Last year in Daytona, Mazda Team Joest’s Mazda RT24-Ps were the fastest cars in town during the Rolex 24 at Daytona weekend. On Friday (Jan. 3), they brought the speed once again as Olivier Pla was fastest overall with a lap at 133.787 mph to top the day.
Session No. 1
In the morning test session, it was Mazda Team Joest’s No. 55 that was fastest overall with Harry Tincknell at the wheel. Tincknell’s lap at 133.462 mph was seven-tenths of a second faster than Wayne Taylor Racing’s Renger van der Zande. Acura Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya was third quickest in his Acura ARX-05, while Felipe Nasr was fourth in the Action Express Racing Cadillac. Tristan Vautier was fifth in JDC-Miller MotorSports’ No. 85.
LMP2 saw DragonSpeed’s Ben Hanley pace the class with a lap at 130.241 mph, good for eighth overall. Hanley’s best lap was nearly a full second faster than Simon Trummer in the No. 52 ORECA 07-Gibson for PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports. Nicolas Lapierre was third quickest in the Tower Motorsport by Starworks entry, but another second further back. Nicolas Minassian was fourth in the Era Motorsport ORECA.
GT Le Mans saw the debuts of two new cars Friday morning. For Porsche GT Team, Friday was the American debut for the new Porsche 911 RSR-19, which has been racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship since Labor Day weekend last year. Nick Tandy took the No. 911 Porsche to the top of the class with a lap at 122.910 mph, good for 13th overall.
The second car that debuted Friday was the brand-new Chevrolet Corvette C8.R. Unlike the Porsche, it has yet to race. It’s not quite where it needs to be right out of the box, but Tommy Milner‘s best lap was good for fifth in class.
In GT Daytona, AVS Vasser Sullivan has made a splash in acquiring the services of two-time Cup Series champion Kyle Busch and Kiwi touring car veteran Shane van Gisbergen for the race. However, it was the team’s regular ace Jack Hawksworth who was quickest in the morning session with a lap at 119.741 mph, good for 20th overall.
Hawksworth’s lap was nearly one-third of a second faster than GRT Grasser Racing Team’s Franck Perera in the No. 11 Lamborghini. Townsend Bell was third quickest in the second AVS Vasser Sullivan Lexus. Scuderia Corsa’s Cooper MacNeil was fourth quickest in the sole Ferrari, while Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian’s Mario Farnbacher was fifth in his Acura.
36 of the 40 cars on the property turned in laps during the opening session. Those who chose to sit out were Rick Ware Racing, Performance Tech Motorsports and Aston Martin Racing. As for PR1 Mathaisen Motorsports’ No. 51, the car is there, but it likely won’t go out at all this weekend. Team principal Bobby Oergel told SportsCar365.com Friday that the team will likely not run their second car at all this month due to a lack of funding.
Session No. 2
In the afternoon session, it did not take long for Mazda Team Joest to make their mark. Pla’s quick lap was set on his third lap at speed. Yes, it was 22 minutes into the session, but the beginning of the session was reserved for only bronze and silver-rated drivers in the LMP2 and GT Daytona classes.
Pla’s lap was only eight-hundredths of a second faster than Jonathan Bomarito in the second Mazda. Filipe Albuquerque was third in the best of the Cadillacs, nearly a half-second off of Pla’s pace. Montoya was fourth in his Acura, while Helio Castroneves was fifth fastest.
LMP2 saw Trummer put up the best LMP2 lap of the day at 130.357 mph, good for ninth overall. Trummer’s lap was more than half a second faster than Lapierre, who had picked up 1.5 seconds from the morning session. Henrik Hedman was third in the DragonSpeed No. 81, while Performance Tech Motorsports’ Kyle Masson was fourth.
Rick Ware Racing is in more or less uncharted territory with their Riley Mk. 30-Gibson. The Riley Mk. 30 hasn’t raced in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship since the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona with BAR1 Motorsports. Since then, Multimatic has developed a “joker” update for the chassis that was also given to the Mazda RT24-P, which is based on the Riley Mk. 30.
Rick Ware Racing will be the first team to race the LMP2 car with the joker updates. After sitting out the opening session, Jonathan Hoggard (who won the Sunoco Whelen Challenge in the United Kingdom) ended up sixth quickest.
In GT Le Mans, BMW Team RLL’s Herta was fastest with a lap at 122.948 mph, good for 15th overall. Herta’s lap was only a couple of hundredths of a second faster than Tandy’s best time in the morning.
Herta’s lap was three-tenths of a second faster than Porsche GT Team’s Laurens Vanthoor. Frederic Makowiecki was third fastest in the No. 911 Porsche, followed by Risi Competizione’s Daniel Serra. Augusto Farfus was fifth in the second BMW.
GRT Magnus’ Marco Mapelli was fastest in GT Daytona with a lap at 119.354 mph in his Lamborghini Huracan GT3. Mapelli’s lap was one-seventh of a second faster than Perera. Precision Performance Motorsports’ Brandon Gdovic made it three Lamborghinis at the top of the class.
Farnbacher was fourth fastest in the No. 86 Acura, while teammate Alvaro Parente was fifth in the Heinricher Racing-owned No. 57. For Busch fans, he did turn in the best lap of the session for the No. 14 Lexus. Unfortunately, that lap was only good for 15th in class. In Hawksworth, Busch has one of the fastest drivers in GT Daytona as his teammate. Over the next couple of days and during the Rolex 24 weekend, Hawksworth will likely push Busch to improve as he gets used to the Lexus RCF GT3.
WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams have three practice sessions scheduled for Saturday. The first session will go green at 10:15 a.m. There is also a qualifying session scheduled for 4:15 p.m. that will determine garage stall and pit stall assignments for the Rolex 24 weekend. The low car count will mean that everyone will get a stall in the primary Cup garage, but pit stall choice is still very important.