DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The pole-sitter’s bid for the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona went down in flames Saturday night as part of dual mechanical problems for Mazda Team Joest at Daytona International Speedway.
The No. 77 Mazda DPI, which Oliver Jarvis qualified first Thursday with a record-setting lap, suffered a fire after completing 220 laps. About 20 minutes later, the team determined the car was beyond repair and retired after just more than seven hours of the 24-hour event.
“The car suddenly stopped working,” said Timo Bernhard, who was behind the wheel of the car at the time and was unable to extinguish the fire. “We were competitive and fighting for victory.”
There were some prerace questions from rivals about whether Mazda had traded speed for reliability.
“Mazda looks really, really strong. I think everyone’s question with them is reliability. I don’t think they even know how good they’re going to be because they’ve been having some issues.” —@jpmontoya, proving to be very prescient in an interview about 31 hours ago. #IMSA50
— Nate Ryan (@nateryan) January 27, 2019
But Bernhard dismissed those suggestions. “Not a concern,” he said. “I think we had good preparation for sure. A lot of experience and good performance. Just a little disappointed because we had a great car.”
A few minutes earlier, the No. 55 Mazda also had a problem with an apparent fuel leak, losing three laps while making repairs.
It was an unfortunately familiar storyline for Mazda, which had both of its car suffer problems in last year’s Rolex, too.
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