Mazda headed into the annual Daytona 24 Hour race this past weekend with high hopes for its SkyActive Prototype race car, the only diesel car in the field. Since last year, Mazda engineers have shaved weight from the car and increased the power of the engine, making this year’s entry 6 seconds a lap and 20 mph faster around the Daytona race course than last year’s car.
“Last year was the start of a very aggressive development program for Mazda,” said John Doonan, Mazda’s director of motorsports in North America. “Now, in the second year, that development is beginning to pay off. The improvements we have seen are a product of very smart people working very hard to enhance every aspect of the race car. It was great to see that effort show up in the lap times and top speeds, and in the smiles from the drivers and the team.”
All that extra speed comes as the result of a lot of hard work behind the scenes. Says Sylvain Tremblay, driver and owner of SpeedSource, the Mazda factory team. “We improved the engine and the cooling system, and we also focused on aerodynamic gains, weight-saving and more.
“Mazda’s SKYACTIV philosophy is to make each piece of the car lighter, stronger and provide better performance, and I think we’ve done that. The car is faster, but it also handles better and is much more consistent. We all have a lot more confidence in the car and the engine going into the race this weekend.”
Sadly, all that effort did not pay off for the Mazda racing team, at least not yet. While the Ford EcoBoost entry completed 740 laps for the race win, one Mazda car retired after 348 laps, finishing in 43rd place (out of a total of 53) while the other lasted only 198 laps and finished 49th.
But endurance racing is all about running the cars until they break, then figuring out why they broke and making them more reliable for the next race. Keep in mind that Audi came to dominate Le Mans racing over the past several years with a diesel powered race car, so there is hope for Mazda yet. Kudos to the company and the team for keeping on with their quest.