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IMSA: Roar Before the Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona – Sunday Notebook

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IMSA Wire Service

Jarvis Unofficially Breaks 26-Year-Old Daytona Track Record in No. 77 Mazda DPi

“Drivers, start your engines” may be the most famous words in motorsports, but “And… it’s a new track record,” is pretty close behind.

And today at Daytona International Speedway, there was another – albeit unofficial – new track record. In the 15-minute IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Daytona Prototype international (DPi) qualifying session for Rolex 24 At Daytona garage and pit selections, Oliver Jarvis drove the No. 77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda RT24-P to a lap of one minute, 33.398 seconds (137.212 mph).

Jarvis’ lap was more than half a second quicker than the 26-year-old track record of 1:33.875 (136.521 mph) set by PJ Jones in the No. 98 Toyota Eagle MKIII. If he – or anybody else – does it again or goes even quicker in Rolex 24 qualifying on Thursday, Jan. 24, they’ll go into the record books officially. Get your tickets now.

“The car was an absolute joy to drive,” Jarvis said. “We ran it full qualy spec. I don’t think many of our competitors can say the same, but in that low-fuel configuration, it felt incredible. You could really push the car to the limits and it’s what us drivers live for, that feeling of getting everything out of the car.”

In LMP2 qualifying, Gabriel Aubry posted the fastest time in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA at 1:35.930 (133.591 mph). The Roar was Aubry’s first exposure to the high banks of Daytona International Speedway and this weekend was just the Frenchman’s second visit to the United States.

Magnussen, Corvette Take Advantage of Perfect Tow to Qualify First in GTLM at The Roar

For the second consecutive WeatherTech Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) class qualifying session, Jan Magnussen led the way. The now two-time and defending GTLM co-champion led the 15-minute session with a best lap of 1:42.651 (124.844 mph) in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R.

The Danish racer remarked, after Sunday’s session to set garage and pit selections for Rolex 24 race week, that the Corvette team employed the same strategy it used to put Magnussen and the No. 3 Corvette on the pole for the 2018 Rolex 24 At Daytona. Today’s lap was one tenth of a second quicker than Magnussen’s pole-winning time of 1:42.779.

“We did exactly the same as we did last year where we agreed who was going to tow who,” Magnussen explained. “It was me again like in race qualifying last year. That gave us a good top-speed advantage in that session. Olly (Gavin) did a fantastic job placing himself at the right distance out of Turn 6 [in the No. 4 Corvette] so I could take full advantage of the tow down to the Bus Stop and then go by him at start/finish to get the fastest lap.

“We did the exact same thing at the Roar and the race last year, so I don’t really know why everyone else isn’t doing the exact same thing. But it seems we’re the only one doing it at the moment, and it’s working out really well for us.”

Billy Johnson Enjoying Return IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Paddock

IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge 2016 Grand Sport (GS) class champion Billy Johnson was back to the series paddock this weekend with Multimatic Motorsports’ No. 22 Ford Mustang GT4. After a two-year hiatus, his return was prompted by the change in his FIA driver rating from Platinum to Gold, as Platinum-rated drivers are not eligible to compete in the support series.

“It’s great to be back,” said Johnson. “I’ve always followed the racing here in the now Michelin Pilot Challenge. The racing has always been great, a lot of fun, a lot of great drivers and teams. I’ve kind of built my career in this series, so it’s meant a lot to me going from the ST class up to the GS class and then winning the championship in 2016. This platform has given me many opportunities in NASCAR and prototypes and to race the Ford GT at Le Mans. I feel like I’m coming home back here at Daytona in the GS GT4 class cars.”

While he assisted in developing the Ford Mustang GT4, Johnson has yet to compete in the car, which he’ll race full-time in the 2019 British GT Championship. However, in the four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona on Friday, Jan. 25, he’ll share the steering wheel with two drivers from Ford’s Driver Development Program, Austin Cindric and Chase Briscoe. Ty Majeski and Cole Custer, also part of the program, will race in the No. 15 Ford Mustang GT4 with Scott Maxwell.

“I’ve worked with all four of those guys in many different capacities to help them on road courses,” said Johnson. “In NASCAR, I’ve spotted for them and coached them, so it’s great to be in a car with them competing. They’re all very talented, great drivers and it’s just a lot of fun to be here.

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Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).