WATKINS GLEN, New York – Fresh off their second victory in the first five races of the season and, most importantly with the championship points lead in-hand, the driving duo of brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor welcome back veteran Italian Max “The Ax” Angelelli to the No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP for Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) for Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.
Last we saw of the Taylor brothers on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship circuit, they were hoisting the team’s third winner’s trophy in the last four editions of the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic on The Streets of Belle Isle circuit near downtown Detroit, a resounding victory that was also the team’s fifth in its last seven races on temporary street circuits.
This weekend, they’ll take to the newly repaved 3.4-mile, 11-turn Watkins Glen road course in hopes of returning to the top step of the podium there for the first time since Angelelli and Ricky Taylor thoroughly dominated both the Sahlen’s six-hour and August sprint races in 2011. That year’s six-hour victory was the team’s fifth of five consecutive podium finishes in the traditional midsummer endurance classic. In the four six-hour races since, the team has managed finishes of 11th, 10th, fifth and sixth despite promising runs.
Perhaps the most promising effort was a year ago this weekend, when Angelelli and the Taylor brothers took charge of things in both wet and dry – oftentimes treacherous – conditions over the first five hours of the race. They led all competitors with 55 laps led, and were in the lead on a restart with 48 minutes to go when, in the blink of an eye, the No. 10 Corvette DP slid off the racing line in the short chute between turns 10 and 11 and into the wall while trying to hold off the rest of the field during a wet restart.
With the momentum from their victory in Detroit four weekends ago, coupled with the points lead at the season’s midpoint, Angelelli and the Taylor brothers and the stellar WTR pit crew and strategists will be highly focused on closing the deal this time around.
Practice for Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen begins Friday morning with Prototype-class qualifying set for 4:55 p.m. EDT Saturday with live video provided by IMSA.tv. The green flag flies at 10:10 a.m. Sunday for the six-hour endurance marathon with FS1 providing live television coverage of the race in its entirety beginning at 10 a.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:
Assess the team’s performance over the first half of the season, and the opportunity to start the second half in the points lead.
“It’s been very up and down. It is quite amazing that we are right in the championship fight after a few bad results, but it is such a competitive year that anything can happen. The one main positive is that we have shown speed everywhere we have gone and that gives us great positivity for the second half.”
You got to test on the newly repaved Watkins Glen racing surface several weeks ago. How was that?
“The pavement has made the best track in America even better. What was already a fast and flowing track has become even faster. It is incredibly smooth and the grip level is very high, which will put a definite strain on the driver with the additional G forces. I think the new pavement will also provide better racing because, without the concrete patches which were slippery, we can now run multiple lines through certain corners, which should open up more opportunities. There will be more side-by-side racing, more passing, and faster lap times than before. People who were previously quick there should still be strong, but the pace will just be much higher overall.”
You’re fresh off a seventh-place finish with the factory Corvette Racing team at Le Mans. How was your first experience with that team?
“Le Mans was another great opportunity to be with Corvette Racing in the biggest race of the season. Unfortunately, the result did not show the great effort the team put in throughout the weekend. But I was happy with how the team accepted me and how I worked with my teammates and the rest of the guys.”
JORDAN TAYLOR, driver, No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP for Wayne Taylor Racing:
Talk about starting the second half of the season in the championship points lead.
“The first half of the year has been up and down. We’ve obviously had some great races with winning Long Beach and Detroit, but we’ve also had some tough ones with Sebring and Laguna. I don’t think it’s as consistent of a season that we would like, but at least we are still in the championship hunt. We have had a strong car all year, and everyone on the team has been executing well. Looking to the rest of the year, we need to just keep maximizing each race weekend and focus on collecting as many points as we can.”
How do you like the new surface at The Glen after testing on it for the first time several weeks ago?
“The new surface at Watkins Glen is incredible. Not only is the track perfectly smooth, it’s also gained a lot of grip. I think with the surface being so consistent around the track, it could make the racing a bit better with guys being able to use more than one line. The track is much faster so, for a driver, it’s a lot of fun.”
You went back to Le Mans to defend your 2015 class win with the factory Corvette Racing team. How was it for you this year?
“Le Mans was a tough weekend. Obviously, we went in there with a lot of confidence after we won in 2015, but we just didn’t seem to have the pace all weekend. It’s always a good experience to race at Le Mans, so we’ll take the lessons we learned and use them next year.”
MAX ANGELELLI, driver, No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP for Wayne Taylor Racing:
You’re back in the driver’s seat alongside Ricky and Jordan for the first time since Sebring. What’s on your mind as you head back to The Glen?
“For me, personally, as I’m a sort of now a ‘guest driver,’ there is a lot of pressure and the worry of being the one responsible for a bad finish. Now that the boys are on top of the chart, the pressure is double. I’ve always loved the track and now, with the new pavement, I love it even more. It is far easier now than before, so the many tricks I’ve learned through the years might be obsolete. We’ll see. Hopefully they won’t be.”
Looking ahead to the second half of the season and the team’s favorable points situation, how important is this Watkins Glen race?
“Every race is important for what it will bring to the overall championship result. The Glen is notoriously a challenge due to several factors. It’s six hours long. Weather is always an unknown. Dealing with traffic and the rules and regulations. Does being a longer race make it better for everyone? Not always. It is 50-50 because the length of the race gives you the chance to recover from mistakes, but it also gives you the great risk of making a mistake. The beauty and the challenge of The Glen is so great that it makes all the effort worthwhile. I regard this race as one of the five I love the most in all of sports car racing. We have always been there at The Glen as a team. But, if we are not 100-percent focused The Glen, it is not very forgiving.”
WAYNE TAYLOR, owner, No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP for Wayne Taylor Racing:
You’re starting the second half of the season this weekend leading the championship. What are your thoughts as we head to Watkins Glen for the traditional six-hour endurance marathon?
“Watkins Glen, like I’ve always said, is my favorite track, and it’s even better now that it has been resurfaced. It suited Ricky and Jordan and Max very well during the test session there a while back and we’re looking forward to a very fast race. It’s definitely nice to be leading the championship after our two big race wins at Long Beach and Detroit. I think we should be really good at The Glen. But, as is the case these days with the current state of our balance of performance, the big unknowns will be the Tequila Patron team, which will be back with us for the first time since Daytona and Sebring, the Shank team, and the Mazdas. They’re all extremely fast – much faster than the Corvettes, which as a group are all within about a tenth of a second of each other. It’s good to see the ESM car back with us, a great sponsor in Tequila Patron and Ed Brown that comes with them, but it’s sad that they’re not here with us full-time. I hope Ed changes his mind and comes back full-time next year because this is going to be the best series. On the racetrack, they made it look very easy with their speed at Daytona, so we were happy to have finished second to them there. With them and the Mazdas and the Shank team, we will have to once again do it with our pit stops and strategy if we are going to be there at the end. Max is back with us, and he’s also been fast at Watkins Glen. The beauty of this team is that we have the best drivers, as a unit, and the best team and strategists. So that should go a long way toward helping us bring home a win on Sunday.”
– TSC –
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine