DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - “Drivers, start your engines” may be the most famous words in motorsports, but “And… it’s a new track record,” is pretty close behind.
And Sunday at Daytona International Speedway, there was another – albeit unofficial – new track record.
In the 15-minute IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Daytona Prototype international (DPi) qualifying session for Rolex 24 At Daytona garage and pit selections, Oliver Jarvis drove the No. 77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda RT24-P to a lap of one minute, 33.398 seconds (137.212 mph).
Jarvis’ lap was more than half a second quicker than the 26-year-old track record of 1:33.875 (136.521 mph) set by PJ Jones in the No. 98 Toyota Eagle MKIII. If he – or anybody else – does it again or goes even quicker in Rolex 24 qualifying on Thursday, Jan. 24, they’ll go into the record books officially.
“The car was an absolute joy to drive,” Jarvis said. “We ran it full qualy spec. I don’t think many of our competitors can say the same, but in that low-fuel configuration, it felt incredible. You could really push the car to the limits and it’s what us drivers live for, that feeling of getting everything out of the car.”
In LMP2 qualifying, Gabriel Aubry posted the fastest time in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA at 1:35.930 (133.591 mph). The Roar was Aubry’s first exposure to the high banks of Daytona International Speedway and this weekend was just the Frenchman’s second visit to the United States.
Magnussen, Corvette Take Advantage of Perfect Tow to Qualify First in GTLM at The Roar
For the second consecutive WeatherTech Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) class qualifying session, Jan Magnussen led the way. The now two-time and defending GTLM co-champion led the 15-minute session with a best lap of 1:42.651 (124.844 mph) in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R.
The Danish racer remarked, after Sunday’s session to set garage and pit selections for Rolex 24 race week, that the Corvette team employed the same strategy it used to put Magnussen and the No. 3 Corvette on the pole for the 2018 Rolex 24 At Daytona. Today’s lap was one tenth of a second quicker than Magnussen’s pole-winning time of 1:42.779.
“We did exactly the same as we did last year where we agreed who was going to tow who,” Magnussen explained. “It was me again like in race qualifying last year. That gave us a good top-speed advantage in that session. Olly (Gavin) did a fantastic job placing himself at the right distance out of turn 6 (in the No. 4 Corvette) so I could take full advantage of the tow down to the Bus Stop and then go by him at start/finish to get the fastest lap.
“We did the exact same thing at the Roar and the race last year, so I don’t really know why everyone else isn’t doing the exact same thing. But it seems we’re the only one doing it at the moment, and it’s working out really well for us.”
Billy Johnson Enjoying Return IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Paddock
IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge 2016 Grand Sport (GS) class champion Billy Johnson was back to the series paddock this weekend with Multimatic Motorsports’ No. 22 Ford Mustang GT4. After a two-year hiatus, his return was prompted by the change in his FIA driver rating from Platinum to Gold, as Platinum-rated drivers are not eligible to compete in the support series.
“It’s great to be back,” said Johnson. “I’ve always followed the racing here in the now Michelin Pilot Challenge. The racing has always been great, a lot of fun, a lot of great drivers and teams. I’ve kind of built my career in this series, so it’s meant a lot to me going from the ST class up to the GS class and then winning the championship in 2016. This platform has given me many opportunities in NASCAR and prototypes and to race the Ford GT at Le Mans. I feel like I’m coming home back here at Daytona in the GS GT4 class cars.”
While he assisted in developing the Ford Mustang GT4, Johnson has yet to compete in the car, which he’ll race full-time in the 2019 British GT Championship. However, in the four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona on Friday, Jan. 25, he’ll share the steering wheel with two drivers from Ford’s Driver Development Program, Austin Cindric and Chase Briscoe. Ty Majeski and Cole Custer, also part of the program, will race in the No. 15 Ford Mustang GT4 with Scott Maxwell.
“I’ve worked with all four of those guys in many different capacities to help them on road courses,” said Johnson. “In NASCAR, I’ve spotted for them and coached them, so it’s great to be in a car with them competing. They’re all very talented, great drivers and it’s just a lot of fun to be here.”