AUSTIN, Texas – Talk about the ultimate Texas Two Step – the Konica Minolta driver duo of Ricky and Jordan Taylor is chomping at the bit to embark upon a sports car racer’s dream-come-true Saturday at the Circuit of the Americas Formula 1 circuit on the outskirts of the state capital of Austin. They’ll be competing in the two most high-profile sports-car-racing series in the world on the same day, and they have a legitimate shot at scoring a victory in both.
First things first, the drivers of the No. 10 Konica Minolta Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype for Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) will try and wrangle their way back into Tudor United SportsCar Championship title contention in the penultimate race of 2014 for competitors of that first-year series that took flight in January after the highly celebrated merger between the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series and the American Le Mans Series.
Following that two-hour, 45-minute race, the brothers Taylor will be joined by fellow American Tommy Milner behind the wheel of the No. 65 Konica Minolta Michelin Chevrolet Corvette C7.R for Saturday night’s six-hour FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) marathon, which is scheduled to end at 11 p.m. local time.
It all adds up to be the busiest but most exciting weekend of racing thus far in the already head-turning careers of 25-year-old Ricky Taylor and his 23-year-old brother Jordan Taylor, who have won 16 sports car races between them, including their first time visiting victory lane as co-drivers this past June in the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic on the Belle Isle street course in downtown Detroit.
Closing up a 16-point gap in the Tudor series standings with two races remaining is top priority this weekend for the Taylors and their No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP teammates. Their Detroit victory put them first in the championship, where they stayed for three consecutive races before the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP duo of Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa scored back-to-back wins at Indianapolis and Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin to offset their finishes of fourth and 10th at those two events. The latter finish by the No. 10 team came courtesy of a steering issue that led to a late-race accident that plucked the brothers Taylor from contention for the race win at Road America.
If last year’s inaugural and final Rolex Series race at Circuit of the Americas is any indication, the No. 10 Corvette DP should be one of the cars to beat once again. Jordan Taylor qualified on the front row and he and Max “The Ax” Angelelli benefitted from lightning-fast pit stops by the WTR crew that repeatedly put the racecar back on track in the lead. Only a late-race penalty for what was deemed avoidable contact with 15 minutes remaining kept Taylor and Angelelli from challenging for the race win. They finished 10th.
In the second half of Saturday’s doubleheader, the Taylor brothers and Milner represent the only all-American driver lineup in the 29-car field, featuring teams in LMP1, LMP2, GTE-Pro and GTE-Am classes. The FIA WEC is a global championship that features the 24 Hours of Le Mans, sanctioned by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest. Corvette Racing has won Le Mans seven times since 2001 – most recently in 2011 when Milner was part of the winning trio. Milner will also co-drive Corvette Racing’s No. 4 Corvette C7.R alongside Oliver Gavin in the GT Le Mans class of the Tudor series race Saturday.
The Corvette will find itself among familiar foes in the WEC round. Factory- and works-supported efforts from Aston Martin, Ferrari and Porsche make up the GTE Pro category. Corvette Racing competes in the class annually at Le Mans, where it finished second and fourth this year. Jordan Taylor was in the No. 73 Corvette C7.R that finished as the runner-up, and Milner’s No. 74 Corvette was fourth.
Taylor has been part of Corvette Racing’s Le Mans efforts for the last three years and this year’s result marked his first podium in the race. He has one start for the team in the Tudor Championship, when he replaced Jan Magnussen Aug. 24 in the most recent round at Virginia International Raceway in Alton. It was the first time Taylor drove the Corvette C7.R in a high-downforce aerodynamic package.
Ricky Taylor drove a Corvette C6.R last year at Le Mans. This will be his first race in the Corvette C7.R, although he drove the car for demonstration laps at the new National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky two weeks ago.
Practice for Saturday’s twin Lone Star Le Mans events begins Thursday afternoon. Prototype-class qualifying for the Tudor series race is set for 6:35 p.m. EDT Friday with a live video stream at IMSA.com beginning at 5:30 p.m. GTE-Pro qualifying for the WEC race begins at 7 p.m. Friday. The green flag for Saturday’s two-hour, 45-minute Tudor series race flies at 12:35 p.m. with live television coverage on FOX Sports 2, as well as live radio from the Motor Racing Network available on IMSA.com and MRNRadio.com, as well as select radio networks. Saturday’s six-hour WEC race will also be broadcast live in its entirety by FOX Sports 2 beginning at 6 p.m. Live timing and scoring during all Tudor Series on-track sessions is available at IMSA.com and the IMSA smartphone app. Results and other information pertaining to the WEC event can be found at FIAWEC.com.
RICKY TAYLOR, driver, No. 10 Konica Minolta Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype for Wayne Taylor Racing:
You’re pulling double duty this weekend, which makes it far from a typical Tudor series event for you. What are your thoughts about the weekend?
“It is definitely going to be a unique and exciting new experience for me. We will be doing races in two very competitive classes so it will be a lot of pressure on us to not sacrifice anything in either race and give our 100-percent effort all around this weekend. We are mainly trying to prepare as much as we can before the weekend, physically, mentally, and logistically to make sure we have as little to worry about as possible during the weekend itself. Max (Angelelli), as always, will be there helping us get through it as he has experienced all of what we are going to experience this weekend. I will always look to him for his advice.”
You’re 16 points behind the No. 5 Action Express Corvette DP in the Tudor Championship standings with just two races remaining. What does that do as to how you approach these final two events?
“All we can do is try to win the last two races. After Mosport, they gained their lead in two races and there is no reason why we can’t reel it back in during the final two races, if all goes according to plan.”
What do you think about the Circuit of the Americas facility after having raced there last year with the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP team?
“I think the racetrack in Austin is the highest-level facility we go to, as well as one of the most fun to drive on. The track has a lot of different styles of corners and some very long straights, which will set up some great overtaking opportunities. There are also some infield corners where some creative passes could be made. Last year was not a great result for either Jordan’s or my team, but I feel that the 10 car was very quick last year and I hope we will show similar pace again in this year’s event. A lot has changed in the officiating since last year. We are able to get away with much more in terms of contact, which should make the racing exciting and allow the drivers to go for moves that we might have gotten a penalty for last year.”
You’ve had just a little bit of seat time in the Corvette C7.R. Do you think it will take long to get up to speed, and do you think the extra seat time doing double duty will be a benefit for you, overall, during the weekend?
“I had the chance to drive the Corvette C7.R at the National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park (in Bowling Green, Kentucky). It was a great opportunity to get comfortable with the team, the car and its systems during a few laps. The cockpit and ergonomics of the C7.R are great improvements, which makes it more comfortable than the C6.R I drove last year at Le Mans. I’m ready for the race and can’t wait to learn all I can from Tommy (Milner), Jordan and the rest of the Corvette Racing team. I am not sure how driving both cars will help either of them. I will have to wait and find out over the weekend. I do think that driving the Corvette again will give me a better understanding of what it’s like in a GT car to give me a better perspective when overtaking them in the Prototype.”
JORDAN TAYLOR, driver, No. 10 Konica Minolta Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype for Wayne Taylor Racing:
Your thoughts about what is going to amount to a very busy weekend for you and your brother?
“It’s definitely going to be a busy weekend. Our schedule is pretty hectic with all the practice sessions between the two series, most of them being back-to-back. I think the main thing for our preparation is understanding the differences between the two cars and focusing on each car’s unique driving style. I have at least had a decent amount of time in the Corvette C7.R to understand what it needs, and obviously I have plenty of experience to be able to jump back into the DP. Both teams are very lenient with the schedule, understanding that we can’t be at one team the whole weekend, so each engineer will be looking to maximize the limited time we have together. I am definitely looking forward to it. It’s not often that you get to compete in the two biggest sports car championships in the same weekend.”
WTR took a hit in the championship standings after that 10th-place result at Road America six weeks ago. How will you rebound?
“Our approach with regard to the championship is, we can’t really change what we’ve been doing all year. We’ve had a bunch of podium finishes and a win this year. We’ve been doing all the right things, just a few bad races have set us back. We just need to make sure we are there near the front after the last pit stop when we can go racing. Now that we’re 16 points back, we can take a little more risk on track and with strategy to go for the win.”
How do you feel about not only racing in two high-profile series on the same day, but getting to do it at Circuit of the Americas?
“COTA is one of the best racing facilities we have now in North America. The track itself is extremely technical. It has all sorts of different corners – high-speed, low-speed, chicanes, hairpins, long sweepers, and elevation change. So, for a driver, it’s a real challenge to get the most out of the car. The two long straights lead into big wide brake zones into tight corners, which makes passing much more inviting. It all adds up to be one of those weekends that I’ll remember vividly for the rest of my life.”
What do you remember about last year’s race? You had a great car but a late-race penalty ruined the team’s day.
“Yeah last year was our first year going to COTA. We had a really strong car, qualified on the front row and ran in the top-three for most of the race. Last year, the aero changes had a much bigger window, and we were able to be more aggressive than other teams with our setup, which definitely helped. This year, going back will be a little different with the new rules, but after Road America, I’m confident we’ll be going there with a strong car.”
You had an unexpected chance to race the Corvette C7.R in this configuration at Virginia International Raceway in Alton a few weeks ago after regular driver Jan Magnussen was injured in practice. What did you learn, and do you think driving both the Prototype and GT-class Corvettes will help you, overall, this weekend?
“VIR was sort of a blessing in disguise. It was obviously under terrible circumstances with Jan’s accident and him not being able to drive. I was happy to fill in for him to help the team for the weekend. It was my first time driving the C7.R in high-downforce trim. At Le Mans, we were fully trimmed out in low downforce, so it was a big difference. It couldn’t have been better timing before COTA. I was able to get a feel for the car, not just in a normal testing condition, but in a competitive environment. So, not only did I get a feel for how the car handles, but also what it’s like battling with other GTLM cars. It gives me a little more confidence heading to Texas. With that knowledge, I can also give Ricky a few tips as to what to expect from the car when he jumps in it for the first time at COTA. As for all the seat time this weekend, I think any seat time is good seat time. The more laps we get around there, the more we can learn. If we find that focusing on a certain area of the track is worth time, then we can carry that over to the other team. But as a driver, separating the two cars’ driving styles and getting up to speed each session will be key.”
WAYNE TAYLOR, owner, No. 10 Konica Minolta Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype for Wayne Taylor Racing:
Your overall thoughts as we head to Circuit of the Americas for what will be a very busy weekend for your sons Ricky and Jordan?
“This is going to be an incredible weekend. I’m looking forward to the IMSA race, to try and see if we can gain some points back in the championship. It will be difficult because the 5 (Action Express Racing Corvette DP) has done a great job all year. But, you never know. We are going to try and win, obviously. On top of that, Ricky and Jordan will be driving with Tommy Milner in the WEC race. It’s a full factory program, which is a huge deal for everybody. And it’s a six-hour race, which is going to make it a pretty long day for all three guys since they’ll be also racing the IMSA race. But they’re all young, they’re all focused, and they’re all great drivers. Thanks to Konica Minolta for making it all happen, along with Corvette Racing, Michelin, Chevrolet – everybody’s been really, really great and I hope we can give them the ultimate payoff. It’s all very exciting, the boys getting to race in the two most high-profile sports car series in the world on the same day and at such an incredible facility like Circuit of the Americas. You know, how cool would it be if they won both races?”
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About Konica Minolta – 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 being 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.
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine