Harry Tincknell believes victory alongside team-mates Jonathan Bomarito and Ryan Hunter-Reay in this weekend's Sebring 12 Hours was "a dream way to end the season".
The #55 Mazda RT24-P crew suffered setup issues throughout practice for the final round of the 2020 IMSA Sportscar Championship, as the Mazdas qualified only fifth and seventh on Friday.
However, both cars found themselves running one-two with 90 minutes remaining as misfortune and retirements hit their rivals, with the #77 Mazda of Oliver Jarvis, Tristan Nunez and Olivier Pla leading from the #55.
But with 27 minutes left, Jarvis suffered a punctured left-rear tyre which sent him off the track, necessitating a pitstop and a full-course caution.
That handed the lead and eventual victory to Tincknell, Bomarito and Hunter-Reay, crossing the line 10s ahead of the Acura ARX-05 of Dane Cameron, Juan Pablo Montoya and Simon Pagenaud, and 12s ahead of the #77 Mazda.
"I think all weekend, we felt like we'd been slightly behind playing catch-up with the setup," said Tincknell.
"Our strategy was just to get the 10th hour with a clean car that we can go fight with at the end, trying to stay out of any carnage and get to that point. We did that well.
"Obviously, getting the car 25 seconds down for the last two stints, I was pushing like crazy to try to close the gap but it wasn't really happening for us. At that point I started thinking a 1-2 would be great and then I heard the news that the #77 had a puncture. Obviously, I feel for them. It's always tough.
"With JB [Bomarito] and I, we've been in that situation before in Canada a couple years ago. You never want to lose a win when you have it in your grasp. But we were there to pick up the pieces.
"For a brief second, I thought this is going to be a nice Sunday evening drive to the win. We had a 28 second lead and then the caution period came out.
"I was just behind the safety car trying to keep the brakes and the tyres warm and I said to myself, 'this is what you dream of. It's 20 minutes to go, leading one of the biggest races in the world'.
"I just told myself I was going to go for it, and give it everything. No regrets.
"I just pushed like crazy and at the end, when we really needed it, we had great pace just as the engineers had planned."
With the victory regular Mazda drivers Tincknell and Bomarito finished third in the standings, having also won on the second visit to Daytona earlier in the year and secured a runner-up spot at the Six Hours of Atlanta.
Next year Multimatic will cut back to just one IMSA entry for Jarvis and Tincknell, with Bomarito joining the Brits for the four endurance rounds.
"Multimatic and Mazda - a huge result as a team and the program this year," said Tincknell.
"We [re]started in great style at Daytona with a win and we've had a few ups and downs since then; a good second in Road Atlanta but you can't beat that winning feeling.
"So to end the season on a high, it's really just fantastic for everyone. A lot of sacrifices with people being away from their home and their families for a long time with the whole COVID situation. Absolutely dream way to end the season."
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