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IMSA PROTOTYPE RACING HEATS UP

Big teams attract manufacturer support in IMSA - Photo: Supplied

Big teams attract manufacturer support in IMSA – Photo: Supplied

With the FIA World Endurance Championship struggling to attract manufacturer interest at the top level. The US IMSA series appears to be on the rise with big announcements in its prototype class in recent weeks.

The 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship has so far been dominated by Cadillac (Which you can read all in the current issue of Auto Action 1714).

However, that domination will be challenged in 2018 with big announcements from Acura (Honda’s luxury brand in the US) and Mazda.

While Mazda already has a presence in the IMSA Daytona Prototype International (DPi) class, with the Mazda RT24-P, they recently announced that they will halt their 2017 campaign and move their manufacturer effort from SpeedSource Race Engineering to Joest Racing creating Mazda Team Joest. The new Mazda program will debut at the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

Joest Racing has a track record of success, having run Audi’s manufacturer program at the Le Mans 24 Hour and WEC between 1998 and 2017. Earning eleven Le Mans victories during that time.

“The creation of Mazda Team Joest provides us a unique opportunity to partner with a team with proven success in the prototype ranks, and gives us the best chance to return Mazda to the top step of the podium. I welcome the Joest family to the Mazda family, and I’m convinced that, together, we will write many more pages in the book of Mazda racing successes.” said Masahiro Moro, president and CEO of Mazda North American Operations, after the announcement.

The Mazda RT24-P that debuted in IMSA at the start of 2017

The Mazda RT24-P that debuted in IMSA at the start of 2017

“We are excited and proud about this new opportunity with Mazda,” said Ralf Jüttner, managing director of Joest Racing.

“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.”

Meanwhile, Acura made their own big move, enlisting the highly successful Team Penske to run two of their newly developed ARX-05 Daytona Prototype’s starting from January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“We are excited to join forces with the Honda Performance Development family and represent the Acura brand with two prototypes starting in 2018,” said Team Penske Founder Roger Penske.

“Sports car racing has been an integral part of Team Penske’s heritage, from our first race at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1966 to running the American Le Mans Series in the late 2000s.”

“Reviving a Team Penske sports car program has always been a goal for us, but to do so required strong and successful partners like Honda and Acura. It’s great to extend our relationship from the dealership to the race track and we are excited to come back to IMSA and the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.”

With such pedigree joining IMSA in 2018, there is every chance it could become the most competitive prototype racing series, attracting even more interest from manufacturers. Something WEC is struggling with since Audi left the series.

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