Disaster for Mazda at Rolex 24 Hours as Both Cars Catch Fire

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Mazda’s fortunes took a double hit when problems struck both of the team’s DPis within a 15-minute span, possibly with the same problem. First, the No. 55 Mazda 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.

Mazda
Mazda

Moments before the No. 77 incident, Roberto Gonzalez spun in the second-place LMP2 Dragonspeed ORECA after contact with his class-leading sister car. He was able to continue without losing a position.

The hour began with Pipo Derani leading after staying out at the six-hour mark to score Michelin Endurance Cup points. Derani pitted 10 minutes into the hour, falling to eighth. Kamui Kobayashi returned to the lead in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R, holding it for the remainder of the hour.

With 17 hours remaining, former F1 pilots held the top three positions, with Kobayashi leading Rubens Barrichello in the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac and Juan Pablo Montoya in the No, 6 Team Penske Acura. Class leaders were LMP2, Ben Hanley in the No. 81 DragonSpeed ORECA; GTLM, Nick Tandy in the No. 911 Porsche; and GTD, Ian James in the No. 88 WRT Audi.