Joel Miller in Mazda Prototype car at COTA IMSA race
Photo: Mazda Motorsports

The lead-up to the most recent IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship round at Circuit of The Americas was quite busy for the team and myself. This is a fun time of the season because I have been doing a fair bit of driving!

I have been doing testing in the new Pro Mazda Tatuus PM-18 car for the Mazda Road to Indy. We had two days of testing at Mid-Ohio, as well as a day of testing at Barber Motorsports Park.

It’s a blast to drive and is within 4.5 seconds of the current Indy Lights car. The car has a lot of mechanical grip, good downforce and an engine that revs up to 9,000 rpm. One of the biggest driving differences from it to my Mazda RT24-P is the lack of power steering on the PM-18, so you have to muscle up in the open-wheel car. It is good though because driving different disciplines keeps you well-rounded as a driver.

Mixed in with my PM-18 testing, we tested the RT24-P at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for two days. We had a list of items to try. Some worked and some did not, but that’s why we test.

During the test, we split the driving duties so when I was in the car, my teammates went out and watched around the circuit and vice versa. It was pretty cool watching the car go through some of the corners as a spectator. If you are planning on going to the IMSA round at Mazda Raceway, you have to go watch under the trees in Turn 9!

Difficult Round in Texas

The end results from the COTA race weekend were less than ideal. Sometimes those days happen.

We missed practice time on Thursday, but we had the data from the other Mazda, which is a luxury of having a two-car team and is why Mazda Motorsports does it that way. If one car has an issue, the other team can learn from it.

We made some big changes overnight which closed the gap a bit. It was apparent that the No. 10 Cadillac had a clear advantage through the weekend. Fair play to them as they rolled off the truck better than everyone else and it’s our job to catch up.

COTA is a track of three sections: the esses (Turns 2–9), the stadium section (Turns 12–15) and the high-speed carousel coupled with Turn 19. Setting a car up for these three sections is tricky because what works in one section may hurt the others, so the driver must compromise and drive the car a bit differently to make the lap work.

The Mazda RT24-Ps were okay in the esses, which is a high-speed, quick-transition area. When pushing the car on new tires, this is a really fun section because the car is doing things that would make a physics professor’s head hurt (or at least make them smile, haha!).

At the start of the race, my teammate Tom Long showed his ability to move up the grid. After starting 10th, he was running sixth behind our sister car in a matter of a few laps. We settled in and started our race plan.

Without warning, the sister car was in the puts with an electronic issue and a few laps later, we were in too with turbocharger trouble.

No. 55 Mazda Motorsports DPi car at COTA IMSA race
Photo: Mazda Motorsports

If the race was a long endurance event, salvaging a good result would have been possible with a quick fix. But with the short race at COTA, having one issue takes you out of contention.

The Mazda Motorsports crew guys found what was wrong on the No. 70 car, so we did a driver change and I was able to bring the car across the finish line eighth in our class.

It was definitely a frustrating weekend, but motorsports can feature the highest of highs and brutal lows. We will continue working hard and come back with a stronger package.

Thank you to the fans that came out to COTA. It’s always good seeing the Mazda fans that support us each weekend!

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