DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Mazda’s fortunes took a double hit at the Rolex 24 at Daytona Saturday night when problems struck both of the team’s DPis within a 15-minute span, possibly with the same problem.
First, the No. 55 slowed to a stop while running fifth in the International Horseshoe when Olivier Pla reported an explosion in the rear end. Pla managed to recycle the electronics, and went directly to the garage.
The team diagnosed the problem as a fuel leak, which was repaired. Pla shortly returned to the race, three laps down.
Moments later, at the 6h43m mark, Timo Bernhard stopped the second-place No. 77 — which two days earlier broke Daytona International Speedway’s 26-year-old IMSA lap record to claim the pole — past the entrance of the chicane with a fire in the engine compartment. He leaped from the car.
“The car suddenly stopped working,” Bernhard said while the team worked feverishly to get the car back in action. However, the damage proved to be terminal.
The Bernhard incident brought out the fifth full-course caution; last year’s race had only four full-course cautions.
The 24-hour sports car endurance race on the road course at Daytona International Speedway kicks off the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule. Overall and class winners will be determined Sunday.