Separation from the LMP2 standard, new-for-2019 Michelin tires, a gripped-up surface after morning rain and pure talent was all Oliver Jarvis needed to put Mazda Team Joest on the overall pole for this year’s six-hour IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at Watkins Glen International.
Exiting pit lane and heading onto the scenic 3.4-mile permanent road course to begin the 15-minute DPi/LMP2 qualifying session, the British pilot had both cars from the Acura-Team Penske combination plus the other Mazda RT24-P to contend with in order to earn a first-place starting position for Sunday’s third round of the Michelin Endurance Cup.
Given their performance in practice, four of the five Japanese Daytona Prototype internationals fittingly filled the top four positions in qualifying with an anticipated battle between Mazda and Acura becoming a reality.
Dane Cameron, owner of the weekend’s quickest trip around Watkins Glen before qualifying, came closest to challenging Jarvis for the pole but ultimately returned to pit lane 0.223 seconds short, even after improving his time on one last flying lap.
Originally a 1:29.787, coincidentally honoring Mazda’s sports car racing past with its 787 prototypes in the early 1990s, Jarvis’ top time fell to a 1:29.639 before the checkered flag brought the record-producing session to a close. With that time, Jarvis became the new Watkins Glen prototype lap record holder at 2.563 seconds faster than former record, turned by an LMP2 car in this session a year ago.
Cameron remained second in the running order after returning to the pits following his 10th lap and will share the front row with Jarvis, whose performance translated to his third pole of 2019 after top qualifying efforts for the No. 77 Mazda DPi at Daytona International Speedway and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Ricky Taylor and co-driver Helio Castroneves will take the green flag from the third position with their No. 7 Acura ARX-05 following a 2-3 qualifying result for Penske. Harry Tincknell qualified the No. 55 Mazda and went fast enough for the fourth spot on the grid.
Wayne Taylor Racing will look to move forward from fifth after Renger van der Zande qualified the Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R there with a best lap 1.119 seconds slower than that of Jarvis. Filipe Albuquerque and Felipe Nasr were sixth and seventh in the two Cadillac DPis from Action Express Racing.
The two JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillacs plus that of Juncos Racing and CORE autosport’s Ligier Nissan DPi were all slower than the fastest LMP2 car at the bottom of the DPi results.
Aubry Breaks Prototype Record in LMP2
Though DPi pole sitter Jarvis is the new fastest prototype driver ever around Watkins Glen, Gabriel Aubry also went faster than the former record when qualifying a Gibson-powered ORECA 07 identical to the one that earned the overall pole a year ago at the hands of Colin Braun.
At 1:31.735, Aubry went 0.615 seconds faster than Braun did in 2018 when he overcame not just the other LMP2s but also every DPi during the final year of a combined Prototype class. Remarkably, Aubry’s time was 2.638 seconds quicker than the previous best LMP2 lap of the weekend, also set by the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports entry.
In the only other LMP2 car on track, Kyle Masson was 0.727 seconds slower in the ORECA from Performance Tech Motorsports.
After taking to the track for a 20-minute warm-up session at 8 a.m. EDT, the two prototype categories plus GT Le Mans and GT Daytona will begin the six-hour race at 9:45 a.m. EDT Sunday with live coverage to begin 15 minutes earlier on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.