First-Time Visit to Iconic 12 Hours of Sebring Enduro for No. 10 Corvette DP Highlighted by 1996 Race-Winner Wayne Taylor’s Hall of Fame Induction
SEBRING, Fla. – Round one of the inaugural Tudor United SportsCar Championship season was one that team owner and three-time sports car racing champion Wayne Taylor will never forget as he dusted off the racing gloves and co-drove in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona for the first time ever with his 24- and 22-year-old sons Ricky and Jordan Taylor. Together with his longtime friend, co-driver, co-GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series champion and business partner Max “The Ax” Angelelli, the Taylors almost pulled off the ultimate result, crossing the finish line in second place, a mere 1.461 seconds from victory in their No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype.
Round two of the 2014 Tudor Championship takes the Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) camp for the first time ever to historic Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway for Saturday’s 62nd running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, where Angelelli and Ricky and Jordan Taylor will look to increase their lead in the all-important North American Endurance Cup championship within a championship. And while Wayne Taylor has put away the driving gloves – for good, this time, he says – the 57-year-old team owner will find himself in the spotlight once again this weekend as he is one of five inductees to make up the 2014 class of the Sebring International Raceway Hall of Fame, who will be honored during special ceremonies held at the track Friday.
Taylor’s illustrious career includes victories at the Rolex 24, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the inaugural Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta among the world’s most prestigious road races. It also includes a win in the 1996 Sebring 12-hour among his 11 career visits at the 3.74-mile, 17-turn circuit en route that followed his first Rolex 24 victory and springboarded him to that year’s IMSA World SportsCar Championship. Taylor co-drove the Doyle Racing/Riley Technologies Oldsmobile prototype to that 2006 Sebring victory alongside Eric van de Poele and Jim Pace. He also co-drove to a third-place finish in the 1994 Sebring enduro and co-drove with Angelelli in his last two Sebring appearances in 2000 and 2002.
This weekend’s renewal of America’s oldest sports car race will be a first for WTR and its fellow competitors from the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series, whose merger with the American Le Mans Series officially kicked off with January’s Rolex 24. Sebring was the traditional American Le Mans Series season-opening event and was never part of the Rolex Series calendar.
Despite the novelty of the grueling circuit, which includes a front straightaway that was once part of the runway for a World War II airbase, the Velocity Worldwide Corvette DP team feels no less a contender for Saturday’s race win than at any of the more familiar circuits it has frequented since the team took shape in 2004.
Angelelli is a three-time veteran of the Sebring 12-hour, having posted back-to-back sixth-place finishes in 1999 and 2000 co-driving with Taylor in, first, the Doyle-Risi Ferrari 333SP and, then, the Cadillac Northstar LMP.
Meanwhile Jordan Taylor, who co-drove with Angelelli to last year’s Rolex Series championship behind a series-high five victories, has been the third driver alongside Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia in the factory No. 3 Corvette Racing C6.R the past two seasons. He contributed to a runner-up finish in the GT class at Sebring in 2012 and an 11th-place finish last season. He also joined the team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and at the Petit Le Mans both seasons.
For Ricky Taylor, who co-drove with Angelelli to seven wins and 10 pole positions in the No. 10 WTR prototype from 2010 to 2012, this weekend marks his first-ever Sebring 12-hour. But the eldest Taylor brother has plenty of seat time at the track, which was a staple on the Skip Barber Southern Series he dominated in 2006. He also competed there in the IMSA Prototype Lites series in 2008.
Practice for the 62nd Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring begins Thursday morning with prototype-class qualifying set for 5:15 p.m. Friday. The green flag flies at 10 a.m. EDT Saturday with the FOX Sports 1 providing live television coverage of the first three hours of the race. IMSA.com will provide a live video stream of the remainder of the event beginning at 1 p.m. Live radio of the entire race will be carried by the Motor Racing Network. Check local listings. Live timing and scoring of all on-track sessions is available at IMSA.com and the IMSA mobile app.
JORDAN TAYLOR, driver, No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype for Wayne Taylor Racing:
Your overall thoughts as you head to Sebring this week for your third 12-hour enduro but first in the Corvette Daytona Prototype?
“Sebring was the first track that both Ricky and I were on in a racecar, for our three-day Skip Barber Racing School. So since then, Dad has always been telling us about the track and about the history of it. It was always one of his favorite events, going there for the 12-hour. Since it’s only two hours from where we live, it was always a fun one for us as a family to go to and watch Dad race. The fact that he’s being inducted into the Sebring Hall of Fame is going to make this weekend very, very special for all of us. I’m very proud of him.”
Having raced there the last two year, how would you describe the racetrack?
“Sebring is a unique track on our schedule. The track is kind of split in two. You have the turn one and turn 17 bumpy high-speed sections. Then, the rest is a pretty smooth track. So it’s difficult for the engineer to set up the car because you are going to be compromising the car for some sections of the track. It is also a lot more technical and narrow than Daytona, so when we go there with such a big field, the traffic is going to play a big role.”
Do you feel excited about the chance to win this race overall for the first time after having driven in the factory GT-class Corvette?
“It will obviously be great to go for the overall victory at Sebring. I’ve done the event twice in the GT class with a best finish of second. It’s one of those events that is almost like a standalone event that you want to win just for the prestige.”
You had a great Rolex 24 At Daytona for the second year in a row. How cool was it to stand on the podium with your dad and brother and Max?
“It was an incredible experience to be on the podium at Daytona with family. It was a goal of ours since Ricky and I got into racing, so to get there was really cool. It was a little disappointing to be that close to winning, but in a few months we’ll look back and see how special it really was.”
RICKY TAYLOR, driver, No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype for Wayne Taylor Racing:
Your overall thoughts as you head south to race in your first career 12 Hours of Sebring?
“It is obviously very special to race at all of the tracks where my dad had so much success. It will be nice to have him there with us to share his experience and to point us in the right direction. I remember watching him win there but I also remember all of the bad times when he went there. So it is a balance of the special times but also the memories of how difficult Sebring can be. Dad has mainly told us about how to look after the car there. It is so bumpy and hard on equipment that we need to take care of everything we can. He also told us some tricks to certain corners on the track, especially turn 17, which is one of the most famous corners there. Sebring is like no other track I have raced on. It is by far the bumpiest track, even bumpier than most street circuits. It has a mix of high-speed corners, low-speed corners, technical chicanes and long straights, so it is very difficult to put everything together.
It’s been seven weeks since you kicked off the season at Daytona with a solid run there. What are your thoughts looking back?
“It was the greatest feeling, first and foremost because Dad drove with us. During practice and testing, we were not sure if we could force Dad into the car with us because he didn’t want to drive, initially. When he got out of the car from his stint, he had done a great job, and to stand on the podium after such a great race with the whole family was an incredible memory. It was also great to be reunited with Max as a co-driver, and to be on Dad’s team with Jordan as my co-driver for the first time. Before the season even started, I was feeling like I’d already been Jordan’s teammate for 24 years. We do everything together and are best friends. Even last year, when we were racing against each other, we would still exchange tricks and ideas about on-track things. So, the communication is very good between the two of us and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”
MAX ANGELELLI, driver, No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype for Wayne Taylor Racing:
Your thoughts as you head back to the 12 Hours of Sebring for the first time in 12 years?
“I was thinking the other day that I’ve been very fortunate to go back to Sebring before it was too late for me. If you put together Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen, Petit Le Mans, which is the North American Endurance Cup, it’s the most historic, successful events in sports car racing in North America. Sebring is the second-most important race. I’ve been there with the Cadillac program, with the Ferrari, and now back with the Corvette DP. Thos are all big names, big cars, big programs, always at the top, always fighting for the win. Again, I’m fortunate not just to be back as driver, but as possible winner of the race. Always going there and having that possibility, having a real shot to win the race, it’s very important to me and I feel very fortunate.”
How would you compare the two endurance events at Daytona and Sebring?
“At Daytona, it’s like you are basically out for a nice drive on a Sunday afternoon, like driving to the shop, to the mall. You have time to relax, time to think, time to do stuff in the car the engineer asks you to do. From there, we go to Sebring, which is a super-rough racetrack. Sebring maintains the tradition, the traditional layout – a little bit of airport runway, a bit of proper road course, the old-style pits. But it’s very rough. You don’t have time to think, you don’t have time to relax, you don’t have time to do much. So, from Daytona to Sebring, you go from left to right, from easy to rough, to super difficult. It’s very busy. For the car, it will definitely like the 24 hours of Daytona much better. For the drivers, we are still three drivers for half the amount of time, but we will be much busier and will use up much more energy during our stints. For the car, the car will be used up by the end of this race. That is for certain.”
What do you have to say about your longtime friend, co-driver, business partner and virtual family member Wayne Taylor being inducted into the Sebring International Raceway Hall of Fame this weekend?
“For Wayne, first of all, it is very well-deserved. I mean, who’s better than Wayne? I can see his name listed as part of the major world sports car races, world champions, legends, and it’s just great. I’m really looking forward to the ceremony and I’m looking forward to hearing his speech. I’m sure he’s going to develop a very nice presentation. So I’m very much looking forward to it. His entire life has been tailored around motorsports, especially sports cars. It has been more than a mission he has successfully accomplished, and he’s still accomplishing. His business is going strong. We’re celebrating a guy who left on top of his game as a driver, and the racing team he owns is out there winning races and winning championships.”
WAYNE TAYLOR, owner, No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype for Wayne Taylor Racing:
It’s been 12 years since you’ve competed at Sebring, where you scored a victory en route to your 1996 IMSA World SportsCar Championship. What are your most vivid memories as you head back there this weekend?
“Well, to be totally honest, I don’t remember a whole lot about winning the race in ’96, but what I do remember the most is it was the greatest podium scene ever. A huge crowd came to the podium and it made it such a great celebration. Those were the good old days in racing. Anybody could come across the track and be in that winner’s circle and it made things incredibly festive. I couldn’t believe at the time that I had not only won the (Daytona) 24-hour that year and then won the second race of the year at Sebring. It was an amazing year that resulted in a championship. Eric van de Poele and Jim Pace, it was a great team. The car was perfect all race through. I don’t even remember who came in second. The fact I have such little memory of the race speaks a lot, I guess, in that it was a very methodical, pretty uneventful win. It was a shame that we didn’t get to race there for so many years since we were last there in 2002 with the Cadillac program, but I’m certainly happy that it’s part of our schedule because it has always been one of the greatest motor races in the world.”
You’re not driving this weekend, but it will still be a very special one for you, your family and your friends and fans. What does it mean to be part of the 2014 class inducted into the Sebring International Raceway Hall of Fame this weekend?
“There are so many legendary figures already in that Hall of Fame, and the ones being inducted this year are such a special group that I just can’t believe I’ve been asked to be a part of it. Growing up, obviously Vic Elford was a superstar in sports car racing and Formula 1. Bob Tullius and his Jaguar program were absolutely a class act in every way and did so much for the business of sports car racing. Peter Gregg, he was another superstar by his own right. And Brumos Racing as an organization, with Peter Gregg and Hurley Haywood winning all those races and championships, they most certainly represent one of the most iconic sports car programs in history. Again, I just find it hard to believe that I’m mentioned in the same breath with all these wonderful people.”
Have you offered any advice to Ricky and Jordan about surviving such a grueling 12-hour race?
“They’ve both raced there in other types of cars. Jordan actually drove the factor Corvette in the 12-hour the last two years. Still, we have talked about the fact it’s as hard as the 24-hour because the track is so bumpy and the one key component to that race is to look after the equipment. Like every other race, you’re doing qualifying laps every lap, but you also have to be careful of the bumps. The boys both did very well, as did Max, at the test there last month. They also spend a lot of time on their simulators, so they definitely know their way around. We just keep focusing on the fact that you absolutely must take care of the equipment for all 12 hours if you want to be there at the end.”
– TSC –
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- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine