The fastest lap in IMSA’s long history at Daytona International Speedway was set today by the current record holders as France’s Olivier Pla rocketed around the 3.56-mile roval with a lap of 1m33.324s in the No. 77 Mazda RT24-P.
While the lap is official in the sense that it was generated during an official session during the Roar Before The 24 test, and during the ‘qualifying session’ used by the series to set the order for pit boxes and garage stalls for the race, the lap will not go down as a new official record eclipsing the 1m33.398s lap turned by Oliver Jarvis in the No. 77 last January in qualifying for the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Nonetheless, Pla’s pace, set in cool and optimal conditions, could foreshadow another record run in a few weeks at the Rolex 24 if the weather is similar.
Acura Team Penske’s pair of ARX-05s were second and third, albeit somewhat shy of Mazda, as Ricky Taylor’s No. 7 Acura (+0.219s) Juan Pablo Montoya’s No. 6 ARX-05 DPi (+0.241s) followed. Best among the Cadillacs was 2018 champion Felipe Nasr in the No. 31 Action Express Racing DPi-V.R (+0.328s), which was delivered in the final lap of the session.
“We knew this morning that conditions would be pretty fast, so I was expecting a fast lap time,” Pla said. “I was told to push hard, so that’s what I did. It was pretty simple. We have the same cars as last year, so we have nothing to hide. The strategy has been to push hard every time, and that’s what we’ve been doing from FP1. The level of the competition in this championship gets higher every year. In DPi and GTLM, the competition is always there and you have to perform, especially when you are told to push. You have to show what you can do.”
Qualifying for GT Le Mans saw a repeat of the previous session as Risi Competizione’s independent team humbled the factory entries by the smallest of margins with James Calado’s lap (1m42.685s) in the No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTE. Porsche GT Team’s Nick Tandy almost matched his countryman, but the Briton fell short (+0.001s) in the Nos. 911 Porsche 911 RSR.
A welcome visit to the top three by Corvette was authored by Tommy Milner in the brand-new No. 4 C8.R (+0.108s), which gives hope for the brand’s countless fans who root for the all-American team at every round. The best of the BMWs went to Jesse Krohn, who claimed fourth (+0.159s) in the No. 24 M8 GTE.
“I think putting a qualifying session in the Roar spices thing up and makes it real interesting,” Calado said. “It gives a taste of what is to come, and it’s nice to have that little bit of pressure. It’s where you see the cars at their quickest as well. When it’s that close, it’s extremely competitive. If you saw big gaps, the racing wouldn’t be as fun. The main priorities of the Roar is to make sure the car is reliable and make sure we have a good setup. But this little qualifying session gives us a chance to perform.”
With Roar ‘qualifying’ complete, one session remains from 2:45-3:45 p.m. ET before the field packs up and heads home to ready themselves for the opening race of the 2020 season at Daytona on January 24-26.