Mazda Team Joest Leads The Way In Pre-Event Qualifying For Upcoming Rolex 24

No. 77 – Mazda Team Joest – fastest car during weekend of the Roar. [Joe Jennings Photo]

By Joe Jennings

Daytona Beach – Mazda Team Joest topped the speed charts at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday as Olivier Pla set the pace during pre-event qualifying for the upcoming Rolex 24.

The event took place near the conclusion of the three-day ROAR Before the 24, a mandatory testing period for all entrants in IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship 24-hour race at month’s end.

Pla, the international driving star, toured the 3.56-mile road in a time of one minute and 33.324 seconds (137.321 miles per hour), setting an unofficial track record.

Five cars exceeded the track record of one minute and 33.685 seconds set a year ago by teammate Oliver Jarvis.

“We knew this morning that the conditions would be fast, so we pushed hard,” said Pla. “We know today’s time doesn’t mean anything, but our strategy was to push hard. Our cars are unchanged from last year, but they should be more reliable after two entrants’ tests in Europe, to make sure we were prepared. We want to be in position to fight to the end and we hope we are going in the right direction.”

Pla shares the driving duties with Tristan Nunez and Jarvis.
The special qualifying session was open to all 40 entrants and was used to determine pit and garage assignments for the upcoming Rolex 24.

In the eight-car Daytona Prototype International (DPi) class, Ricky Taylor and Juan Pablo Montoya were second and third fastest in a pair of Acura Team Penske entries.

Ben Keating set fast time in the seven car Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class. The Texan’s time was one minute and 38.056 seconds. He is doing double duty as he is also entered in the Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) class in a Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3.

The Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE of James Calado led the way in the seven-car Grand Touring LeMans (GTLM) field. His time was one minute and 42.885 seconds.

Second quickest in the class was one of two Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSRs with the new Corvette Racing Corvette C8.R of Tom Milner timed third. Two Corvettes will make their racing debut in the Rolex 24.

The GTD class was led by a Lexus RC-F GT3 from the AIMM VASSE SULLIVAN stable with Frankie Montecalvo driving it.

Reigning NASCAR Cup champion Kyle Busch is making his Rolex 24 debut in a companion Lexus for the team.

The GTD class has 15 entrants.

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