Members of the Mazda Team Joest program paid a visit to All American Racers to offer a tribute to its founding family ahead of this weekend’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at Long Beach.
Mazda Motorsports director John Doonan, along with drivers Oliver Jarvis, Tristan Nunez, and Harry Tincknell made the trek to the Santa Ana shop where Dan Gurney’s AAR team built the all-time great Eagle Mk III IMSA GTP machine that held the lap record at Daytona for 26 years.
Broken by Jarvis in qualifying for January’s Rolex 24 At Daytona, Doonan commissioned the artist Bill Patterson to create a painting depicting the No. 98 Mk III PJ Jones drove to pole and victory at the 1993 event, and the No. 77 Mazda RT24-P Jarvis wielded on his record-setting run.
Presented to Gurney’s wife Evi and son Justin in AAR’s conference room, the opportunity to pay respect to the late racing pioneer and his family meant a lot to Doonan and his drivers.
“The experience we had today was a dream come true,” he said. “To be able to meet Evi and Justin and present the painting Bill did for us was a very special and unforgettable moment. Who would have thought that one single lap of Daytona International Speedway, albeit record-setting, would create such a special link between our IMSA program, AAR, the Mazda brand, and our drivers?”
For Jarvis, who was invited by Justin Gurney to sit in the legendary Mk III and learn about its design and build by Gary Martin, the car’s original crew chief, incredible memories were made.
“It was a real honor to meet Evi and Justin Gurney and to be able to present them with a painting to show our respect for breaking that incredible lap record that they held for 26 years,” he said. “As a family, what they have achieved in motorsport is astonishing and it was a very special day to be given a tour of the AAR factory and to see so much history in one building. The icing on the cake was to be able to sit in the original Eagle MK III that PJ Jones drove to that record all those years ago. It truly was a car ahead of its time and the team and drivers have my utmost respect!”
With Mazda Team Joest’s attention turning to Saturday’s 100-minute IMSA race, Doonan hopes the time spent at AAR will help the brand’s two-car DPi effort to start a similar chapter of success in today’s prototype class.
“Regardless of our age, when all of us were baptized into this sport, we were immediately introduced to the legendary racers who were paving the way and making the breakthroughs that now represent key milestones of our sport’s history,” he said.
“AAR is an outstanding example of a group of racers who have made tremendous breakthroughs here in North America…and around the world. What Dan and the Gurney family have represented over the years mirrors the ‘Never Stop Challenging’ mantra that has driven all of us at Mazda since our inception.”