Mazda Team Joest Adds Bernhard, Pla For 2019 IMSA In Team Shake Up

Mazda Team Joest has bolstered its IMSA SportsCar Championship driver line-up for the 2019 season, with Timo Bernhard and Olivier Pla joining its roster.

For its second season in partnership with Joest Racing, Mazda has retained the same full-time line-up of Jonathan Bomarito, Harry Tincknell, Tristan Nunez and Oliver Jarvis.

Pla joins Ford World Endurance Championship team-mate Tincknell and Bomarito at the wheel of the #55 Mazda RT24-P for the four long-distance races at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta.

The Frenchman is one of a handful of drivers to take part in both legs of the combined Sebring IMSA/WEC weekend in March.

Porsche factory racer Timo Bernhard will share the sister #77 entry with Nunez and Jarvis, while Audi DTM star Rene Rast will join the trio for Daytona and Sebring.

Bernhard said: "I have a great memory with Team Joest as we won the 24 Hours of Le Mans together back in 2010 [with Audi].

"The Mazda RT24-P showed great progress over 2018 and was a strong contender at the end of the season.

"Sharing the car with super team-mates like Olly and Rene who I know well, as well as my new team-mate Tristan, made the package very interesting and I was very enthusiastic to join Mazda Team Joest while continuing my programme with Porsche."

Pla added: "I'm really delighted for the opportunity to join Mazda Team Joest for the endurance races at this very exciting time for the DPi category and the IMSA championship.

"The level of competition is extremely high but looking at the very strong to the end of the season Mazda had in 2018, I just can't wait to race and fight at the front in 2019.

"I've known Harry for a long time, we have wanted to share a car for a long time, and now I'm really happy to be in the Mazda RT24-P with him."

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Mazda adds Bernhard and Pla in team shake-up

Mazda has also announced a shake-up of its senior personnel, with long-time Joest Racing technical director Ralf Juttner stepping back from his role of team manager. Juttner has now been replaced by Jan Lange.

Former Nissan LMP1 project team manager Chris Mower has also joined as Mazda's team coordinator.

The changes follow a difficult first year for the Mazda-Joest partnership, which was plagued by reliability issues.

Jarvis and Nunez were eighth in the points after scoring a third place at Mid-Ohio, before former Audi LMP1 driver Lucas di Grassi joined the duo at Petit Le Mans for a runner-up finish.

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