All photos credit Mazda Motorsports

Team Joest is back, baby! The same squad that helped Audi to numerous Le Mans wins is now helping Mazda’s IMSA prototype team not suck, and I couldn’t be more excited to see them in action. Mazda posted some photos of them working together for the first time, and it gives me all the warm fuzzy feelings inside about what’s to come next year.

Mazda Team Joest ran their first tests together at Hockenheim Tuesday using a 2017-spec Mazda RT24-P prototype. Mazda pulled out of its remaining 2017 races after a lackluster showing earlier this year in order to focus on redeveloping the car for 2018 together with Team Joest.

Mazda drivers Jonathan Bomarito and Tristan Nunez took turns testing out the 2017 car at Hockenheim, which may be the last place on earth they thought that 2017 IMSA car would go at the beginning of the season.

Regardless, this will give Team Joest somewhat of a performance baseline to work with when reworking the car, according to Sportscar365. A modified version is set to hit the track in the next few weeks.

More importantly, it’s proof that this is a thing! Mazda Team Joest is a real thing that’s really happening! The same hyper-precise team I’d missed seeing in action after Audi withdrew from Le Mans was never truly gone—they were just waiting for their next big project.

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I’ve waited for years for the Mazda IMSA prototype squad to be good, too. They’re just too nice and likeable, and they try so hard every year, thinking this is finally the year! This is it! They’re one of my favorite backmarker squads and I’d love to see them finally not be backmarkers anymore.

Go forth together, Mazda Team Joest, and please don’t suck.