By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
LEXINGTON, Ohio— Mazda Team Joest had a lot of data to analyze after finishing fourth at the most recent round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship on the streets of Long Beach and the results came back with a pole position for Oliver Jarvis ahead of Sunday’s Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
After Acura Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves kept constantly upping the pressure, Jarvis came through with a fastest lap of 1 minute, 10.705 seconds to average 114.967 mph. Castroneves was second fastest but could only manage a lap time of 1 minute, 10.727 seconds.
Jarvis and Castroneves were both on pace to set even faster laps but the Mazda racer ran out of fuel while going through Turn 12. Castroneves had a controlled four wheel slide to get around Jarvis but lost just enough time to keep the Brazilian from gaining the last .022 seconds needed to gain pole position.
The No. 77 Mazda driver ended up needing a push from his crew to get to the pole position interview at the end of the pit lane.
“That’s a big pole for us,” said Jarvis. “I’m really pleased with that one. Daytona was great but I think this one with no testing and knowing how quick the Penske [entries] are around here, I’m pleased with that one.”
The track was wet during Friday’s opening practice session and during the first half of the Friday afternoon practice. Saturday morning’s practice was damp at the start but the track improved with no rain falling down during early morning practice.
“I was disappointed it was wet just purely because it’s such a driver’s track in the dry. You can really hang the car out and push. You can really find some time by taking a bit of risk but you can also stick it in the wall and look really silly so to come into the pits P1 with the car in one piece is fantastic.”
Frustration in California led to elation in Ohio after the team did their analysis of the data from Long Beach. Jarvis had finished fourth in one of the two shortest IMSA races on the calendar after leading before the car’s final pit stop.
“I left Long Beach frustrated but also a little bit in the dark,” said Jarvis. “I just didn’t know how we went from leading the race to P4. There were reasons, we understand the reasons, it won’t happen again and I’ll leave it at that. We’re learning every race, I mean there’s a lot of pressure on the team.
“People talk that we should be winning but let’s not forget that you put the Penske team down there, we’re going head to head with them week in, week out. Everybody else has probably had their product up and running in the same team for a lot longer than us but you can see the job we’re doing. We’re really taking the fight to everyone and I think people realize we’re serious competition. It’s going to come, it’s taken longer than anybody would’ve liked but this is a start. You’ve got to have a clean race tomorrow but who knows. We’ll be pushing hard.”
Mazda Team Joest has another temporary driver at Mid-Ohio, similar to its situation last year. Harry Tincknell is at Spa this weekend competing for Ford in the FIA World Endurance Championship race and needed a stand-in. Last year Spencer Pigot was the substitute, this year the decision was to go with Ryan Hunter-Reay. Hunter-Reay has one pole at Mid-Ohio in Indy car competition and the 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner has made a definite impression with Jarvis.
“Yeah, we’ve got a rookie with us this weekend so we’ve had to help him along, he’s struggling a bit, no honestly I’ve been really impressed with the guy,” said Jarvis. “You always get big names stepping into these cars, it happens week in and week out but he’s stepped into the team, super nice guy, his performance is as we would expect. Spot on, maybe even better than that and he was really competitive this morning in damp conditions.
“He’s been an asset so far, no doubt. In many respects, he’s got so much experience but he’s almost coming into our playing field so we’re kind of giving him bits and pieces regarding the car. He’s got great track knowledge so we did discuss when we did the track walk little bits and pieces. I think for him it’s been a steep learning curve but what a job he’s done. He can jump in the car any time he wants!”
Jarvis will start Sunday’s two hours and forty minute race ahead of both Penske entries and the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi. The Acura Sports Car Challenge begins at 1:40 pm ET.