Franchitti join the #70 Mazda RT24-P alongside full-season drivers Tom Long and Joel Miller.
In the sister #55 Soul Red Mazda, IndyCar driver Spencer Pigot will join the full-time duo of Tristan Nunez and Jonathan Bomarito for the sixth time. Mazda has earned 13 class wins at Sebring, but is seeking a first overall victory.
Marino has raced with Mazda previously, including the 2009 season of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) with Dyson Racing in the LMP2 Lola-Mazda (above). The team won three races that year, including the season-ending Petit Le Mans event. He also joined the SpeedSource team at the 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona in a Mazda RX-8 (below).
The 2017 event will be Franchitti’s 11 Sebring start, this a total that includes an overall win in 2014 with Chip Ganassi Racing in their Riley Ford DP.
That 11 race record includes five top two finishes in class.
“A big part of those results are being with great teams and having great teammates. I’ve been fortunate in that regard,” Franchitti said.
“I love driving there, I always have since the first laps I did. It’s a proper old-school track. If you go over the limit, you crash, simple as that, rather than going onto some tarmac run-off like many tracks. I love the challenge of walking that tightrope. Of course, there’s the challenge of the bumps too, trying to get the car to handle over them and the beating the car and driver takes. There’s a reason people come from all over the world to endurance test their cars here, it’s the ultimate test of a vehicle and its durability.”
Mazda Motorsports director John Doonan explained the choice to put Franchitti in the car for the race and the two-day test session later this week at Sebring.
“He’s a proven winner there, and he’s been a part of the Mazda family for years,” said Doonan. “Just look at his record at Sebring! He has the experience that can really help our team. Because he’s driven with Mazda before, we know his personality is a great fit. That’s important to us, and it goes a long way in helping the team chemistry remain strong. He’s a great fit with Tom [Long] and Joel [Miller], just as Spencer Pigot has been great with Nunez and Bomarito.”
“It’s so cool to be coming back into the Mazda family,” said Franchitti. “Like everyone else, I was blown away when I saw the first shots of the RT24-P and how incredible it looks, so there’s a lot of excitement at getting to drive it. I’m relieved I get a chance to test the car, as many times I’ve just jumped in and raced, so this is a bit of a luxury! Being a part of the development process of a car is something I’ve been lucky enough to do several times and it’s something I really love.”