DAYTONA BEACH, Florida – Ricky and Jordan Taylor were 15 and 13, respectively, when their father and three-time sports car racing champion Wayne Taylor co-drove with veteran Italian Max “The Ax” Angelelli and Frenchman Emmanuel Collard to a dominating victory in the 2005 Rolex 24 At Daytona en route to that year’s GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series championship.
With the Taylor brothers and Angelelli set to take their No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP for Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) to the Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway road course for this year’s 53rd renewal of America’s most iconic endurance race, there has been plenty of reminiscing about that 2005 Rolex 24 victory on its 10th anniversary. And one of the funniest stories to emerge this week reveals what was probably the only thing that went wrong in the winning team’s camp that weekend 10 years ago.
Turns out then 13-year-old Jordan Taylor, amid the team’s celebration in victory lane, was handed the bottle of the team’s victory champagne and was asked to deliver the remainder of its contents to the garage so the rest of the crew could take part in the post-race revelry. So Taylor hopped on a golf cart with the bottle of bubbly and headed through the infield toward the garage. He didn’t get far before three motorcycle officers pulled him over and, even though Taylor explained what he was up to and that his father had just won the race, they made him pour the bubbly on the ground, confiscated the bottle, and sent him on his way to the garage empty-handed.
This weekend, after close runner-up finishes in each of the team’s previous two Rolex 24 outings in 2013 and 2014, the Taylor brothers and Angelelli look to complete the job they are tasked with by finally grabbing the top spot on the Rolex 24 podium for the first time since that victorious weekend in 2005.
There is plenty of momentum on their side in addition to the back-to-back runner-up finishes at Daytona. Angelelli and the Taylors celebrated in victory lane following their last outing together with a win in the inaugural TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season finale last October – the prestigious Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. And, two weekends ago, they picked up right where they left off by clocking the fastest lap at the annual Roar Before the 24 test days on the 3.56-mile, 11-turn superspeedway road circuit.
With their recent string of successes, a solid test session in the books, and a little bit of history on their side, the Taylor brothers, Angelelli and the rest of the WTR camp know they have all the ingredients to deliver a long-overdue victory celebration at Daytona. All they need is just a little racing luck to help push things over the top.
Practice for this weekend’s 53rd annual Rolex 24 begins Thursday morning with prototype-class qualifying set for 5:15 p.m. EST with a live video stream at IMSA.com beginning at 4 p.m. The green flag flies at 2:10 p.m. Saturday for the 24-hour endurance classic with the FOX broadcast network carrying the opening two hours live beginning at 2 p.m. Coverage moves to FOX Sports 2 from 4 to 8 p.m., then FOX Sports 1 from 8 to 10 p.m. IMSA TV at IMSA.com will carry a live video stream during the overnight hours from 10 p.m. Saturday to 7 a.m. Sunday. FOX Sports 1 returns to cover the remainder of the event through 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Live timing and scoring during all on-track sessions is available at IMSA.com and the IMSA smartphone app.
RICKY TAYLOR, driver, No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP for Wayne Taylor Racing:
Your overall thoughts as you head back to Daytona to open the 2015 season with the 53rd Rolex 24?
“The test (two weekends ago) went well. We obviously were pretty quick. But the race weekend is so different. Speed at the 24-hour is so important, now, because it’s been coming down to a sprint at the end – the last four hours of racing – these last several years, it seems. You want to have an easy car and we have some more improvement to do, there. This year, it’s also a very different dynamic with the LMP2 cars on par with the DPs in terms of pace. That’s a whole other set of cars we have to worry about as far as the end of the race. They still have to prove their reliability at Daytona, but they will be quick, based on the test. Overall, the Action Express cars are so difficult to keep with, but I feel our chances are as good as ever. Obviously with the P2 cars will make it more difficult, but I think we have a really good shot. It’s good to come back with our driver lineup of Max (Angelelli) and Jordan (Taylor) intact. One combination or another involving the three of us has done it, now, for the last five years since I first co-drove full-time with Max. It’s good to get back to something we know so well. The team running better than ever. Our pit stops are really quick, refined. I can’t see a weak point in our program.”
The team finished second at last year’s Rolex 24 for the second year in a row. How painful is it to come so close to winning it but come away virtually empty-handed?
“Finishing second is disappointing because we were so close last year. We were kind of ahead on strategy and ahead on track, as well, when, an hour and a half from the finish, that freak incident with the 50 car spinning off in front of Jordan. The fact we were so close and everything running so well, finishing second was difficult. Obviously, that was good as far as the championship. But, I think the whole team would agree with me that we just might put winning the 24-hour above even winning the season-long championship.”
Your dad and Max won this race 10 years ago to kick off a dominating run to the series championship. What do you remember about the 2005 Rolex 24?
“Ten years ago, it was really cool. The year before, they were really fast and I remember Max running out of fuel, having to fuel the car himself on the back straight, and that pretty much ended a potentially great race. The 2004 race was one of those races where the fastest car didn’t win, it was just a matter of freak incidents like that taking everybody else out. In 2005, I remember it being a really cool two days because, normally, you never have it easy at the 24-hour, but Dad and Max and Emmanuel Collard and the rest of the team definitely made it look easy. When I was growing up, I would try to stay up as long as I could through the middle of the night, fall asleep at some point, and get up in the morning and find that something went wrong while I was sleeping. That year, I woke, up and we were still in it, running very strong. I remember being so tired at the end of it all, but the adrenaline was very similar to what it is now after driving the race. It was just really exciting.”
JORDAN TAYLOR, driver, No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP for Wayne Taylor Racing:
Your overall thoughts as you head back to Daytona to open the 2015 season with the 53rd Rolex 24?
“I think we definitely have a shot at it, once again. The same guys will be at the front who are always there. It’s a tough race, no matter what. We got through a lot of stuff at the (Roar Before the 24) test. We laid down the fastest lap, but not necessarily an indication of how things are going to go race week so much as it was just good timing. It was the fast session of the weekend for not only us but a lot of guys, and we just managed to put it together. Under race pace, our car is quite good, especially at night. The last two years at Daytona, we done 48 hours of racing without a significant problem, so I hope can keep it up. At the test, there were about 10 cars that were within a half-second of each other, so that makes this the typical Daytona that we’ve seen in recent years, which is a sprint race. Everyone will be pushing all race long. And it always comes down to a closer and closer finish at the end. The LMP2s can do the lap time to keep pace, now, where last year that wasn’t quite the case. This year, at the test, they were all there with everyone else. It’s going to be fun.”
Finishing a close second at the Rolex 24, like you have the last two seasons, has to be excruciating, no?
“In 2013, being second was my first time on the podium at Daytona, so it was definitely cool for me. But, even then, it was disappointing after we ran such a good, clean race, finishing on the lead lap, only to lose it. Last year, we lost by less than two seconds after leading so much of the race, but the turning point came when a guy spun in front of me with a few hours to go. That cost us a really good chance to win. But that’s Daytona and it’s the same for everyone, those risks, because the range of talent is sometimes a little scary and you don’t want something like that to really hurt your chances of winning the race. I’d almost go so far as to say that, if you knew for sure you’re not going to win the race, it might be better to just go out early rather than go through all that hard work only to come up short at the end. But, hey, we’ll be back to go one better this time around, and our team is certainly capable.”
What do you remember about you dad and Max and Emmanuel Collard driving the No. 10 to victory at the 2005 Rolex 24?
“The biggest memory wasn’t the greatest one, for me. I went to the podium to watch the celebration and I ended up getting handed the champagne bottle to take back to the team in the paddock. So I got on my golf cart – I was 13 at the time – and headed back toward the paddock through the infield. Well, three motorcycle cops and a track security guy pulled me over. They thought I was drinking with my friends, so they took the champagne bottle and poured everything out and even kept the bottle. I tried to tell them that my dad just won the race and I was taking the bottle back to the team to celebrate, but they didn’t buy it. So some Daytona police officer ended up with the 2005 Rolex 24 overall race-winner’s champagne bottle and the team never got to enjoy it.”
MAX ANGELELLI, driver, No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP for Wayne Taylor Racing:
What is your outlook as you head back to Daytona to kick off the 2015 season with the 53rd Rolex 24?
“Everything is really good. Not running a full season, anymore, I personally appreciate more than ever how much that means and how important the races are, individually, and how blessed I am to be part of it all and part of a team that is going to Daytona to win the race overall. When you do this as a normal business as I have over so many years, you lose the appreciating, a little bit. But in my situation, now, every single race, every single year, is just another gift. I appreciate this gift more and more. Being competitive, having a nice healthy relationship among the drivers and the team, it makes everything a lot nicer.”
What are your thoughts on this year’s race, in particular?
“The pace is going to be faster than ever. We know the car better, the engine is better, the LMP2 cars, with the new rules, are going to be faster, so that is a chain reaction that is going to result in the fastest race ever. So, we expect to do more laps in 24 hours than ever, as long as we have no issues with the car or the weather. It will be a big push from the beginning. Every driver can say whatever he or she wants to say, which is usually something like, “Just get through the night, just take it easy, and be there at the end.” But, in the new reality, nobody does it that way, anymore. They can’t afford to. I would like it if I could tell you I’m not pushing every lap, but that would not be true. It’s going to be very fast race, and it’s going to be very fun for the fans.”
Your car set the fastest lap at the Roar Before the 24 test days. How does that translate into your race week performance?
“The Roar gives the people some sort of indication, but not the ultimate indication. We got our car to work, perform quick laps, and that’s what came out of the Roar. The race week is a completely different story and the racecar is a completely different animal. The racecar has to be easy to drive, easy on tires, so the pace is going to be slower than at the Roar. For me, I’m looking to have a very sweet car to drive, which will give us flexibility with our strategy and result in less fuel consumption and tire consumption, and that will translate immediately to an edge over our competitors.”
What is your recollection of having won the 2005 Rolex 24 en route to that year’s series championship?
“What I remember is how it all was completely unexpected. What I mean is, we found ourselves comfortably leading the race. It was a sweet ending, no drama, we never opened the engine cover, never lost a lap. It was a very good, trouble-free race, and that is very, very rare. Everything worked perfectly. Sometimes you can win the race without having such a perfect race. Whatever is going to come this year, I just hope I will be able to celebrate our 10th anniversary with another victory.”
WAYNE TAYLOR, owner, No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP for Wayne Taylor Racing:
Your overall thoughts as we head to Daytona to open the 2015 season?
“Safe to say we head back to Daytona – the home track for the Taylor family and Max – feeling positive in a lot of ways. We certainly have a lot of momentum coming off a big win at the Petit Le Mans to finish last season, even though we came up just short in the first TUDOR series championship. We clicked off the fastest lap at the Roar test days earlier this month, taking all of that for what it’s worth. And, we come back for the 24-hour having almost won the thing two years in a row. That said, we’re also looking at the most competitive Rolex 24 ever, in my opinion. There are so many cars that can win it all, it’s going to be an absolutely incredible race. Our test weekend went according to plan. The fast lap was simply a bonus and isn’t really anything to take to the bank as it came under the most perfect conditions, on new tires, and Jordan got a clear lap. Our guys are ready in every way, I believe. Our performance in the pits, our strategy, our driver lineup – I wouldn’t trade any of it with anybody else.”
Any special thoughts as you’re celebrating 10 years since your 2005 Rolex 24 win en route to that year’s championship?
“Ten years it’s been – gosh, that feels like a whole other lifetime ago. I think we were proud of the fact that it was one of those races, similar to what this team has done the last two seasons, where we didn’t put a wheel off and it paid off with a huge win. I’m most proud of the fact we did it with three, bonafide sports car racing professionals, not with drivers from F1, IndyCar, NASCAR or any other major series. It was the three of us and we were able to hold our heads high after that one. So much has happened since then. I transitioned from full-time driver to getting completely out of the driver’s seat and into full-time team ownership. I sometimes wonder if that was the right direction to take after driving. It’s been so challenging in every way, but it’s also incredibly fulfilling to be surrounded with such great people like Max, and to have had to opportunity to watch my boys evolve into the true professionals they have become. They were 13 and 15 when we won this thing in 2005. Now, here we are with them holding the reins and enjoying such great success with our racing team. It’s been quite a ride.”
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- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine