Tom Blomqvist isn’t a superstitious man. But he saw a certain kismet in the fact that he, along with Meyer Shank Racing with Curb Agajanian teammates Oliver Jarvis, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud, would be driving the No. 60 Acura in the 60th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Add in the fact that the 2022 edition started 10 years to the day since MSR last won the race, and there seemed to be some destiny involved. And you know how it turned out.
“I couldn’t believe it for a while,” says Blomqvist. “It was the next 24 hours where I was feeling pretty good about life. It was really incredible. To see everyone so happy – the team, Mike [Shank], the full squad, was awesome. And I think that’s what makes the endurance stuff so special, when you win as a team and everyone’s contributed in some way shape or form. That is pretty cool.”
Blomqvist’s contribution was evident throughout the Roar Before the 24 test and the Rolex 24 weekend. But it was especially clear during his final stints in the car on the Sunday morning, when he put it in front before handing over to Castroneves to bring home the victory. It was a fantastic result for his first Rolex 24, even if it wasn’t supposed to be his first. He was signed to drive the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 that ended up winning GTLM at the 24 in 2019, but visa issues kept him out of the ride he would have for the rest of the season. So not only did he win in his first outing, it was a bit of redemption for a win that should have been.
The MSR team had been good on fuel the whole race, often going a lap longer than the other DPi entrants. But in the beginning, the car wasn’t particularly strong, and the team went down a lap early due to a cut tire. But steadily they worked themselves into contention.
“It was a weird race, because there were times when the pace wasn’t great,” says the Swedish son of rally great Stig Blomqvist who was born in the UK , raised in New Zealand and now lives in Monaco.
“I was struggling even myself a little bit with the balance with the car, trying to get the most out of it. And then as the race went on, the car seemed to get better. And I was adapting to the situation. Those last three, four stints I did, we had a great pace.”
With the proper start to the season secured, now Blomqvist and MSR turn their attention to the rest of the championship. Due to the conflict with the IndyCar race at Texas Motor Speedway, the team has lost its affable Brazilian Castroneves, who was scheduled to be the third driver in the endurance races, for the 12 Hours of Sebring next month. Instead, it will be Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne. A competitor to Blomqvist in Formula E for the last three seasons, Blomqvist can only hope Vandoorne’s first IMSA race goes as well as Blomqvist’s first IMSA race in a prototype did. Blomqvist says he’s confident that the team can turn in a good result at Sebring before focus turns to the sprint races.
In those races, he’ll be paired with Jarvis who, like Blomqvist, is new to MSR but no stranger to the DPi cars after having competed several seasons for Mazda, including wins at Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans last year.
“I think Ollie brings great experience to the table,” Blomqvist says. “He’s obviously been in America for many years now with Mazda. And, you know, we get on really well, so it’s been good so far. I think there’s no reason why we can’t fight for the championship this year, and that’s obviously the goal. We’ve started off in the right way so we’re confident we have a good shot, for sure. We just need to keep keep our heads down, work hard, keep improving the car, keep improving our driving.”
On that last point, Blomqvist notes that he still has some things to learn about piloting the Acura ARX-05 and, even though he has the almost-full season in GTLM in 2019, about the style of racing. The punctuated, staccato flow of even the longest IMSA races takes some acclimation.
“It’s very different,” he says. “I mean, I raced in 2019, so you know that that’s prepared me well in a way; but compared to the guys I’m fighting for the championship against, they obviously have a lot more experience than me. The style of racing is quite different to Europe, although the races are endurance races to a degree. But with the cautions, the yellows and all that it really makes the racing very compact, very tight, you’re always fighting. It’s very hard to get a good gap on anyone. And there’s a lot more traffic.
“So navigating traffic is super-important, super-crucial for race pace, so you have to be super alert and be very clever. I really, really enjoyed Daytona. I couldn’t believe how close it was. It felt like 24 hours nose to tail. In Europe, you can go a whole stint without even seeing another car, so I really enjoyed that.”
The first sprint race is on the streets of Long Beach, a race that Blomqvist feels will favor the Cadillacs, as will Detroit, the one circuit on which he hasn’t raced. But as well as the season started in January, he believes the Meyer Shank Racing team will really show its strength in the summer.
“We’ll start to shine through the middle of the year when we get to Road America, Watkins Glen… we’re a bit more competent around those tracks,” he says, noting that those two, along with Road Atlanta, are among his favorite North American circuits.
“I would say Mid-Ohio, as well. The street tracks, historically, Cadillac has been very strong. Sebring, generally they go alright. It goes around. Sometimes we’re going to be better, sometimes they’re going to be better, and we just need to make the most of it when we’ve got performance. And then cut our losses when potentially we’re not as competitive. But that’s going to be the name of the game. And hopefully that gives us a shot at the championship.”