Mazda has been the lovable failsquad of the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship for several years, trying so hard for years to get their top-class prototypes merely working reliably in between bursts of promising speed. If there’s anyone who can make it work, it’s the team who gave Audi years of domination at the 24 Hours of Le Mans: Team Joest.
Audi’s unbeatable force of a Le Mans Prototype team was, of course, Audi Sport Team Joest. Sadly, Audi yanked their diesel-powered LMP1 after Dieselgate broke, as the program was one huge advertisement for the diesel cars Audi and the rest of the Volkswagen Group was in deep scheiße over.
Poor Team Joest was an unfortunate casualty of Dieselgate—a competent squad with 16 Le Mans victories to its name left without anything to do. Much of Audi’s LMP1 personnel landed in other, non-diesel-powered roles across the Volkswagen Group, but the external Team Joest was left hanging—until now, Mazda Motorsports announced today.
Team Joest is returning to petrol power with another marque that used to be known for racing a rad diesel car: Mazda’s IMSA team. The current RT24-P is already being retired after it debuted at Daytona in January, with the new Mazda Team Joest entity focusing on developing an revised IMSA DPi car—also called the RT24-P—to debut at the 2018 24 Hours of Daytona.
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Mazda—who also holds the honor of being the only Japanese manufacturer to win overall at Le Mans—was not content with their top IMSA prototype program struggling along for so many years. SpeedSource Race Engineering, who developed and ran the 2017 RT24-P after over two decades of working with Mazda, was informed Monday that their IMSA Prototype program would be shut down, Road & Track reports.
The new 2018 RT24-P will still have a 2.0-liter turbocharged Mazda inline four developed by Advanced Engine Research that puts out around 600 horsepower and production-inspired bodywork that lets you know that this funky-looking spaceship-car is a Mazda. Multimatic Motorsports is staying on to help refine the chassis and bodywork along with Team Joest.
Additionally, the team’s current drivers will help test the new car but the 2018 driver line-up is still to be determined.
Congratulations, Audi LMP1 fans—it looks like we have a new favorite IMSA team. Between this and the Penske Acura prototype on the way, IMSA’s top class is quickly becoming the one to watch next year. (Already.)
Correction: Jalopnik reached out to Mazda after this post went live, and they clarified that the 2018 car would not be all-new but a revision and refinement of the current car. They’re still dropping everything to make it work, which hopefully it does, if for no other reason than for long-suffering Mazda fans’ sake.