Oliver Jarvis, Mazda Claim Pole for 57th Rolex 24

  • Wayne Taylor Racing, Co-Driven by Former Formula 1 Champion Fernando Alonso, Qualify 6th
  • Orlando Driver Paul Holton Puts McLaren GT4 on Pole for Friday’s BMW Endurance Challenge

The Rolex 24 At DAYTONA may be an endurance sports car race but it sure doesn’t hurt to start up front.

Which is where the No. 77 Castrol Mazda Prototype will be, when the green flag waves Saturday at 2:35 p.m. (NBCSN) at Daytona International Speedway to start the 24-hour event. Driver Oliver Jarvis made it happen with a pole-clinching, event-qualifying record lap of 1 minute, 33.685 seconds (136.792 mph) on the 3.56-mile DIS road course. Jarvis’ time led both the overall field and the headlining DPi class.

Starting alongside Jarvis on the front row – leading a field of 47 exotic machines – will be the No. 7 Acura DPi. Ricky Taylor qualified the car at 1:33.873/136.518.

The Rolex 24 is typically a star-studded season-opener for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

This weekend’s 57th running of North America’s premier sports car race?

Even more so.

The field includes:

  • Former Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso, whose team qualified sixth with co-driver Jordan Taylor at the wheel of the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi entry;
  • The remarkable Alex Zanardi, who reinvented himself after a 2001 CART accident resulted in amputation of both his legs, becoming one of the world’s top hand cyclists. He also has continued to race cars, competing with BMW in the World Touring Car Championship and the Blancpain GT Sprint Series. His team’s BMW M8 GTE, which qualified seventh in the GT Le Mans class, is equipped with special hand controls for Zanardi.
  • Former Indianapolis 500 champions Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves, part of Roger Penske’s elite Acura DPi driving stable.
  • Five-time IndyCar Series champion, Scott Dixon, co-driving a Ford GT for Chip Ganassi Racing in the GT Le Mans class.
  • And Christian Fittipaldi, a three-time Rolex 24 champion who is retiring after this weekend. Fittipaldi co-drives the No. 5 Cadillac DPi; the car failed to qualify on Thursday due to a brake issue.

Jarvis’ efforts on Thursday were not surprising. Mazdas dominated the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test session earlier this month, with Jarvis posting the fastest time of the three-day gathering.

“This has been a serious effort … to put it all together,” Jarvis said. “To put it on pole, I think it represents what we’re here to do. We’re here to show that we’re capable of winning races.

“We’re very happy, there’s a great cohesion in the team, we’ve got some fantastic partners and we’re just working more together. We’re enjoying our racing. … But Daytona is about staying out of trouble. We’re going to try and do that and then the last four hours we want to put ourselves in a position to win it. That’s the goal for sure.”

Four classes compete simultaneously in the Rolex 24. The other three class pole winners on Thursday:

  • In LMP2, James Allen in the No. 81 ORECA LMP2 (1:35.904/133.627).
  • In GT Le Mans, Nick Tandy in the No. 911 Porsche 911 (1:42.257/125.325);
  • In GT Daytona, Marcos Gomes in the No. 13 Ferrari 488 GT3 (1:45.257/121.753).

Also Thursday, qualifying was held for Friday’s BMW Endurance Challenge, a four-hour race that opens the season for the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series. It will be a McLaren front row as Orlando driver Paul Holton took the pole with a lap of 1:52.143/114.277 in the No. 75 McLaren GT4, nearly one second over second-fast Corey Fergus, who posted a 1:52.947/113.463 in the No. 69 McLaren GT4.

Friday’s race, much like the Rolex 24, features drivers from a variety of racing disciplines in the two classes of Grand Sport (GS) and Touring Car (TCR). In the TCR class, Michael Johnson, driving the No. 54 Audi RS3 LMS for JDC-Miller MotorSports, took the pole position with a 1:58.433/108.208 lap.

Tickets for the 57th Rolex 24, the 61st annual DAYTONA 500 and all other Daytona International Speedway events can be purchased online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP. Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Snapchat, and by downloading Daytona International Speedway’s mobile app, for the latest Speedway news throughout the season.