SEBRING, Florida – The No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP for Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) trio of co-drivers Max “The Ax” Angelelli and brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor head to historic Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway for Saturday’s 63rd renewal of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring having tightened their belts and ready to do what they know how to do best in their quest for the 2015 Tudor United SportsCar Championship crown.
They’ve embraced the notion of playing the role of “Comeback Kids” as they enter round two of the 10-race season essentially 17 points out of first place in the championship after being stripped of the team’s third consecutive podium finish at the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona because of a drive-time violation. It was a devastating and disappointing turn of events for the team that led a race-high 265 laps and put itself in prime position to race for the Rolex 24 win on a restart with just 10 minutes remaining.
Now eight weeks later, Angelelli and the Taylor brothers head to Sebring buoyed by the fact the team faced a far worse situation in the standings not too long ago and still hoisted the championship trophy just two seasons ago. In 2013, Angelelli and Jordan Taylor found themselves 19 points out of the lead with just four races remaining but rallied to win the championship going away on the strength of consecutive wins at Kansas, Laguna Seca and Lime Rock.
They’re also hugely encouraged by the team’s successful test on the 3.74-mile, 17-turn Sebring circuit last week. Drivers and WTR engineers and crew were able to confirm they had found the much-needed speed that seemed to be so difficult to come by for the lion’s share of last season but began to emerge in a big way during an emotional season-ending victory at Road Atlanta’s Petit Le Mans and January’s dominating performance at Daytona.
Speed at Sebring, however, is just part of what it takes to win America’s most longstanding endurance race. Staying out of the inevitable trouble situations plays a huge role. In last year’s first-ever race appearance by WTR at Sebring, not one, not two, but three unfortunate incidents were just too much to overcome for Angelelli and the Taylor brothers, who still were in position for a solid podium finish with 90 minutes remaining but had to settle for seventh place.
This time around, with last year’s Sebring experience under their belts and with newfound speed on the racetrack, the Konica Minolta Corvette team hopes to steer clear of the mayhem on the racetrack and bring home a hugely coveted race win.
Practice for Saturday’s 63rd annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring begins Thursday morning with Prototype-class qualifying set for 5:35 p.m. EDT Friday with a live IMSA TV stream at IMSA.com beginning at 4:20 p.m. The green flag flies at 10:40 a.m. Saturday for the 12-hour endurance classic with FOX Sports 1 kicking off the live television broadcast from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Coverage moves to FOX Sports 2 from 12:30 to 7 p.m. and concludes there from 10 to 11 p.m. IMSA TV will carry the live video stream from 7 to 10 p.m. 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 and the team head to Sebring for the second race of the season?
“I think, considering how strong the LMP2 cars were at Daytona, we’ll have our hands full with them this weekend. But as far as we’re concerned, we’ve taken a couple of steps forward since last year at Sebring. We’ve made changes to the car and we definitely able to run at a better pace than last year. We’ll need to be aggressive to get all those points back that we lost at Daytona from now until the rest of the weekend, and that starts this weekend at Sebring. Something the guys have worked really hard on since the offseason is getting weight off the car. So now we’re in a position where we can move weight around to where we want it and need it, which allows us to do more things, setup-wise. The experience of going back to Sebring for a second time this year, any questions about setup and all that we had last year are gone. That track is so unique with all the bumps and surface changes. That experience from last year is certainly going to come in handy this weekend.”
You’re essentially 17 points out of the championship lead with nine races to go. What is the team’s approach to getting back into contention?
“It felt devastating when we lost our third-place points and had to settle for 16th-place points after having such a strong race at Daytona. But eight weeks later, the situation doesn’t look nearly as devastating as it did back then. To put it in perspective, Max and Jordan were 19 points out of the lead with four races to go and they rallied to win the championship. So, with nine races to go, we know it is possible. I think we still have to be aggressive because we never know what everyone else is going to do, obviously, and we’re starting so far behind and it’s so competitive. We need to continually put pressure on the people in front of us. I’m actually quite excited about it. We have a cool opportunity to make something special happen. It’s always more fun to be chasing than playing the points game and finishing conservatively. That’s kind of boring. This is going to be fun, from a driver’s perspective, at least.”
JORDAN TAYLOR, driver, No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP for Wayne Taylor Racing:
Seems like it’s been a year since the series last competed at Daytona, even though it’s been just eight weeks. How much are you looking forward to this week at Sebring?
“I’m definitely excited to be back. We had such a strong run at Daytona, such a strong car, no issues, all the pit stops were great, the strategy was there. So, to not get the results we worked so hard for was disappointing and everyone wanted to be back at the track the very next day. Eight weeks later, it feels good knowing that we are coming off a great test at Sebring. Every offseason, the team does a lot of work on the car on details we usually never get to during the season. Last year, all of our time was taken up incorporating all of the upgrades for the new series. This year, we didn’t have to worry about any of that, so the team was able to focus on fine-tuning things so that, coming into this year, we are much more prepared. The car was fast at Daytona – probably the fastest it’s ever been there. It’s a very strong package. And we were fast at Petit Le Mans and COTA to close last year, and we were fast at Daytona. I’m looking forward to being fast at Sebring this week.”
When you have a fast car, how does that affect your approach as a driver?
“I think it just makes it easier for us as drivers. Last year, we struggled for speed almost everywhere we went. That makes it easy to get down on yourself when you’re running midpack, struggling to keep up on the racetrack. This year, as we saw at Daytona and the feedback we got at the test, we should be running up front now, which is a huge motivator for the drivers and all the guys. We all know if we keep doing the same job we’ve been doing in the pits and with our strategy, now with the lap times we’ll be able to run, it should make us more consistent in going after the results we are looking for, and a whole lot more realistic. Last year, it seemed like every race we went into we were starting fourth, fifth, sixth, and that puts you in a tight box, strategy-wise. Now, thankfully, we seem to have the speed back and that opens up the door to a whole lot of new and creative things we can do.”
How do you compare the Daytona and Sebring races?
“Daytona is a 24-hour and Sebring is a 12-hour, but Sebring is almost a tougher race – definitely from a physical point of view. Sebring is way more physical for a driver mentally and physically, and it’s a lot tougher of a racetrack on the cars because it’s so rough and bumpy. If you’re going to have any car issues during the season, they’re likely going to happen at Sebring because it’ll shake any problems you might have right out of or off the car. It’s a tough race with a lot of high- and low-speed corners, so with all the cars you have to deal with out there, there is traffic to deal with all over the track, every lap. You really need to be aggressive because the pace is so competitive, but you also have to be careful about when and where to take calculated risks, which are the name of the game there.”
MAX ANGELELLI, driver, No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP for Wayne Taylor Racing:
The consensus among the members of the team is that everything went well at your test at Sebring last week. Do you agree? And how do you think that will translate into your performance this week?
“We had a very positive test, which we rate as a very good test. Hopefully we are not mistaken, but we had a good indication that our car is better than last year. I consider that as a better starting point for when we come back this week than when we started the race week last year. But there is still a long way to go because we have the entire week in front of us and many more opportunities to either improve the car or make the car worse. So, if we are following this trend, we believe we will improve our car even more and have a less of a difficult race compared to last year. ”
The team was in prime position for a podium finish last year, so it couldn’t have been that bad. Was it?
“What happened last year was, we knew we didn’t have a car that could compete, speed-wise, with the fastest cars. But the IMSA races are so great that you can still fight for a top-three finish using good strategy, and it puts you right in the front without necessarily having the speed. This is how our races are and this is why they’re great. We just want a better car, faster, and be there to defend ourselves when it comes to a race that’s all about real, true speed. Last year, we were involved in a few incidents that kept us from taking advantage of our strategy.”
The No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette was one of the fastest two cars all race long at the Daytona season opener. Is that encouraging as you head to Sebring?
“There are a few tracks where our car is definitely the one to beat, regardless of who is driving, and Daytona is certainly one of those. Sebring might be one of the few where we still have work to do. Progress has been made, based on our test last week, but we need to take bigger steps to actually feel like we’re going to have a dominant car there.”
WAYNE TAYLOR, owner, No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP for Wayne Taylor Racing:
Your overall thoughts as we head back to Sebring for this year’s 12-hour enduro?
“Sebring is an event that I’ve always loved very much. I’ve won it as a driver and it would be so great for this team to bring home the win. We had a good test there last week. We’re a lot closer than we were a year ago, when we struggled coming into the race and in qualifying. This year, we have a better car there, for sure. I can’t talk about the LMP2s, but I would think they would have an advantage there again this year with the way the rules are. We’ll just have to go out and be perfect with the car preparation and the setup, perfect on the pit stops, and perfect on our strategy. And, unlike last year there, we’ll need things to go our way out on the track. But the thing that has us feeling going coming in as that, clearly, we have a better car than we had at Sebring last year.”
You’re eight weeks removed from the disappointing turn of events at Daytona. What does that do for this weekend and your outlook for the rest of the season?
“We dominated that race at Daytona for all intents and purposes. We finished third on the racetrack and being in position to possibly win the race. As it turned out, we got penalized and lost our third-place points and the prize money that goes with it, which is certainly disappointing. But 17 points is really not a whole lot of points when you have nine races to go, and three of them are the long-distance races at Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta. We’ve come back from this position before. We just need to take it race by race and do everything it takes to win the championship. Now, we’re in a position where we’ll have to take it one race at a time. We have the best drivers and the best team in the field. We’ll be alright.”
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Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., Inc. is a leader in information management focused on enterprise content, technology optimization and cloud services. Our solutions help organizations improve their speed to market, manage technology costs, and facilitate the sharing of information to increase productivity. Clients trust Konica Minolta to help them envision how they can achieve their goals and deliver innovative solutions to give shape to their ideas. Konica Minolta has won numerous awards and recognition, including placement in the Leaders Quadrant of the 2014 Magic Quadrant for Managed Print Services (MPS) and Managed Content Services (MCS). The company has also been recognized as the #1 Brand for Customer Loyalty in the MFP Office Copier Market by Brand Keys for seven consecutive years, and “A3 MFP Line of the Year” award winner from Buyers Laboratory LLC for an unprecedented four consecutive years. In 2012, Konica Minolta received “Document Imaging Solutions Line of the Year” recognition from BLI. Konica Minolta, Inc. has also been named to the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index for two years in a row. For more information, please visit www.CountOnKonicaMinolta.com and follow Konica Minolta on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Konica Minolta, as title sponsor, highlights Wayne Taylor Racing’s existing lineup of partners featuring Chevy Racing, Siemens PLM Software, Dallara Automobili, and OMP America.
- Krista K. Massey
Former Group Vice President, Director of Sponsorships and Event Marketing
SunTrust Banks, Inc.