Team Penske, Team Joest return to Rolex 24

January 24, 2018

Team Penske, Team Joest return to Rolex 24

January 24, 2018

Team Penske and Team Joest are two teams that define the word excellence whenever they are on track. The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship welcomes them both back with open arms for the 2018 season, to raise the caliber and profile of what is already a very deep field.

Roger Penske’s team has had an on-and-off relationship with sports car racing, but been a frontrunner and standard-bearer whenever the team has been a part of it. In its more than 50 years of racing, Penske’s “effort equals results” mantra has been prevalent whenever it’s operated a sports car team.

Its most recent factory entry came during the heyday of the American Le Mans Series, running the Porsche RS Spyder for three seasons from 2006 to 2008. After a win in the car’s U.S. debut at the 2005 season finale, the next three years saw the team win 23 races and three championships in the LMP2 class, with a number of overall victories included.

Now, combined with Acura, Penske is back for its first sports car appearance since a rare winless season in the GRAND-AM Rolex Series in 2009. The stout two-car effort features two of the last four IMSA Prototype class champions in Dane Cameron and Ricky Taylor alongside a pair of multi-time Indianapolis 500 champions, Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves, and a pair of IndyCar winners in Simon Pagenaud and Graham Rahal joining as third drivers.

The new ARX-05 has been tested heavily since last fall ahead of the program’s full debut this race. As they did in 2005, the team did a one-off end-of-year race (albeit with a different car) but laid the groundwork: Castroneves won the pole, and the trio of Castroneves, Montoya and Pagenaud finished third.

Tim Cindric, Penske Racing president, and a host of IndyCar veterans on the engineering and strategic sides make up the crew that will lead the effort for this team. Wins are expected for this group; the only question is when the first will arrive.

Team Joest was Penske’s rival in the ALMS days, with Penske’s Porsches going up against Joest’s Audis and often beating them. Alas, Joest has been the team standard-bearer at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with 15 victories, 11 of them with Audi with five different chassis.

Joest was sidelined during the 2017 season following Audi’s withdrawal of its factory LMP1 program at the end of 2016. But the midsummer surprise that brought together Mazda and Team Joest saw the legendary team return, with a clear task: take the promise and potential Mazda had shown with its prior team partner, and convert it into results.

Doing so would require a nearly complete reconfiguration of the base Mazda RT24-P chassis that raced in 2017. Together with chassis partner Multimatic, Joest and Mazda have worked to produce a heavily revised car that features a wealth of aerodynamic, electrical and handling updates.

The Ralf Juttner-led Team Joest has brought in a wealth of its team veterans to work with Mazda’s longtime motorsports head John Doonan, to fuse a mix of German and Japanese cultures in an American setting.

The driver lineup is changed as well. Mazda veterans Jonathan Bomarito and Tristan Nunez are back, while Harry Tincknell and Oliver Jarvis join from Europe to bolster the full-season roster. Add rising IndyCar star Spencer Pigot and last year’s DTM champion, the rapid Rene Rast, as third drivers and you have a formidable pair of cars.

Of these 12 drivers, Taylor, Montoya, Rahal (Penske, and overall), Bomarito, Jarvis and Rast (Joest, and in class) already have Rolex 24 wins under their belt.

Both Penske and Joest, either in class or overall, have past Daytona wins on their resumes and they will both look to deliver a win this year.

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