|April 16, 2019|
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It all started at this year’s Roar Before the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Mere minutes after No. 77 Mazda DPi driver Oliver Jarvis unofficially
broke the 26-year-old track record set by PJ Jones in the Toyota Eagle
built by Dan Gurney’s All American Racers in qualifying for race week
garage and pit selections, the dialogue began. John Doonan, Mazda North American Operations director of motorsports and a lifelong racing fan,
participated in the post-qualifying press conference alongside Jarvis.
Doonan was quick to recognize the legend that was Dan Gurney and his
team in his remarks, while Justin Gurney – Dan’s son – happened to be
watching the live stream of the press conference on the IMSA Facebook
“Thank you all at Mazda for the very kind words about AAR and, of
course, about Dad,” commented Justin on the stream. “Congratulations on your new lap record and the speed of your car! You deserve it.”Gurney’s
comments didn’t end there.
“Going to have to dust off the P car and get (his brother, former IMSA
champion driver) Alex’s helmet ready,” he remarked.
Three weeks later, Jarvis earned the official record in Rolex 24 At
Daytona qualifying, lapping the 3.56-mile Daytona circuit at one minute, 33.685 seconds (136.792 mph). Jarvis was almost two tenths of a second
quicker than Jones’ time of 1:33.875.
“We obviously had to get the job done officially at the race, and Olly was able to do it again,” Doonan said. “At Mazda, we always recognize who
came before us, who blazed the trail and who laid the foundation, and we never forget about our heritage, which is really important to us.
“We did it right away in that press conference. Olly will tell you, he
studied what that meant, and I knew the history from growing up here
and what Dan meant to grassroots racing, as well as all the professional
But Doonan wanted to do more. He wanted to come up with a unique
way to commemorate his team’s achievement, while at the same time
paying tribute to Gurney and the AAR team, which lost its patriarch when Dan Gurney passed away in January 2018.
“We could have easily written a letter or something like that, but
(motorsports artist) Bill Patterson’s been a good friend and I thought,
‘What a cool way to maybe do an artist’s conception of having both cars
on the banking,” Doonan said. “So, we commissioned Bill, and I thought it would be really special to have Olly – the guy that got the job done –
deliver it to Evi (Dan Gurney’s widow) and Justin, so that’s what we did.”
They did it last Wednesday, just prior to the BUBBA burger Sports Car
Grand Prix at Long Beach. Doonan, Jarvis and their Mazda Team Joest
teammates paid a visit to the All American Racers shop in nearby Santa
Ana, California to present the painting.
During the visit, Jarvis got the opportunity to sit inside the previous
Daytona record-holding Eagle.
“Incredible car, way ahead of its time,” Jarvis said. “So, it was a really
special day for me. It meant a lot, the way they accepted us coming into
their workshop. They seemed pleased for us that we were able to beat the record. There seemed a great camaraderie between the two teams.”
Doonan noted that the camaraderie extends beyond the race team and
actually includes Mazda and Toyota as manufacturers.
“I think the link to Toyota is somewhat ironic, because last August, Mazda announced a joint venture with Toyota to build a manufacturing facility
in Alabama,” he said. “So, it doesn’t happen by accident. It’s neat that all
this sort of molded together, the Toyota/Mazda brand in a plant, the All
American Racers and Mazda Team Joest and Olly and PJ.
“That was the deal on Wednesday for me was this coming together of
people that are truly passionate about what we do. I think we’ll hopefully be able to put up a result here soon that matches what those guys
And – racers being racers – the conversation quickly shifted to how long
it might take Jarvis to break his own record if given the opportunity to
drive the Eagle at Daytona.“We were having that discussion,” Jarvis said. “I reckon there’s a couple of seconds in the tires. We were joking about it, but it might not be a bad experiment. Get the thing unrestricted and put
some Michelins on it – but I think they’ve probably got a certain PJ Jones
that might want to jump in it before me.”t
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