Photo: Courtesy of IMSA

Mazda’s Rolex 24 at Daytona Track Record a Result of Hard Work

By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer

After a year and a half together with Team Joest, Mazda has secured pole position for the 57th Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Oliver Jarvis backed up the No. 77’s RT24-P’s performance from the Roar Before the 24 and set a new track record with a fastest lap of 1 minute, 33.685 seconds to average 136.792 mph around the 3.56 mile roval.

This broke a 26-year-old record set back in 1993 by P.J. Jones in a Dan Gurney’s All American Racers Toyota.

“I think the goal for us was to get the pole but I was really surprised here at the Roar how important that record was,” said Jarvis. “For me I got a real understanding of what it meant and so at the time I was really pleased but then in this two weeks between the Roar and here I was thinking a lot about that pole because 26 years for a lap record to stand is something incredible and when you look at the cars they achieved that in, I take my hat off to them.

“We wanted the pole and the lap record was the icing on the cake. For me, I think sometimes you have perfect laps. This didn’t feel like a perfect lap but I think in many respects, with the track conditions and the low grip we had, I don’t think there was a perfect lap today. I think it was just making the most of the low grip level.”

Back in July 2017, Mazda Motorsports announced a shift in their prototype program to be aligned with Reinhold Joest’s successful sports car program following Audi’s withdrawal from the World Endurance Championship. Mazda Team Joest had a bit of a flameout, so to speak at last year’s Rolex 24 but the team kept working hard, nearly winning at Road America and earned a double podium finish at Petit Le Mans.

Between chassis maker Multimatic, engine builder AER and everyone from Team Joest, preparation and work was non-stop.

We’re very very proud of the results that we’re seeing from all that,” said John Doonan ,Director of Motorsports and Team Development for Mazda North America, “and that’s what today is, another piece of this month that shows the effort and the hours and the conference calls and the emails and all the work that ‘s gone in, it’s now resulted in Mazda’s first overall pole at this great race and we certainly hope that this Sunday finishes off in a similar manner.”

It was an entirely new process getting Team Joest back into an IMSA environment. It had been since the early 1990s that the Joest squad had competed in IMSA and Mazda went so far as to take the last half of 2017 off to allow the Joest squad to work over their machinery. With a new car, new personnel, a new series and a new racing environment, it would be a struggle despite announcing midway through 2017 that Team Joest would be coming on board.

“I would say exponential amount(s) of effort between Petit Le Mans and today, testing, refining, the time these guys would spend on the great simulator at Multimatic, the amount of time AER has worked so hard on the engine dyno, it is exponential the amount of effort that has gone into preparing for 2019,” said Doonan. “We said we were always coming to win, I think we had a few chances last year we should’ve capitalized on but I can assure you everybody’s laser focused on putting Mazda on the top step of the podium.”

The No. 55 team car driven by Jonathan Bomarito qualified fourth fastest. The Acura ARX-05 DPi machines from Team Penske split the pair up in second and third. The Rolex 24 begins Saturday, January 26th at 2:35 p.m. ET.

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.