The latest news from IMSA circles is that Mazda Team Joest has picked up even more Audi alums for their 2019 racing season. Racer Magazine and Marshall Pruett broke the story this morning, confirming both Leena Gade and Brad Kettler, plus many other familiar faces.
As a quick recap, following Audi’s closing of its LMP1 program in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and 24 Hours of Le Mans, Joest joined up with Mazda to manage its RT24-P Daytona Prototype International (DPI) program in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Over at IMSA, the DPI class is as fiercely contested as the GTD class in which the Audi R8 LMS still competes. Mazda has been an underdog against fierce factory programs from brands such as Cadillac and Penske Acura. For 2019, they’ve stepped up their game in a number of ways, including being a gathering place for Audi Sport alums. Here’s a rundown.
After leaving Audi Sport, Leena Gade spent several years with Bentley’s customer racing program before trying her hand in IndyCar last season. This season she takes over as lead engineer on the Number 77 Mazda.
Brad Kettler‘s final departure from Audi was much more recent. News of the longtime Audi Sport veteran no longer managing Audi Sport customer racing out of his facility in western Ohio broke in late 2018 with plenty of rumors Kettler would end up with Joest and thus Mazda. For now, Racer is reporting that Brad will be hired on as a consultant for both the Roar Before the 24 and the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona with further possibility to join up for more events this season.
One Audi Sport alumni who won’t return to the 2019 Mazda Team Joest effort is technical director Ralf Juttner. One of the best known faces from the Joest side of the camp, Juttner will remain with the German team but return to Germany to work on other projects. Juttner will be replaced by his former number two also from the Audi Sport LMP program Jan Lange.
The driver team for Mazda Team Joest also includes a number of familiar faces for those familiar with Audi Sport efforts over the years. Oliver Jarvis returns alongside Tristan Nunez for another season with Mazda in the same number 77 car now engineered by Leena Gade. The third driver in this car was recently announced at Timo Bernhard who is on loan from Porsche, and logged one each of his two Le Mans victories with both Audi Sport and Porsche. Finally, Audi Sport DTM driver René Rast will join as a fourth driver on this car for the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and also the 12 Hours of Sebring.
No doubt, if there is a single car for Audi aficionados to back for all-out victories this season in the IMSA series while they also cheer on the R8 LMS GTD program cars, then it must certainly be the #77 Mazda piloted and supported by many members of the Audi Sport family.
The Roar Before the Rolex 24 takes place this weekend from January 4-6. The Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona follows from January 24-27.