January 30, 2011 (Daytona, Fla.) - With new rules and new tires for 2011, Mazda's teams at the 2011 running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona knew that their best opportunity was to be as perfect as possible - perfect reliability, perfect pit stops, and perfect luck. Alas, the race turned rough for the majority of the 30 GT-class cars that took the green flag on Saturday afternoon. Fate caused the majority of cars, of all brands, to have at least one trip behind pit-wall. The win would be decided by a combination of speed and the ability to deal with adversity.
The breakout performance amongst the Mazda teams was the No. 40 Dempsey Racing VISITFLORIDA / ModSpace / Construct Corps Mazda RX-8. Dempsey Racing is the partnership between actor/racer Patrick Dempsey and Joe Foster. Joining Dempsey and Foster in the driver's seat were road-racing veterans Charles Espenlaub and Tom Long. The team started brightly - in day-glow colors for returning partner VISITFLORIDA as well as new partners ModSpace and Construct Corps. The team led six times for a total of 197 laps, Patrick himself being the first of the four team drivers to lead. The team was leading when Tom Long spun on lap 512, at which time the car developed an electrical issue and failed to restart. The team dropped to fifth before recovering for a third-place finish - the first ever for the No 40 team and the best-placed Mazda in the race.
As the defending champions in just about everything related to Grand-Am GT, Mazda expectations were high in Daytona. After all, 2010 had delivered the Rolex Grand-Am GT Manufacturers Championship, Team Championship (No 69 SpeedSource FXDD) and Drivers Championship (Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato). Mazda also won the GT class in the 2010 Rolex 24 at Daytona, their 23rd such Daytona class win.
John Doonan, MAZDASPEED Team Development Manager noted that, "As we saw in 2010, the Mazda teams have an amazing ability to deal with adversity. Hopefully we used up our share of bad luck at Daytona today, and we'll move on towards our goal of a repeat manufacturers championship. We're thrilled for Patrick, Joe and the entire Dempsey Racing organization as they reaped the results of hard work during the off-season. Once again we had 100% reliability of the Mazda rotary engine. Many of our devout rotorheads followed the action, both on SPEED TV, as well as the growing MAZDASPEED Motorsports Facebook page. The teams have a few weeks off to make repairs before we make a return visit to the sunshine state for the Grand Prix of Miami on March 5th."
A total of nine Mazda RX-8s competed in the 2011 Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Their finishing place:
3rd Place - #40 Dempsey Racing VISITFLORIDA/ModSpace/Construct Corps Mazda RX-8
6th Place - #70 SpeedSource Castrol Edge Mazda RX-8
7th Place - #42 Team Sahlen Mazda RX-8
10th Place - #41 Dempsey Racing/Team Seattle Mazda RX-8
18th Place - #63 Team Spencer Motorsports Mazda RX-8
20th Place - #30 Racers Edge Motorsports Mazda RX-8 (DNF - Crash damage)
27th Place - #69 SpeedSource FXDD Mazda RX-8 (DNF - Crash damage)
28th Place - #43 Team Sahlen Mazda RX-8 (DNF - Concentrated efforts on #42 entry)
29th Place - #36 Yellow Dragon Motorsports (DNF - Crash damage)
On any given weekend, there are more Mazdas on the road-race tracks of America than any other brand of vehicle. At the track, you'll see MX-5 Miata, RX-8, Mazda2, Mazda3, Mazda6, RX-7 and other vintage Mazda models competing, because every Mazda has the Soul of a Sports Car. In fact, the largest road-racing class in the world is Spec Miata, with more than 2,500 first- and second-generation Miatas tearing up America's racetracks, making it the most-raced production car in the world. Mazda's involvement in motorsports extends to its relationship with Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, one of the world's premier road-racing circuits, the Skip Barber Schools for driving and racing, and the Mazda Road to Indy.
Mazda North American Operations is headquartered in Irvine, Calif. and oversees the sales, marketing, parts and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States, Canada and Mexico through nearly 900 dealers. Operations in Canada are managed by Mazda Canada, Inc., located in Ontario; and in Mexico by Mazda Motor de Mexico in Mexico City.