Wayne Taylor Racing: 17th Annual Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta Preview

Oct. 01, 2014

BRASELTON, Georgia – The very first running of the newly created 10-hour sports car racing marathon known as the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in 1998 was a major milestone in an already stellar career for team owner and three-time sports car champion Wayne Taylor, who co-drove a Ferrari 333SP to the overall victory alongside Emmanuel Collard and Eric van de Poele in that inaugural event.

For Taylor, who earlier that year also scored a milestone LMP-class victory at the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans, hoisting the trophy at Road Atlanta capped a truly memorable year of racing. And the celebration lasted long into the North Georgia night with his co-drivers and teammates, as well as his wife Shelley and their two sons – 9-year-old Ricky and 7-year-old Jordan.

Fast-forward to this weekend’s 17th annual Petit Le Mans and Taylor finds himself back at Road Atlanta for another inaugural event, of sorts, and the potential memories to be made could again be nothing short of priceless for the Taylor family.

Ricky and Jordan Taylor are now 25 and 23, respectively, and they’ll be behind the wheel of their father’s No. 10 Konica Minolta Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype for Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) trying to win the inaugural running of the Petit Le Mans under the first-year Tudor United SportsCar Championship. They’ll be joined for this fourth and final event of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup championship-within-a-championship by veteran Italian Max “The Ax” Angelelli, who has co-driven with one Taylor or another dating back to 1999.

The No. 10 Corvette DP team arrives at Road Atlanta this weekend an insurmountable 22 points behind the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP and its full-time co-drivers Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa, who can clinch the inaugural Tudor series championship simply by taking the green flag Saturday. The Taylor brothers and Angelelli are very much alive in the North American Endurance Cup championship, however, as they trail the No. 5 duo by just six points.

With the season-long championship essentially decided, the No. 10 Corvette DP team has nothing to lose by focusing solely on the race win Saturday, and it’s a rather pressure-free race the Taylor brothers and Angelelli and their WTR teammates are very much looking forward to. At last year’s two-hour, 45-minute GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series race at Road Atlanta, Angelelli and Jordan Taylor were fighting for victory from the third starting position in the No. 10 Corvette DP until contact with another competitor in the closing laps. So they have confidence the team and racecar will agree in a big way once again this weekend with the 2.54-mile, 12-turn layout.

Moreover, after a recent test at Road Atlanta led to significant improvements to the racecar that were clearly evident by its stellar performance in practice, qualifying and even on race day at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas two weekends ago, the expectations in the WTR camp are further bolstered. An unfortunate punt from behind moments after Ricky Taylor had raced into the lead at Austin heading to the very first turn of the very first lap flattened the left-rear tire of the No. 10 Corvette DP and cost the team a lap that it could not make up until the closing laps of that race. It had to settle for a seventh-place finish that essentially ended its championship hopes.

This weekend, a year removed from Angelelli and Jordan Taylor’s dominating run to the final Rolex Series driver championship, the team looks to finish 2014 on a high note with a Petit Le Mans victory, just like Wayne Taylor did way back in 1998.

Practice for Saturday’s 17th annual Petit Le Mans begins Thursday morning. Prototype-class qualifying is set for 5:25 p.m. EDT Friday with a live video stream at IMSA.com beginning at 4:20 p.m. The green flag for Saturday’s 10-hour endurance race flies at 11:15 a.m. with live television coverage on FOX Sports 2 beginning at 3 p.m. until the race’s conclusion. Live radio from the Motor Racing Network will be available on IMSA.com and MRNRadio.com, as well as select radio networks, beginning at 11 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 Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype for Wayne Taylor Racing:

The championship is all but decided and your rivals from Action Express can clinch just by taking the green flag Saturday. What are your overall thoughts as you head to Road Atlanta this weekend, and is it disappointing to be racing without a shot at the championship?

“We still have pressure from the Spirit of Daytona for second in the championship, so we definitely will be working to preserve that position. But we really need to win another race and it would be great to win at Petit Le Mans to send our team into the offseason on a high note. Yes, it was definitely disappointing to not win the championship, but coming back to the team this year was a thrill for me. I have loved driving with Jordan and Max this year and I think we have built a great team to be at another level next year. As for this year, we just needed to limit mistakes. The steering failure at Road America and the tire puncture at COTA really took a lot of points away, but we can’t fault anyone on our team for those. The team has had championship-worthy performances all year.”

The North America Endurance Cup is still within reach. How do you feel about the prospects of winning that championship within the championship and how would you go about winning it?

“I think that is definitely something to shoot for. We need to do what we can to bring a championship to Konica Minolta for their first year back in the sport.”

Talk just a bit about your Road Atlanta race last year and what you are expecting out of your car there this year?

“I drove the Spirit of Daytona Corvette with Richard Westbrook and we had a pretty good racecar. Unfortunately, I got stuck behind a slower DP for my entire stint and didn’t really get a chance to chase down the leaders. But, after our recent test there with WTR, I think we will be in a similar situation to the rest of the year where Action Express will be tough to beat but we can do our thing and be there at the end.”

Your dad won the very first Petit Le Mans. How special is that? Were you there? Do you remember it? How special is it that now it’s the two of you driving his car in that race there this year for the first time?

“It was a big deal in his career and a very special one for our family. It would be fantastic if we could win the inaugural Petit Le Mans for the Tudor Championship and close out our season on a really high note.”

Your overall thoughts about this inaugural TUSC season … things that went well from a series standpoint, things that need work, any other thoughts?

“I think the series has done a good job in handling many different variables. I think consistency will come next year once everything has settled down. An LMP2 car and a DP car are impossible to balance, but they have done a pretty good job.”

JORDAN TAYLOR, driver, No. 10 Konica Minolta Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype for Wayne Taylor Racing:

The championship is all but decided and your rivals from Action Express can clinch just by taking the green flag Saturday. What are your overall thoughts as you head to Road Atlanta this weekend, and is it disappointing to be racing without a shot at the championship?

“Yeah, it’s really disappointing to be going to Petit with no shot at winning the championship. Our goal now is to secure second in the championship and basically go for the race win. Petit is a big race for us. We will have a lot of Konica Minolta guests there and we’ll be looking to finish the year strong. It is disappointing to end the year without a shot at the championship for them, but I think there are a lot of positives to take away. It was our first time for Ricky and I to do a full year together. We’ve had one win, five podiums, and we led the championship during the middle part of the season. So, we have a lot to take away from it. We once again established that we’re a front-running team capable of winning races every weekend, and that’s all you can really ask for. There are obviously a lot of things that you look back on and wished you would have done something differently, but the past is the past and we can’t do anything about it. We can only learn from it and take that knowledge to next year.”

The North America Endurance Cup is still within reach. How do you feel about the prospects of winning that championship within the championship and how would you go about winning it?

“It is exciting to still have a shot at some sort of championship, the Endurance Cup. There are a lot of little strategy things that have to go right to get the maximum points. I think we need to head into the race with the mindset of winning the race and not necessarily getting caught up in over-strategizing to maximize the Endurance Cup points.”

Talk just a bit about your Road Atlanta race last year, and what you are expecting out of your racecar there this year?

“We had a pretty good car at Road Atlanta last year. Max got pushed off the track late in the race when we were battling in the top-five. We had a test there recently this year and made some good improvements to the car, which we utilized well at COTA. We’re pretty confident heading there after seeing how strong our car was at COTA.”

Your dad won the very first Petit Le Mans. How special is that? Were you there? Do you remember it? How special is it that now it’s the two of you driving his car in that race there this year for the first time?

“Dad always talks about winning the inaugural Petit. It’s pretty cool to think about that, especially to see how much the race has grown into a true sports car classic. It would be really special to try and replicate his win there. I don’t remember the whole weekend, but I do remember driving around on the pit scooter with my mom. I think I was 7 years old.”

Your overall thoughts about this inaugural TUSC season … things that went well from a series standpoint, things that need work, any other thoughts?

“Obviously, it was a tough year. No one could expect things to go perfectly for the first season. There is a lot for the series to learn from this year and hopefully some good changes will be implemented for 2015. From a team perspective, I’m proud of the job everyone has done. It was a huge undertaking for all the guys at the shop this year. Basically having to build a new car with all the new updates and go straight into two huge races, Daytona and Sebring, and to come out with basically zero mechanical issues, it’s pretty incredible. I wouldn’t want anybody else by my side heading into 2015. It’s easy for a driver to get in and go. Those guys deserve all the praise after a year like this.”

MAX ANGELELLI, driver, No. 10 Konica Minolta Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype for Wayne Taylor Racing:

You’re back in the car for the first time since the six-hour race at Watkins Glen in June. Your overall thoughts heading into your fourth and final race of the season with Ricky and Jordan?

“It’s been a kind of a long wait for me. I’m very excited. It’s good to be back. It’s a shame the championship opportunity is gone, especially for the reasons that it has been taken away from us these last few races by some very poor decisions by other drivers on the racetrack. Still, this is a very important race, obviously. We want to finish the season on a high note. Lately, if you look at the last few seasons, we’ve ended up winning the last race of the season and that really does a lot of good things for your team and your organization and your sponsors when you’re getting ready for the following season. It’s really special to look back at the fact Wayne, my longtime partner and co-driver, won the very first Petit Le Mans and it would be very cool for us to repeat what Wayne did 17 years ago.”

Has it been difficult for you to not be racing a full-time season for the first time since you began driving sports cars back in the late 1990s?

“People ask me that all the time and this season, I have to say, has not at all been difficult. When it does try to get difficult every once in a while, as far as wishing I was still driving the racecar, I only have to focus on the many other things I have going on, the things I have to do. As a driver, when you have a race weekend, a weekend can be positive with a lot of fun and enjoyment, and a lot of race weekends we have disappointment and sorrow. When I miss driving and I feel like I would like to be back, all I need to do is focus on how many ways a race weekend can be bad. That is what I’m not missing. Walking away from a bad race is just not the same – it’s not nearly as bad – when you’re not driving the car. Besides, I’m so busy with so much other stuff, there’s no way I could have done both this year.”

From your vantage point this season, how would you assess the performance of Ricky and Jordan, your longtime protégés?

“They did really, really well. They’re still young, relatively speaking and, as we all know, experience is so very important. Experience sometimes makes a little bit of difference in whether you win or whether you lose. But this is part of a normal learning curve and this is something you can’t buy. At the same time, young drivers bring new ideas – ideas that older guys like me who have been around for so long might find new and exciting – and so it’s a good balance. We did not have a competitive car this year as much as we had last year, and this is something we all need to work together on – our drivers and engineers – to understand why and to be able to come back and do better next year.”

WAYNE TAYLOR, owner, No. 10 Konica Minolta Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype for Wayne Taylor Racing:

Your overall thoughts as we head to the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, which obviously has special meaning for you, and what you might expect this weekend?

“It really is a special place for me and it always will be. Winning the first Petit Le Mans in 1998 was truly something, winning it in a Ferrari, co-driving with two great friends in Emmanuel Collard and Eric van de Poele, and having my family there to see it. It’s always great to win a race. It’s always great to win one of the big ones. But it’s really special to win the first race of a new race that has since gone on to become one of the big ones. It will always be a part of history. As for this weekend, we again start a new era of sports car racing as far as Road Atlanta is concerned. It would be just fantastic if Ricky and Jordan could win it, and we could have that to talk about and cherish on down the road. I could be another real family affair. However, it’s going to be tough, as every race this season has been. Unfortunately, we had bad results at the last two races and the championship has gotten away from us, so our focus this weekend is clearly on winning the race.”

– TSC –

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.

 

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