Sports Cars “ROAR” Into Daytona

Fastest car in the field, the No. 77 Team Joest Mazda DPi. [Joe Jennings Photo]

Fastest car in the field, the No. 77 Team Joest Mazda DPi. [Joe Jennings Photo]

By Joe Jennings

DAYTONA BEACH – The sound of race cars reverberated throughout the vicinity of the Daytona International Speedway this weekend as IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams participated in “The Roar before the Rolex24 at Daytona,” which many just call “The Roar.”

With each passing year, “The Roar” draws sizable crowds and Saturday’s attendance mushroomed skyward with the infield jammed with crowds and cars. Also, the campgrounds were filled up with Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, all of whom seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely. Showing homage to the youthful folks, the day has been named Scouts Day.

“The Roar” runs three days and is mandatory for any team or driver intending to race in the upcoming Rolex24 that will take place three weeks from now. As a result of the requirement, 47 teams and more than 150 drivers from around the world were on hand to practice and gain familiarity with the cars and their teammates.

Of the entries, 11 were Daytona Prototype Internationals (DPi), four Le Mans Prototype 2s (LMP2), nine Grand Touring Le Mans (GTLM) and 23 Grand Touring Daytona’s (GTD).

In total, seven sessions of practice totaling more than seven hours of track time, including a night-time run were held.

Adding spice to the proceedings was a spirited 15-minute qualifying session for each class to determine pit road and garage assignments for the 57th Rolex24.

DPi, GTLM and LMP2 did their runs mid-day Sunday while the GTD class timed on Saturday afternoon.

Oliver Jarvis shot to the fast time in DPi behind the wheel of a Mazda Team Joest Mazda DPi. Unofficially, the British driver broke the lap record set by Dan Gurney’s All-American Racers Toyota Mk III team in 1993. The new time was 1:33.398; the 1993 record was 1:33.875.

“This is awesome and my hat is off to Mazda and Michelin. The car was a joy to drive,” said Jarvis. “I pushed the car to the limit and I tried to get everything out of it. But what we want to achieve is the outright victory.”

Jan Magnussen led the way in his Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R in the GTLM class and Gabriel Aubry had quick time in LMP2 competition.

On the GTD side, Ana Beatriz (Bea Figureido) set the pace in the Acura NSX GT3 fielded by Michael Shank Racing w/Curb Agajanian.

On day one, Jarvis led the way in DPi, Aubry in LMP2, Davide Rigon (Ferrari) GTLM and Jerone Bleekemolen (Mercedes-AMG) GTD.

Day 2 daytime practice found the second Mazda Team Joest of Jonathan Bomarito topping the overall speed charts in one session and in a night run and Ranger van der Zende put the Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac in first in another session.

On Sunday morning, Bomarito and Jarvis once again led the DPi class.

With “The Roar” ending, the teams pledge to work diligently reviewing their data in preparation for the Rolex24 at Daytona, which flags off on Saturday afternoon, January 26, and ending 24 hours later, on January 27.

Top news items were the debut of Michelin as the tire supplier for all classes of cars and the introduction of NBCSN as the only television provider. To gain familiarity, the network had a full squadron of talent on hand to meet the competitors and make provisions for the season ahead.

Five-time Rolex24 winner Scott Pruett will return to the track to s grand marshal for the upcoming event. “It’s impossible for me to sum up how honored I am to be chosen s grand marshal for the 57th anniversary of the Rolex24 at Daytona,” Pruett exclaimed. “It will be an emotional weekend for me, as I’m sure I will miss suiting up and taking the wheel.”

Pruett is tied with Hurley Haywood for overall wins and also holds the record for Rolex 24 class victories with 10. He also won an IROC race here in 1991.

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