Jarvis and Mazda set Daytona pace
DAYTONA 24 HOURS
While the driver spotlights at the Daytona 24 Hours test last weekend inevitably fell on Fernando Alonso – competing in Wayne Taylor Racing’s Cadillac DPI-V.R prototype – and Alex Zanardi, racing a BMW M8 for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team in GT Le Mans, it was Mazda Team Joest that truly deserved the plaudits.
Ever since Joest took over running the RT24-PS towards the end of the 2017 season, these handsome DPI cars have looked more consistent. Only driver error prevented a win at Laguna Seca last year; then the pair finished second and third at Petit Le Mans.
Since then, there has been a further leap in performance. Last weekend at Daytona, one or other of the Mazdas led four of the seven practice sessions, and when it came to (pre)qualifying to decide who gets the best pitboxes and garages, they were simply unmatchable, with Oliver Jarvis pipping Harry Tincknell by 0.025 seconds in a 1-2.
But the Cadillacs remain fast and reliable. WTR won the 2017 race and team owner Wayne Taylor has been (predictably) impressed with how Toyota World Endurance stars Alonso and Kamui Kobayashi have integrated and kept pace with his already formidable line-up of son Jordan and Renger van der Zande.
The #10 Caddy topped two sessions.
Action Express Racing also had its Cadillacs in the mix throughout the three days of testing, and has won this race twice in the past five seasons, including last year.
CORE Autosport’s Loic Duval topped the final session, despite the team still learning the intricacies of the Nissan DPI previously run by the now-defunct ESM team. Fellow LMP2 graduate Jdc-miller Motorsports appeared to struggle more trying to find ultimate pace from its Cadillacs.
Meanwhile, IMSA newcomer Juncos Racing has unearthed a potential sportscar ace in Agustin Canapino. On his first visit to the US, the Argentinian 28-year-old – already a superstar in his home country for his achievements in Super TC2000 – set the quickest time in the team’s Cadillac ahead of its first shot at Prototype glory.
Like all Prototype teams, Acura Team Penske focused on finding the best race set-ups for the new Michelin tyres (replacing Continental throughout the series), but Ricky Taylor produced a stunning lap in a qualifying sim on Sunday to go third fastest.
The GT Le Mans category saw all nine cars covered by around 0.8s in any given session, but the Ford GTS and Porsche 911 RSRS appeared to have a slight edge on ultimate pace. The Corvette C7.RS, entering their sixth season of IMSA competition, were also strong and, with the aid of a tow from Corvette Racing team-mate Oliver Gavin, reigning champion Jan Magnussen set the top time in prequalifying.
Despite his relative lack of experience with the BMW M8 and Daytona, and the car’s hand-operated braking system, two-time Indycar champion and gold medal-winning paralympian hero Zanardi was within 1.0s of his fastest team-mates.
In the four-car LMP2 class, Dragonspeed’s two-car line-up appears ready to battle with PR1 Mathiasen’s similar ORECA, while there are no clear favourites in the GT Daytona division. Meyer Shank Racing’s Acura NSXS starred in most sessions, with Trent Hindman setting the overall best time in class. Other noteworthy performances came from the new AIM Vasser-sullivan team, which has taken over the running of the Lexus RC Fs in 2019, open-wheel rising star Victor Franzoni in Via Italia’s Ferrari 488, and the Riley Motorsports Mercedes-amg GT3.