The past weekend marked the start of the 2010 Rolex Sports Car Series with the 48th running of the iconic Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona. The 'twice-around-the-clock' race pushes drivers, crew and car to the extreme edge of endurance. For the SpeedSource team, the start of the season brought a refreshing change of scenery after having spent the offseason building a fleet of Mazda racecars for Grand-Am competition. A solid performance from the entire crew and strong running for the #70 Castrol Syntec SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 brought home Mazda's 23rd class win at the historic race as well as SpeedSource's 2nd win in three years.
It was business as usual for the entire SpeedSource crew when the #70 RX-8 rolled off the trailer ready to race. Minor adjustments were made to improve driver comfort and vehicle handling during the early practice sessions. This proved to be time well spent as team owner/driver Sylvain Tremblay qualified the car in the 3rd spot.
A rain soaked start to the race led to a change in race strategy: the team decided it was best to be safe and run conservative lap times to keep the car safe and damage free. The decision proved to be effective as the car was running with the class leaders during the opening hours of the race. All things changed, however, when heavy contact inflicted by a Daytona Prototype car sent the #70 Castrol Syntec SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 into the garage during the night. The crew quickly diagnosed and repaired the damage and sent the car back onto the racetrack having fallen behind the GT-Class leader by 6 laps. From then on the innate Mazda underdog determination and the 'will to never give up' took flight. Slowly and methodically, the team plucked away at the class leaders until eventually taking over the class lead in the 20th hour of the race.
The SpeedSource team never looked back and continued to extend their lead to almost 4 laps to take the GT-Class win. "I am so proud of the effort from the entire crew, the drivers, and our friends at Mazda for this win," recalled Sylvain Tremblay. "This win is really dedicated to all of our Mazda dealers and the over 9,000 club racers who continue to support and maintain the thrill of owning and driving a Mazda car."
Jeff Segal qualified and started the #69 FXDD SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 from the pole position after setting a new GT-Class track record in qualifying. In fact, the top three spots in qualifying were taken by Mazda RX-8's. The car ran a solid race for the first 16+ hours until a coolant leak ultimately pulled the car into the paddock, parking it for the final hours.
Customer Mazda RX-8 programs ran excellent races as well, continuing to solidify Mazda's long-standing reputation for building strong and reliable cars. In all, three Mazda's finished in the Top 10 for the race. This year's effort to secure a GT Manufacturers title for Mazda should be in good hands with the collective effort of all Mazda customer line-ups.
In addition to the Rolex Series opener, this weekend also signaled the start of the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge season with the debut of the highly anticipated Mazdaspeed3 ST car. In the car's first race, all customer programs competitively challenged for the class win with one finishing in the Top Ten. Mazda is excited about the future of this promising program with the great support from the Freedom Autosport team and other excellent partner teams.
Celebrations were withheld as one of our longtime team members suffered the loss of his father. Our hearts and minds are with Steve Eckerich and his family in this tough time. The entire Mazda community will continue to offer their support and condolences.
Pictures from the 2010 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona
On any given weekend, there are more Mazda's on the road-race tracks of America than any other brand of vehicle. At the track, you'll see MX-5 Miata, RX-8, MAZDA3, MAZDA6, RX-7 and other vintage Mazda models competing, because every Mazda has the soul of a sports car. In fact, the fastest growing road-racing class in the U.S. is the SCCA's Spec Miata class, with nearly 1,500 first- and second-generation Miata's tearing up America's racetracks, making it the most-raced production car in the world. Mazda's involvement in motorsports extends to its relationship with Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, one of the world's premier road-racing circuits, and the Skip Barber Schools for driving and racing.
Headquartered in Irvine, Calif., Mazda North American Operations oversees the sales, marketing, parts and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States, Canada and Mexico through nearly 900 dealers. Operations in Canada are managed by Mazda Canada, Inc., located in Ontario, Canada, and in Mexico by Mazda Motor de Mexico in Mexico City.