LE MANS MOTORSPORT NEWS

Chemistry key to new Joest-Mazda partnership

Joest Racing technical director Ralf Juttner has a favorite word to describe the team’s new alliance with Mazda: chemistry. It speaks volumes about the sequence of changes for Audi Sport’s former LMP1-Hybrid partner.

“It goes back to Daytona earlier this year when I met with John Doonan and Mazda, and it’s the feeling you have, the chemistry,” he told RACER. “The first impression; the feelings we had, speaking with them, was just the right one. It felt right to do this project with them. The chemistry seemed to be there from the very beginning. I do really believe we can achieve something good together with Mazda Team Joest.”

 

Following Audi’s departure from the FIA World Endurance Championship during the offseason, Doonan and Mazda swept in to inquire about signing the 16-time winners of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Although the German outfit has been on the sidelines this year, Juttner ¬†says the same people who delivered so much success for Audi will be directly in charge of running Mazda’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship program. Additional staff, presumably from North America, will also be hired to complete the new base it will establish in Atlanta, Ga.

“The key team will be the team that ran the Audis the last few years,” he said. “Most of the guys are still here. Two or three left, including engineers, but I expect most will be driving back to be part of this. The team will be the Le Mans team, but we need some new people based in America as well.

“But there will be a lot of traveling back and forth from Germany and Atlanta. How this will develop over a year or two, we will see. The success we had is from the people based in Germany, so we will ask them to make the same success with Mazda in America.”

After nearly 20 years of working on original sports car designs, Joest will face an interesting challenge with Mazda’s RT24-P DPi (below). The chassis, designed by Riley/Multimatic, the engine, created by AER, and the aerodynamics, produced in a collaboration between Mazda and Multimatic, must be retained, and will require extensive redevelopment. Unlike most of Audi’s prototypes, Joest will not be able to start from scratch while addressing the RT24-Ps shortcomings, but from Juttner’s perspective, it shouldn’t be an issue.

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“It’s not so different than what we did in the past,” he said. “When we started with Audi, they had cars already and we had to start developing many things that were already created by others. The influence we had at that time was big. Here I see the chance where our ideas will be put direct into the project.

“I know that there are limits in terms of [DPi] homologation, but there’s a lot of things we can bring our expertise in. IMSA’s class with the DPis is not that old; the whole thing is in its first year. A lot of things need to be addressed, but I think it’s going in the right direction and we will not be so far behind to the other DPi manufacturers. If this was three years into the formula, it would be a different case.”

From its staff to its expansive engineering resources, Juttner is confident Joest will be able to take the RT24-Ps, put them through an exhaustive testing and development cycle, and send the cars back to America for the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January with a much better chance of being competitive.

“That’s definitely what we hope,” he said. “We will bring our knowledge and expertise in endurance racing to the project, and will do all of the things we would call ‘no-brainer’ items. Some of that stuff will be doable, and others we will have to see what the limits of design and homologation are within IMSA.

“We also look forward to working with Multimatic and AER. Everyone is taking the momentum John Doonan is bringing to push as hard as possible and move forward very quickly. There are many things happening already. When we get the cars and can go testing, we will make the cars as good as possible.”

Having Joest Racing back in prototype racing, with Mazda, will be a massive treat for sports car fans. Go ahead and put the team’s technical director at the top of the list for those who can’t wait for the 2018 championship to get under way.

“We enjoy racing in America; it’s not a secret,” Juttner said. “We raced in America many years before Audi, in GTP and other incredible times for sports cars, and then we did it with Audi and had great success. Now, we have this incredible chance to return with Mazda. Everyone here is very happy about the decision and wants to go racing immediately.”