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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship

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Mazdas lose out in rain-affected race at Road America

The Mazda RT24-Ps had the race in hand as it entered the final hour, but a deluge of rain ended their podium battle at IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s IMSA SportsCar Weekend at Road America. After an impressive run on a dry track for the first half of the two hour and forty minute race the rains came and turned the race around for Multimatic Motorsports.

When the green flag waved to start the race under sunny skies Harry Tincknell in the No.55 Mazda DPi took off in hot pursuit of the Penske cars, with Tristan Nunez right behind him in the sister Mazda. Ultimately the No.6 Acura DPi of Dane Cameron succumbed to the pressure and it became a three car race at the front with the two Mazdas taking turns at the No.7 Penske DPi of Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves. Never more than a second covered the lead battle for over an hour. The contingent of Cadillacs were never a factor as they couldn’t quite match the pace of the front three.

“The race started really well,” said Tincknell. “I got up into second place, then (Dane) Cameron got past me again a few corners later, which started off a great wheel-to-wheel battle. It was so intense in the traffic. You have to be super committed around Road America so when you add traffic into the mix it’s easy to lose a chunk of time so you have to make bold moves to stay on the pace. After the first stop I was right on the tail of Cameron’s Penske again. I had a good run on the exit of turn five but had the door slammed on me but luckily he came off worse and had to pit with a puncture and then again for a blocking penalty.”

With the driver changes complete Oliver Jarvis in the No.77 Mazda DPi made what should have been the definitive move of the race when he went around the outside of Helio Castroneves at Canada Corner with 58 minutes left in the race and immediately started pulling away from the No.7 Penske machine. Jonathan Bomarito in the No.55 was comfortably in third with no threat from behind, things looking locked for a major points haul for the Mazdas. But just as they settled into a rhythm the skies opened with the biggest deluge Elkhart Lake has ever experienced, totally without warning, as the weather radar showed no such activity until it happened.

Carnage ensued with cars crashing at various points around the track, the only benefactor being the No.10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac that had extended its stint and received the benefit of being able to go to wet tires during its regular stop. The rest of the field either dashed to the pits to swap to rains or got caught out when the pits closed as the track went yellow. The No.55 Mazda, No.7 Acura and the balance of the Cadillacs made the change while Jarvis in the No.77 remained on slicks at the front of the field evidently in hopes the race would end under the yellow and red flag conditions. The race was then red flagged with 42 minutes to go as race control waited out the storm.

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The clock was reset to 30 minutes when the field, led by Jarvis still on slicks, returned to the still flooded track behind the safety car and the normal protocols were invoked with the pits opening for the various classes and the wave by and class splits were initiated. Based on the timing of those activities and the safety car pace it was evident that the event would end under yellow and so the decision was taken to leave the No.77 on slicks so as to maintain the lead and then win the race under caution. But ultimately race control skipped the final aspects of the normal procedure to try and achieve two laps of actual racing before the checkered flag and so the No.77 came in for rains as the green flag flew, but then more crashes led to the event ending under yellow anyway and the Mazdas finished a disappointing fifth and sixth despite the dominant run for the first two hours.

“It’s disappointing to finish fifth after the pace and performance we had,” said Tincknell. “We fought so hard today and although I was physically good I was mentally tired by the end of that. I don’t think I ever got a clear lap as I was either up someone’s gearbox or defending from dive bombs all the time. It was intense but it was a lot of fun and I can’t wait for the battle to resume at Road Atlanta.”

The next round of the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship has changed from Watkins Glen to Road Atlanta and will take place on September 6th.

*From Multimatic Motorsports

Race results

08/06/20

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