other racing series in Mazda powered cars. "The American Le Mans Series is the pinnacle of the pyramid for us," stated Doonan.
Mazda has a pyramid of its own within IMSA, the sanctioning body for the American Le Mans Series. In addition to its partnership with B-K Motorsports in LMP2, Mazda also has heavy involvement in the Star Mazda Championship and IMSA Lites, both IMSA-sanctioned series.
"Mazda has been a partner of the American Le Mans Series since its inception. With our philosophy of 'Always the Soul of a Sports Car' in every Mazda we make, the American Le Mans Series is one of the best places to showcase the Mazda brand," said Doonan.
One of Mazda's largest motorsports involvements is with B-K Motorsports in the American Le Mans Series LMP2 class. Pointing to a late-race class lead at Mosport, the team has built excitement for the future of their program and the Series. "The level of competition is fantastic," said Doonan. "We relish the fact that Acura and Porsche have come into LMP2."
With the new competition in play, Doonan and team are not ready to back down. "Mazda has always embraced the underdog position. We came in as the underdog. We know that and so we know going into 2008 that we're still in that slot," said Doonan. B-K looks to carry its improvements of 2007 over to the 2008 season of the American Le Mans Series. The first race to test their months of development and testing will come at the 56th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida on March 15th.
"(The 2008 American Le Mans Series season) will be about continuing our 'never give up' attitude," said Doonan. "Most everyone on the team and in Mazda Motorsports wears a blue wristband that says 'THE WILL TO NEVER GIVE UP'. It was a challenge that Mazda engineers adhered to during the run up to Le Mans in 1991. Now, Robert Davis (Senior Vice President, Product Development and Quality, Mazda North American Operations) has made sure all of us have that same level of commitment. It seems to be working among our small team of people that implement Mazda's motorsports programs and definitely among each of our race teams."
Team chemistry and focus will be keys to 2008 success for Mazda. Starting the season off with good news, Mazda and B-K will announce new sponsors at the 2008 Winter Test on January 28-30 at Sebring.
In 2008, one of Doonan's largest goals is for B-K Motorsports to run every lap of every race. "We will be fighting for the points championship if we do that," he states.
Preparations for the 2008 American Le Mans Series, its 10th season of world-class sports car racing, begin January 28-30 with the annual Winter Test at Sebring International Raceway.
The 2008 season opens with the 56th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida on Saturday, March 15. The race will start at 10 a.m. ET and will be broadcast live by SPEED, which will begin its coverage at 9:30 a.m. American Le Mans Radio and IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring will be available at americanlemans.com.