Pla, No. 77 Mazda Unofficially Breaks Daytona Track Record in Roar Before the Rolex 24 At Daytona Garage and Pit Qualifying; Calado Fastest GTLM Qualifier in No. 62 Ferrari
A year ago, there was much fanfare surrounding Oliver Jarvis and the No. 77 Mazda Team Joest RT-24P at the end of Roar Before the Rolex 24 At Daytona qualifying for garage and pit stall selections in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class.
The reason for the fanfare was the fact that Jarvis had just unofficially broken PJ Jones’ 26-year-old track record of one minute, 33.875 seconds. When he returned for the race three weeks later, Jarvis officially claimed the track record with a lap of 1:33.685 en route to the Motul Pole Award.
On Sunday, Jarvis’ new-for-2020 endurance racing teammate Olivier Pla unofficially toppled the not-quite-year-old record with a lap of 1:33.324 (137.321 mph). As a result, the No. 77 team, which includes co-drivers Pla, Jarvis and Tristan Nunez, will – for the second consecutive year – have first choice of garage location and pit stall for the 58th Rolex 24 At Daytona on the weekend of Jan. 23-26.
“We knew this morning that the conditions would probably be fast with the cold air temperature but some sun, so we were expecting a fast lap time,” Pla said. “I’ve been told to push and to push hard so that’s what we did. I have to thank my team for allowing me to because the car was really good. We’ve been working always really hard. We are pleased with that. It doesn’t mean anything, but I think it just showed a continuity of last year.”
The race kicks off the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the four-race IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup. Pla moves over to the No. 77 after sharing the team’s No. 55 Mazda with Jonathan Bomarito and Harry Tincknell, who now have 2012 IndyCar champion and 2014 Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay as their co-driver.
Pla led a total of five drivers to post speeds faster than the track record, which can be set officially in qualifying on race weekend. Ricky Taylor was second fastest in the No. 7 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 at 1:33.543 (137.000 mph), followed by 2019 WeatherTech Championship DPi champion Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 6 Acura DPi at 1:33.565 (136.967 mph).
Felipe Nasr was fourth fastest in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R at 1:33.652 (136.840 mph) and Bomarito rounded out the top five at 1:33.660 (136.828 mph).
In the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class, James Calado led an extremely close session, posting the fastest time of 1:42.685 (124.803 mph) in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE he is sharing this weekend with Daniel Serra. Calado and the team are coming off a victory in the 2019 WeatherTech Championship season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta last October.
Calado’s time was 0.001 seconds faster than Nick Tandy’s second-fastest time in the session of 1:42.686 (124.801 mph) in the No. 911 Porsche GT Team RSR-19. The entire GTLM field was covered by just 0.446 seconds.
“The difference this year, especially this year, is that everyone has upped the ante in the Roar,” Calado said. “It’s not like previous years where people would hold back. I think it’s pretty equal at the moment and I think that puts us in good stead for a good race.
“I think over the last couple years we’ve had good races as well. We know how competitive GTLM is and the whole of GT to be honest. Looking forwarding to battling with all these guys and having a good race. It’s 24 hours, anything can happen, conditions change especially here, so fingers crossed.”
Tommy Milner led much of the session before ending up third in the new No. 4 Corvette Racing C8.R at 1:42.793 (124.671 mph). Jesse Krohn was fourth in class at 1:42.844 (124.610 mph) in the No. 24 BMW Team RLL M8 GTE, followed by defending WeatherTech Championship GTLM champion Laurens Vanthoor in the No. 912 Porsche. Vanthoor’s best time was 1:42.903 (124.538 mph).
On-track activity for the 58th Rolex 24 At Daytona begins Thursday, Jan. 23 with practice and qualifying. NBC will have live network coverage of the start of the race beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 25, and also will televise the race finish beginning at 12 p.m. ET on Sunday, Jan. 26 as part of NBC Sports’ complete coverage of the event that includes windows on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App and TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.
IMSA Radio also will have live coverage throughout race weekend on IMSA.com and RadioLeMans.com, with complete race coverage also airing on SiriusXM Radio.