Mazda Team Joest was able to eclipse its woes from Daytona and Sebring by earning its first podium of the season at Mid-Ohio with Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez claiming third behind a Penske 1-2 in the No. 77 RT24-P. During the sprint event, the Joest duo ran tightly with Penske as well as each other, battling for position through the rapid elevation changes of the famed track. In doing so, the seasoned German-American crew proved its mettle once more by overcoming the deficit that existed in the first handful of IMSA races in this 2018 season.
Daytona was arduous, which was admittedly expected by the team's engineers and drivers. It was Joest's first official contest in partnership with Mazda and a vastly-changed prototype racer, prompting a spot of unreliability and an eventual double-retirement.
“It was a tough start to the year, but realistically, we always knew it was going to be," Oliver Jarvis said in an interview with The Drive. "Mid-Ohio was great and we got on the podium, but really, that isn’t enough. It was a start. The end goal is to win.”
Jarvis' sentiment is one that's shared by his stablemate Jonathan Bomarito, driver of the No. 55 Mazda.
“We definitely are optimistic and feel confident that we can [win]," he explained.
Bomarito, who is typically accompanied by Harry Tincknell in the No. 55 when the Brit isn't driving in the World Endurance Championship, came eerily close to nabbing a spot on the rostrum at Sebring before a troublesome pit stop in the closing hours held them back from a finish they feel they deserved. The team was able to regain ground at Long Beach where, despite not placing in the top three, it put major pressure on the front-running Mustang Sampling crew. It was the confidence from that race that enabled them a better shot at Mid-Ohio.
While the two Joest entries had their sites on Acura Team Penske at the most recent IMSA round, they were fighting each other just the same as they put on the show of the race towards the front of the field.
Jarvis continued, explaining, "It doesn’t matter who you drive for—your first competitor in many respects is your teammate as they have the same resources, tech, and so on.” The Le Mans veteran elaborated, saying that it isn't much of a problem in reality. "The two cars have so much respect for each other. We want to win for Mazda, Joest, and [Mazda Motorsports Director] John Doonan, so we’ll be happy whoever it is. It's the perfect showcase. We can fight each other and the team doesn’t need to give orders for us to cooperate."
Bomarito agreed, saying that while he and his fellow Mazda drivers compete against one another just as intensely as the rest, that it's something to be mindful of.
“The worst thing for a team and teammates and manufacturers is to have two cars taking each other out. We fight just as hard as any other car we’re racing, but you always keep that in the back of your mind," he continued.
In turn, the team looks to take that understanding into Belle Isle, a tricky street circuit that has proved entertaining in years past for veterans and first-timers. While Bomarito has driven at the Michigan course before, this will be Jarvis' initial run around the track. With Tincknell, a world-class sports car driver, back in the mix, it'd be reasonable to expect another fight between the two Mazdas given the close-running nature of the upcoming 100-minute Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.