The Daytona lap record that stood for 26 years was unofficially broken today at the Roar Before the Rolex 24, by Mazda.
PJ Jones held the record set back in 1993 when driving one of Dan Gurney’s amazing All American Racers Toyota Eagle Mk III. Jones’ lap was stunning, a 1:33.875, set on a weekend in which Jones and AAR went on to win the 24, with co-drivers Mark Dismore and Rocky Moran.
But that’s in the past, and now, after more than two decades of IMSA competition, the record was unofficially beaten in today’s Prototype Qualifying, which decides the garage and pit box allocation for race week rather than the grid. So, while the record from ’93 still stands, it looks set (weather and BoP permitting) to be officially beaten at the end of the month.
Oliver Jarvis was the man of the hour in the session and eclipsed the record with a 1:33.398 driving the #77 Mazda Team Joest RT-24P. In this case, a heavily developed DPi chassis and new Michelin tyres proved to be the formula for the fast times seen this weekend, capable of challenging the fastest times from the GTP era.
Throughout the opening two days of the Roar, lap times continued to improve across the board, not just in DPi, with drivers quickly bettering the best times set during race week last year.
Then, in Qualifying today, Mazda sent out Jarvis on a full qualifying run. With zero traffic, low fuel and a tow off the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac, the time was set and Mazda will leave Daytona today grinning, confident of their chances heading into the race proper.
“It felt incredible, big thanks to Mazda Team Joest, Multimatic and AER,” Jarvis said after the session. “The tyre is outperforming last year, the car has been an absolute joy to drive. We ran full qualifying spec, we pushed he car to the limit and that’s what we love as drivers, getting everything out of the car.
“This is confidence inspiring, we’ve got a good package, we’ve done tons of work over the winter. We’ve had a really good Roar when you look back at how tough it was last year, but we know that our competitors will be closed when we come back later this month.”
John Doonan the head of the Mazda IMSA effort, who told DSC that Jones’ record was set in an important year for him (the year he got married), was also jubilant after the session.
“We’re going to take garage number 1!” Doonan said, “And we’re going to decorate it as best we can after that one!
“Everything we do on the race track is for our fans, dealers and owners. But a shout out has to go to All American Racers, and everything that programme stood for.
“Records are made to be broken, and to break a record like that is a special milestone for Mazda, for IMSA and it shows what the DPi formula means to manufacturers. God bless Dan Gurney for what he did to break that record. He’s a hero of mine.
“IMSA asked us to show what we could do, and we committed ourselves to do that. We felt like we could still dedicate the lap whether it happened now or in the race, to Dan and AAR. This is a step towards winning races and championship. This is for everyone in the programme that’s worked so dang hard.”
Going forward, Jarvis says that Mazda are a threat for Rolex 24 pole, though he believes that everyone else in the field may push even harder and lap the circuit quicker than he did today to take the top honours if the weather holds out.
“I think we might have to go faster at the end of the month, but there are still areas we can improve,” he said. “The weather may decide it as the conditions play a big part here.
“But that record could be broken once again soon.”