Mazda Team Joest and Wayne Taylor Racing shared the top of the timesheets in the first day of IMSA SportsCar Championship testing at the Roar Before the 24 at Daytona International Speedway.
The heavily changed Mazda team, which has seen a number of management and engineering personnel changes over the off-season, made a strong start to 2019 as the RT24-P driven by Oliver Jarvis set the fastest time of the day – a 1m 35.989s.
The #77’s strong pace continued into the rain-hampered second session as Timo Bernhard – in his first day with the Mazda DPi – set the third fastest time.
It was also a good showing for the sister #55 which ended the opening session of the day in third. It improved to second in the latter – having run top of the times for a good chunk of the 90 minute running.
In both sessions, the only other car in the top three was the #10 Cadillac DPi of Wayne Taylor Racing. Featuring Fernando Alonso and Kamui Kobayashi alongside full-season drivers Jordan Taylor and Renger Van Der Zande, the quartet went toe-to-toe with the Mazdas throughout Friday as Kobayashi topped the day’s final session.
Just behind the Mazdas, Cadillacs were the machines to beat as teams running the cars filled the top of the times. Both Action Express Racing machines were contending for the podium places with fourth & fifth in session one and sixth & seventh in the second.
Making a starring appearance in its first IMSA test since adding a prototype programme to its IndyCar campaign was Juncos Racing with its Cadillac finishing the day in a high of fourth with Rene Binder, Will Owen, Agustin Canapino and Kyle Kaiser all sharing the driving duties.
The two Team Penske Acuras struggled to match the leading pace with Helio Castroneves setting the squad’s best time of the day with a 1m 37.174s in the second test – 0.578s slower than Kobayashi.
Core Autosport had a disrupted day of running in its new Nissan DPi, having only received the car early last month. The squad didn’t set a lap time in the morning but completed 22 laps in the afternoon with Colin Braun setting the fastest time.
PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports swept the top of the four-car LMP2 class in its Oreca 07 with Gabriel Aubry setting the class leading times in both runs.
In the morning, its nearest rival was Performance Tech Motorsport before being usurped by DragonSpeed in the afternoon as Ben Hanley came closest to knocking Aubry off the top spot but missed out on the opportunity by 0.213s.
Porsche North America and Risi Competizione shared the fastest times in the GT Le Mans class – the latter’s Ferrari 488 setting the fastest time of the day in the hands of Davide Rigon with a 1m 44.718s.
The morning session was a lock-out for Porsche, with 911s filling the first two places on the timing sheets as Patrick Pilet out-paced Earl Bamber by less than two tenths of a second.
However, in the afternoon the pair of German machines slipped out of the top three as the #911 finished just ahead of the #912 once again in fourth and fifth places.
While Risi’s pairing of Rigon and Miguel Molina finished top of Friday’s last session, the Ford GTs proved to be strong in both sessions with the #66 of Ryan Briscoe ending the day second – having finished fourth, behind the sister #67, earlier.
Corvette Racing improved as the day went on. In the first session, the C7s finished sixth and eight before improving to third and sixth.
BMW Team RLL, featuring motorsport and Paralympic legend Alex Zanardi taking part in his first endurance race, struggled to match the pace of its fellow GTLM manufacturers. In the morning the cars finished seventh and ninth, before slipping to eighth and ninth at the end of the day.
Jeroen Bleekemolen proved he’s a step above his GT Daytona rivals as he set the fastest time in both sessions for Riley Motorsport – Team AMG in a Mercedes-AMG GT3.
The Dutchman was chased down in both sessions by the Ferrari 488 GT3 of Spirit of Race, featuring a crew more familiar in WEC Aston Martins – Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda and Daniel Serra. Lamy set the second-fastest time in the morning with Serra claiming the runner-up spot in the afternoon.
Toni Vilander secured third for Scuderia Corsa in the morning session but couldn’t repeat that turn of pace in the afternoon as Jens Klingmann finished in the top three for Turner Motorsport in the team’s BMW M6.
Featuring high up the 23-car GTD field were the two Lexus RC F GT3s being run this season by AIM Vasser Sullivan. Jack Hawksworth set the pace for the team in both sessions – with his best time coming in the afternoon.
Reigning class champion Bryan Sellers is defending his title without co-champion Madison Snow after the latter elected to sit out the season to focus on his family business after being upgraded to a Gold rating. Sellers finished in a high of ninth alongside new full-season team-mate Ryan Hardwick, Corey Lewis and Andrea Caldarelli.
The testing continues tomorrow with a 60-minute session to start the day, a 15-minute test for just silver or bronze-rated GT Daytona drivers and a 45-minute session for all classes and drivers in the afternoon.
Ending the day is the grid’s first experience of driving in the dark this IMSA season with a 75-minute session on Saturday evening.