In a race filled with drama and chaos, the Mazdas ran a calm and considered strategy, supported by outstanding driving and perfect execution to enter the final 40 minute stint running 1-2, comfortably clear of the competition.
Only a final bit of bad luck, the uncontrollable factor that has played a significant role in the team’s 2020 results, put paid to a totally dominant result. A random debris-induced puncture on the #77, with under 30 minutes to go, relegated it to P3 from a comfortable 25-second lead over its sister car. The final outcome being that the #55 crossed the line ten seconds clear of the #6 Penske, the #77 Mazda right under its rear wing, winning the toughest of the world’s big three sports car endurance events.
Multimatic Motorsports opened the re-started 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with a strong 1-2 victory at Daytona over the fourth of July weekend and has now bookended the greatly condensed and challenging season with a similarly strong win in mid-November. Although the filling in that success sandwich didn’t provide any other wins, it did demonstrate the outstanding pace and reliability of the Multimatic designed, engineered and run RT24-Ps.
There was a strong second place in the six hour Atlanta race but also a run of near misses created almost exclusively by an inordinate amount of misfortune; The outcome being the end of any hope of a Championship win coming out of Petit Le Mans, and by Sebring there was no real thought of a top three. However in another odd twist of fate the #55 win garnered it third place in the driver’s and team’s championship, by a single point; a bitter sweet result of the #77’s misfortune.
Vice President of Multimatic SVO, Larry Holt said: “This is a truly spectacular result for Mazda and Multimatic Motorsports. Although only half the race length of Daytona or Le Mans, I consider Sebring to be way tougher in terms of an actual test of endurance. The place puts inputs into a car that you don’t see anywhere else on a closed course race track and it truly tests the hardware, software and fleshware to the limit. It is extremely hard to win and so this success will now be added to Multimatic Motorsports’ all-time top three single race achievements. This result is a true testament to Charlie Cadieux’s team, the engineering organisation behind the performance side and the driver squads who have fully proven themselves to be the best in the world. This team has raised the preparation bar to a new level and going into the race I had no thought that there would be issues with the cars, and there weren’t.
“But the euphoria of the win has been seriously dampened by the spectacularly unlucky puncture that Oliver picked-up so, so late in the game that was just a cruel blow to him, Olivier and Tristan when they were so strongly in control of the race. It tempered the celebrations.”
Multimatic’s strategy for the Sebring 12 Hours has always been to avoid early race dramas, stay on the lead lap and be ready for the real racing in the last two hours. With a couple of exceptions, the #55 being delayed by a recalcitrant wheel nut retainer in the fifth hour and the #77 making heavy contact with Scot Dixon’s #10 Cadillac not long after, the team executed with perfection while the competition succumbed to overzealous driving, mechanical failures and various other missteps.
The Mazdas really came into their own as the night fell in central Florida; the drivers keeping with the plan and quietly climbing up the order while still running the team’s controlled pace. With 2.5 hours to go Pla had taken the lead in the #77 and Hunter-Reay was running strongly in second place in the #55 with no real threat from behind. Jarvis and Tincknell took over for the run to the flag, in what looked to be a mirror image of the Daytona 240 result, until Lady Luck had a different idea and switched the winners with a puncture for the #77.
Sebring rounds off the 2020 racing season for Multimatic Motorsports. A season with no precedent.
MAZDA DRIVER QUOTES:
Our strategy was to just get to the 10th hour. Stay away from trouble and be in the fight at the end. I was pushing like crazy in those last two stints to catch the #77. I got in the car in second place, 25 seconds down. At that point I was thinking a 1-2 would be great and then I heard the news that the #77 had a puncture. I feel for those guys; it’s tough and JB and I have been in that situation before. For a brief second I thought I was going to have a fun cruise to the win as we were 28 seconds ahead but then the yellows came out. I sat behind the safety car thinking ‘this is what you dream of’, 20 minutes to go, leading one of the biggest races in the world so I told myself to just give it everything, no regrets! At the end, when we really needed it, we had great pace. The is a huge result for Multimatic and Mazda.
Sebring has been eluding me for a while. This is an incredible place and it’s an incredible accomplishment to win at this track. Twelve hours here is so gruelling on the machine but also on the drivers so it feels great to get the overall win. The team did an amazing job, my co-drivers did an amazing job, we stayed focus, kept with the plan. The team kept us calm through some exciting moments as it was a pretty crazy race. I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs with the Mazda prototype programme so this gives us a lot of hope and a lot of momentum to go back to Daytona for the 24-hour race in January and look for another strong result.
Ryan Hunter Reay
This is the big one. The Sebring 12 Hours is my home race. I’ve been coming here since I was 14 years old and always dreamt of winning the overall race so this ranks right up there. These guys did a great job. We had some issues in practice but we kept our heads in the game. Right at the end when we needed to seal it, Harry got the job done. It’s a real team win. It’s awesome.