IMSA: Major changes ahead for Mazda Team Joest
Mazda Team Joest enters the new IMSA season with significant changes to the structure of its factory Daytona Prototype international program.
At the top of the list, Joest Racing technical director Ralf Juttner is no longer affiliated with the MTJ program. In his place, Juttner’s No. 2, Jan Lange, has been promoted to managing director for Mazda’s RT24-P effort in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship while Juttner looks after an unspecified project for Joest at team’s base in Germany.
An overhaul has also taken place on the engineering front. MTJ partner Multimatic — manufacturer of the RT24-P — will supply Aston Martin and Ford veteran Dave Wilcock as race engineer for the No. 55 Mazda, and in another high-profile personnel shift, Multimatic’s Leena Gade, a Le Mans winner with Audi Sport Team Joest, has been assigned to engineer the No. 77 Mazda.
A late addition to the squad on the Joest Racing side is former Audi Sport engineer Brad Kettler, who recently ended a 20-year association with the German manufacturer. Brought in by Joest to support the MTJ effort as a consultant at Daytona, Kettler could return for the remainder of the season if all goes well.
Behind the scenes, MTJ has also brought on longtime open-wheel and sports car team manager Chris Mower to serve as team coordinator.
Altogether, with the changes made by Mazda, Joest, and Multimatic, the Georgia-based entrant has made the most aggressive year-to-year transformation within its class in an effort to earn its first win and the DPi championship.
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“We sat around a table at Joest Racing Headquarters in Germany with Multimatic — Larry Holt and his team, Mike Lancaster and his team from [engine builder] AER, myself and Mr. Joest and Ralf, and said, ‘What do we need to do to have success together?’” Mazda Motorsports director John Doonan told RACER.
“Again, we haven’t achieved the ultimate success, but the progress we’ve made is due in part to everybody bringing all their resources to the table, including people. Jan has been someone that’s been in that sort of role before and, given everything that’s on the plate at Joest, Mr. Joest and myself and Larry made some adjustments in there to give Jan the opportunity to really spend more time in the States managing the project.
“Ralf again continues to be part of the Joest racing family and his experience certainly won’t be put by the wayside but Jan has played a similar role with Audi, and it’s perfect opportunity to put more attention on the program here in the States. In addition, Chris Mower has been brought on — massive experience, so he and Jan, they’re getting on very well. Chris is now positioned in the Atlanta headquarters. I haven’t been this confident — cautious confidence — going into a season in many years because of the personnel that are leading. It’s all about people and process.”
Complementing the management changes, a strengthened union between Mazda and Multimatic has resulted in an expansion with engineering infrastructure supplied by the Canadian firm.
“Once again I can’t give it up enough for the Multimatic staff, Raj Nair, now leading that entire organization, Larry Holt, Steven Charsley, the whole vehicle dynamics team,” Doonan continued. “To add Leena to their line-up is massive. To have her have some of her time dedicated to engineering the 77 car is fantastic. We’re thrilled to have her. I had never met her; lovely human being, obviously massive talent, massive experience. She’s taken the reins, she is very impressive. I know that we have all the ingredients being mixed in the pot now for success and I can’t wait again to see what happens at Daytona.
“Again, grateful to everybody on the Multimatic side for allowing Dave Wilcock to join on the 55 car. He obviously has worked with Harry Tincknell and Oliver Jarvis on their Ford GT project and hit it off right away. No weak links, no weak links and I can tell you we’ve sat down and talked about every one of these additions and updates and I’m very, very pleased with where we’re at, at the moment.”
Having stockpiled an impressive array of team-based talent during the offseason, Doonan can’t wait to see how MTJ will fare once the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season gets under way.
“No overly optimistic attitude going into Daytona, just because I know how tough it is with everybody else in the paddock, so we’re gonna focus on our deal, we’re gonna focus on attention to details of everything that we can control, and then we’ll see what God has planned the rest of the way,” he said.
“But really I’m pleased with Dave joining as well as Leena and again thankful to Larry and Raj and everybody on the Multimatic side for being willing to invest so much to see this program have success.”
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