In a surprise announcement this morning, Mazda Motorsports announced the creation of "Mazda Team Joest" to become its new factory Mazda Prototype team in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship beginning with the 2018 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
The announcement brings Joest Racing – which has amassed 16 victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 10 victories in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida, six Motul Petit Le Mans victories and two Rolex 24 At Daytona wins – back to top-level endurance sports car racing. The team created in 1978 by Reinhold Joest most recently operated the Audi factory prototype team from 1999 through 2016.
"If ever there were a benchmark example of a top-level prototype endurance sports car racing team, on a global scale, Joest Racing is it," said IMSA President Scott Atherton. "We are thrilled to welcome what now will be known as, ‘Mazda Team Joest’ back to North American sports car competition.
"The Joest organization has had considerable success in North America in the past and we have every reason to expect that to continue with this new alliance with the Mazda DPi program. On behalf of IMSA, we offer our congratulations to all involved."
Mazda Team Joest will begin an aggressive testing program in August on racetracks in Europe and North America, utilizing the four current Mazda Prototype drivers: Jonathan Bomarito, Tristan Nunez, Joel Miller and Tom Long. The driver lineup for 2018 is expected to be confirmed before the end of the 2017 WeatherTech Championship season.
"This is an important moment in Mazda Motorsports history as we align our brand’s top-level sports car racing program with one of the best sports car teams of all time," said John Doonan, director of motorsports for Mazda North American Operations. "What Mr. Joest, Ralf Juttner (Joest Racing managing director) and the entire Joest Racing organization has accomplished is not likely to ever be matched.
"We are very excited to work with them to put Mazda in victory lane and to strive for more championship trophies, adding to the substantial Mazda and Joest Racing legacies in the years ahead.
The team will work closely with Multimatic Motorsports to refine and improve the Mazda RT24-P Daytona Prototype international (DPi) chassis, which will continue to be powered by the 600-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder, 2.0-liter inline Mazda MZ-2.0T engine developed by Advanced Engine Research (AER). Joest Racing is based in Wald-Michelbach, Germany, but plans to establish North American headquarters in the Atlanta area later this fall.
"We are excited and proud about this new opportunity with Mazda," said Juttner. "Mazda has such a long tradition in motorsport and, especially in America, has created a huge platform for racing enthusiasts. For us, this is not only a return to American racing, which we have always enjoyed, but also great news to the big group of our Japanese fans, who have always warmly embraced us."
The aggressive testing and development program means that Mazda will forego the remaining three rounds of the 2017 WeatherTech Championship to prepare for the 2018 season.
"I want to thank our long-time partners at SpeedSource Race Engineering and owner, Sylvain Tremblay," said Doonan. "We accomplished a great deal with their organization at all levels of the sport for more than two decades.
"They are a perfect example of a team that has grown through our Mazda system: from grassroots club racing, to Rolex 24 race-winning efforts in GT and then on to the Prototype program. Friendships in our sport run deep and we certainly don’t see that changing."