USCC: Roar Before 24 Wayne Taylor Racing Report
The Roar Before the 24 Test Days came to a conclusion Sunday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway and the No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Corvette Dallara DP for Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) headed back to its brand new shop in the Indianapolis suburb of Brownsburg, Ind., for final preparations before the 52nd Rolex 24 At Daytona in three weeks.
Team owner and three-time sports car racing champion Wayne Taylor returned to the cockpit for the first time since a brief stint in the 2011 Rolex 24 to join his sons Ricky and Jordan Taylor, and his longtime friend, championship-winning co-driver and business partner Max Angelelli for this year’s historic renewal of the twice-around-the clock endurance marathon. Wayne Taylor, who won the 1996 and 2005 Rolex 24 events, came out of retirement purely for the chance to co-drive with both of his sons, who will be the full-time co-drivers of the No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Corvette DP during 2014. Angelelli, who co-drove with Wayne Taylor to the 2005 Rolex 24 victory en route to that year’s GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series championship, co-drove with Ricky Taylor to seven Rolex Series victories from 2010 through 2012, and with Jordan Taylor to five Rolex Series wins and the driver championship in 2013 while Ricky Taylor spent a season with the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP team.
This year’s Rolex 24 marks the first event for the newly formed Tudor United SportsCar Championship (TUSC) – the result of a merger between the Rolex Series and the American Le Mans Series. Daytona Prototype-class teams from the Rolex Series have been merged into the new series’ top class with Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) teams from the American Le Mans Series. A total of 68 car-and-driver combinations took part in this weekend’s three-day test.
Angelelli, the veteran Italian who will join the Taylor brothers at the endurance events (the Rolex 24, the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Petit Le Mans) on the inaugural 12-race TUSC schedule for 2014, turned the fast lap of the weekend among the quartet of drivers behind the wheel of the No. 10 Corvette DP. He was clocked in 1 minute, 39.410 seconds at 128.921 mph around the 3.56-mile, 12-turn superspeedway road circuit. After numerous offseason updates to the Daytona Prototypes in an effort to equalize their competitiveness with the LMP2s, Angelelli’s fast lap was almost four seconds faster and more than 4 mph faster than his fastest testing lap last year.
All four WTR drivers performed flawlessly in executing the team’s testing checklist for the weekend. The No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Corvette posted top-three lap times in five of the eight sessions over the three days, and a top-five lap in one of the others. Teams return to Daytona Jan. 23 for Rolex 24 practice and qualifying.
“I feel like we have had a very successful weekend. We debuted a lot of new stuff on the car and did not face any big problems, and what small issues we had were addressed completely. Our car is very competitive. The new package with the help of Dallara and Chevrolet really worked well. I don’t see any major issues except the fact that racing for 24 hours is always a huge challenge. As for making the DPs and LMPs competitive, I will best be able to answer that on Sunday after the race. Who knows who is doing what here this weekend? I’ve seen some P2s going very fast, and I’ve seen other P2s with the same chassis and engine going very slow. Who is sandbagging and who is not? I can tell you that, if they want, they (the LMP2s) can be very fast. From the standpoint of the opportunity to race with Wayne and Ricky and Jordan all together, I think this is going to be the most special Daytona 24-hour ever.”
“It’s been a good weekend. For us, as far as getting through all the little teething issues we’ve had to go through, it’s better to go through them this weekend rather than race week. Obviously, there are a lot of new parts and pieces on the car, so there is a lot to get used to. It’s up to the team to look at the data and what’s going on with all that stuff, and from a racing standpoint it’s all about making it all last through a 24-hour race. From what I’ve seen out on the track, in a lot of ways it’s going to be a mess of a 24-hour with all the cars on the track and all these red flags and it’s going to be purely about survival and staying out of the pits and not taking any risks on the track. It seemed here this weekend that a lot of guys were taking some interesting risks, considering it’s testing. If we can stay safe for 24 hours, we should be there at the end, which is what we were able to do here a year ago. It’s great this year having my brother and dad driving with us. It’s definitely weird, almost like we’re at home here at the track. You go back to the transporter and you’re debriefing with your family. It’s usually just a teammate that you’re not related to and you’re just friends with and you’re working through business with them at the track. Now, it’s family and you’re bringing business into that relationship, but it’s good because we’re just focusing on the car and not on beating each other, like a lot of teammates do. So, we can take the egos out of it pretty easily.”
“There was zero learning curve for me getting back into it with the team this weekend. Surprisingly, the only thing I had to get used to was driving with Jordan, the person I knew the best. That was the only learning curve I had all weekend on the personnel side. The car was obviously very different to drive from when I was last with the team, so we were all getting up to speed on that. Engineering-wise, we were also getting up to speed with all the new updates. We weren’t able to work a whole lot on our racecar, but we got a lot of questions answered and raised a couple more good questions that we can work on when we go back to the shop in preparation for the 24-hour. That, I’m sure, has been the same for everybody here this weekend. Nobody rolled off the truck with a complete handle on what everything new was going to do. We have traction control this year, probably the biggest change. The carbon brakes are probably the second-biggest change. And there are quite a bit more electronics involved, including the paddle shifting, the throttle – a lot more electronic stuff we have to deal with. Our car is faster with those changes than we’ve ever been. There’s also an aero setting we can’t change, which isn’t ideal for us. All the changes have definitely affected our setup. On paper, it looks really close between the DPs and the P2 cars. This will be our strongest track head-to-head against the P2 cars with the long straights. Driving with Dad is going to be really cool. I think he’s gotten back up to speed pretty quickly, considering he hadn’t been in the car in quite a while. He may not think he’s getting it done, but I think he’s done well. Even if he doesn’t go any quicker than he has this weekend, I think we’ll be just fine for the race. It’s going to be pretty special either getting out of the car and handing off to him, or vice-versa.”
Wayne Taylor (driver/team owner):
“There was an awful lot of stuff that we had to get through, with the change in rules and specs, so the team systematically went through them. We had some issues early on, but we can leave feeling somewhat happy. We think we know what we have as a package. There certainly is no question regarding drivers. We know we have the best lineup. The biggest thing we worry about it that, it seems like each year we are building all-new cars. We just won a championship and now we’re building another car and spending a lot of money. The DP guys are at a disadvantage in that the guys in the LMP2s are pretty much running what they’ve been running the last two or three years. So, we need to catch up. We’re fighting, still. I think we’ll have a good car. There are many issues we’ll have to go away and think about, reliability-wise, because we’ve just not run all this stuff. But, if anybody can get this done, it’s this team. We have that going for us. The special part of the weekend has been the whole family affair. It’s a great opportunity for me and the kids and Max, all never having driven together. For me, not having driven a racecar competitively since 2010, it’s very difficult to get into these cars and go fast. And, I’ll have to say that until the night session last night, I was seriously considering that maybe this was not the right thing to do. But then, with some more laps, I started better understanding the car and its limits and, most importantly, began feeling comfortable. I don’t think I’m competitive enough to the point where I always used to be as a driver. But this situation is different. I’m not here to play a lead role. I’m here just to be here and lucky enough to be put in the car at some point. I think we can do it.”