The Roar Before The Rolex 24 is very much underway and on the first day of track action Mazda Team Joest set the fastest time, courtesy of Olivier Pla in the #77, the Frenchman reeling off at 1:35.794 in the second of the two sessions.
“Well, it was a good session and a nice way to rebound after we missed some time in the first practice,” said Pla, who joins Jarvis and Tristan Nunez as co-drivers of the #77 Mazda after sharing the team’s #55 entry in 2019. “We still have a long way to go and the team is working very hard to continue to improve the car, but obviously the Mazda RT-24P is working very well.
“This is a good first day of working with my new co-drivers, Olly and Tristan. We worked together a lot last year even though we were in different cars, but I am enjoying being in the #77.”
This follows Mazda’s trend from the Roar last year, when Oliver Jarvis, on the first run at Daytona with Michelin tyres, ended the Roar weekend with an unofficial track record in the #77 machine, before officially breaking PJ Jones’ 26-year-old track record three weeks later en route to taking pole position for the 57th Rolex 24 At Daytona. However, Pla’s time wasn’t close to matching Jarvis’ best from 2019, when the Briton set a 1:33.398.
Second, in the combined times was the sister #55 Mazda, Oliver Jarvis setting a 1:35.874 in the car which he will share with Jonathan Bomarito for the full season and former IndyCar champion and Indy 500 winner, Ryan Hunter-Reay for the endurance races.
Best of the rest was the first of the Cadillacs, the #31 Action Express example with a 1:36.273 in the second session. The two Penske Acuras completed the top five.
Simon Trummer led the way in the new-look, expanded LMP2 class, posting a best lap of 1:38.315 in the #52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA 07.
Four seconds separated the six cars that set a time – the second (#51) PR1 ORECA didn’t turn any laps. The day saw Rick Ware Racing’s Riley get its first run out. The team finished up sixth with a best time of 1:42.822. The car didn’t head out to the track in the opening session, before completing 34 laps in Session 2.
GTLM saw the most eagerly anticipated debut of the day, Corvette Racing lapping the speedway with its C8.R in public for the first time.
About to draw to the close of #Roar24 Day 1. Good progress made on the #Corvette #C8R. Looks like we’ll have a chance for some wet running tomorrow 🌧 @IMSA @TeamChevy @DISupdates pic.twitter.com/Lrn5BG8V17
— Corvette Racing (@CorvetteRacing) January 3, 2020
The best time from the new Vette was a 1:45.009 from the #4. The pair ended up sixth and seventh GTLM (which features seven entries for Rolex with the Risi Competizione joining the three factories), but the #4 was within a second of the top time, and the #5 was just over a second off. Both cars managed plenty of laps during the day too, mileage clearly the most important objective here.
Defending Rolex 24 class winner Colton Herta was quickest in class aboard the #25 BMW Team RLL M8 GTE. His best lap in the car he is co-driving with Connor De Phillippi, Philipp Eng and Bruno Spengler was 1:44.239.
Whereas the fastest laps of the day in DPi, LMP2 and GTLM all came in the second session, the quickest lap in GTD was achieved in the first session by Jack Hawksworth in the #14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3. Hawksworth, who is sharing the ride with Parker Chase, Michael De Quesada and two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch, posted a best lap of 1:47.031.
It was an important day for Busch, who will need to get up to speed with the characteristics of the Lexus GTD quickly ahead of the Rolex 24. His best time from the day was a 1:48.544.
Thus far, he says his technique when braking is the biggest adjustment he’s having to make.
“I’m used to our big heavy stock cars where you have to start the slowdown process early, the braking zone is forever, and then by the time you turn in you have to be off the brakes otherwise the inside wheels will lock up,” Busch said.
“You also have to take care of our brakes on the Cup cars because they’re so heavy…you can really overheat them.
“Completely different techniques. On these cars, you can drive the snot out of them.”
The remaining spots in the combined GTD top three were taken by Lamborghini Huracan GT3s, the first one the #11 GRT entry ahead of the #44 Magnus example.
Testing continues today at Daytona…