Wayne Taylor Racing: Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen preview
Max Angelelli, Ricky and Jordan Taylor takes on grueling Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen looking to extend hard-earned TUSC points lead.
WATKINS GLEN, New York – Brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor and their No. 10 Konica Minolta Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype for Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) head to legendary Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International with the Tudor United SportsCar Championship lead in-hand after their dramatic, last-lap victory four weekends ago on The Streets of Belle Isle in downtown Detroit, and they happily welcome back veteran Italian Max “The Ax” Angelelli to join them in the cockpit for Sunday’s renewal of the annual Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen endurance marathon.
Last we saw of the brothers in Konica Minolta livery, it was 24-year-old Ricky Taylor who was the last man standing in a knock-down, drag-out, last-lap street brawl with Joao Barbosa in the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP en route to the checkered flag at Belle Isle. It was the first-ever victory for the Taylors as full-time co-drivers, the team’s first of the season and second in a row in Detroit after Jordan Taylor and Angelelli dominated the 2013 event in the Motor City en route to the final GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series championship. Most importantly, it lifted the Taylor brothers atop the championship standings after five of 11 events on the schedule.
Sunday’s six-hour race at Watkins Glen marks the third of four events in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup championship within a championship and is the first race since the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring for Angelelli, who is one of the most successful sports car drivers ever to take to the 3.4-mile, 11-turn former home of the United States Formula 1 Grand Prix. Angelelli took part in the team’s runner-up finish at the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona and seventh-place finish at Sebring, which places the No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP team just two points behind the No. 5 Action Express Corvette DP in the Endurance Cup standings.
For Ricky Taylor, the 2011 Sahlen’s six-hour win wasn’t his first career prototype-class victory, but it established the then-21-year-old as a rising star in the world sports car racing ranks. He qualified on the pole, drove a flawless opening stint, and took over from Angelelli for a dramatic closing drive during which he deftly held off the relentless challenges of veteran champion Scott Pruett all the way to the checkered flag. Taylor returned with Angelelli for the fall sprint race at The Glen, blazed to the pole once again, and the two combined to lead 77 of the race’s 100 laps en route to the fastest race win in series history at an average speed of 122.308 mph. Last year, Taylor co-drove the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP to a ninth-place finish in the Sahlen’s six-hour.
Jordan Taylor is still looking for his first career victory at Watkins Glen in his 10th career start there this weekend. In Rolex Sports Car Series GT-class competition, he qualified on the front row in three consecutive Sahlen’s six-hour events for three different teams. In 2010, he qualified second for Racers Edge Motorsports and led a lap en route to the team’s sixth-place finish. In 2011, he qualified on the pole for the first of two years in a row in the Autohaus Motorsport Camaro GT.R. He went on to lead a race-high 34 laps to kick off a solid runner-up finish alongside Tommy Milner and former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular Bill Lester. He won the 2012 pole in the Stevenson Motorsports Camaro GT.R en route to a fifth-place finish alongside Matt Bell and Ronnie Bremer.
This weekend, Angelelli and the Taylor brothers look to finish the job started by the team before getting seriously sidetracked on the very first lap in 2013. Angelelli qualified on the pole and was able to hold the point for only half of a lap before a broken shifter arm and shift linkage issue sent him limping the No. 10 Corvette DP back to the pits for repairs that took five laps to complete. For the next six hours, he and Jordan Taylor fought hard to regain four of those five laps by the time the checkered flag flew, and they were forced to settle for a somewhat satisfying but bitterly disappointing 10th-place finish.
Practice for Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen begins Friday afternoon with Prototype-class qualifying set for 5 p.m. Saturday. The green flag for Sunday’s six-hour race flies at 11:15 a.m. with FOX Sports 1’s live television broadcast beginning at 11 a.m. The Motor Racing Network’s live radio broadcast will be available in its entirety on IMSA.com and MRNRadio.com, as well as select radio networks beginning at 10:45 a.m. Live streaming video of Saturday’s qualifying sessions will be available at IMSA.com beginning at 3:45 p.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 Wayne Taylor Racing Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype:
You’re headed back to Watkins Glen this weekend with several key updates to your racecar since last year. What kind of challenges does that present, and how much more physically demanding will things be with the six-hour race distance? “Watkins Glen is the fastest track we go to in terms of cornering speeds. Although it is such a high-speed circuit, it requires a lot of focus and the car must be placed very precisely. This year, more than years past, it will be very challenging, physically, as our new updates will increase G-forces in the corners and put a lot more load on the driver, which is the reason a lot of teams are opting to use three drivers this weekend. Surprisingly, the six-hour race distance doesn’t make things more demanding, per se, as the intensity of your typical sprint race is so incredibly high and the pressure to be at the front is so much more important during our standard race distances. We also are able to take longer breaks with three drivers for this six-hour race, which is nice.”
Since we last saw you win the race at Detroit the last day of May, you had another memorable experience driving in the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the second year in a row. How would you describe your Le Mans experience this year, driving for the No. 50 Larbre Motorsports team from France? “Le Mans is such a special place and event, and even more so for a French team. The whole experience was genuinely amazing. Jack Leconte, the team owner, gave me the honor of finishing the race. That was a first for me and I will always treasure the memory. I can’t find words to describe what that team achieved in the race this year. We really struggled for pace all week and were consistently off the pace of the frontrunners. Our plan was to just stay consistent and limit mistakes as we knew we wouldn’t have the pace. The car ran perfectly for the entire 24 hours.
I had a blowout on the Mulsanne Straight in the middle of the night, which cost us about 10 or 11 laps, but there was nothing we could’ve done to prevent that. I was in the car both times that it rained and those were about the most difficult conditions I’ve dealt with at Le Mans. Going even 60 kph was a challenge in the wet on slick tires. We recovered from the blown tire and ensuing damage to secure a place in the top-10, and that was nothing short of a great achievement.”
How do you now compare driving an LMP2 at Le Mans car to the Daytona Prototype you drive on a regular basis? “The LMP2 car itself was very different. It felt much more like a single-seater – very light, a lot of downforce but, at the same time, quite a lot less power. The driving style was quite different as it was much more momentum-driven. I really had a lot of fun with the car, especially in the Porsche Curves, where the car was extremely quick.”
JORDAN TAYLOR, driver, No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype:
Because of all the new aerodynamic updates to the Daytona Prototypes this year, you were able to test at Watkins Glen a few weeks ago. What did you learn? “We’ve got a little bit more power, but the big thing is all the extra downforce for the Prototypes. We’ve got a big rear diffuser, now, a double-element rear wing, carbon brakes – a lot of stuff that puts off a lot more energy into the driver’s body – so we’re pulling a lot more G-forces in the corner. At a track like Watkins Glen, which is so old-school and so nice for a driver with all the high-speed, sweeping corners, the faster you go, the more downforce you have.
And the faster you go, the more G-forces you’re pulling, so the more physical it’s going to be. As the track develops over the weekend and it gets more rubber put down, it’s going to get even faster and faster. At the test, we went something like four or five seconds faster a lap than we did there last year. That’s a big change on a track that’s not that long. It’s a fun track to drive now with these cars, but it’s going to be a whole lot more work for the drivers this weekend.”
This race marks the halfway point in the season. How do you feel the series has done in terms of balancing the performance of the Daytona Prototypes and the LMP2 cars, and how do you feel about the rest of the year? “It’s still a work in progress. Rules are being changed every race, almost, to try and balance the cars out. But if you look at the season so far, the races have been really good, actually. I was one of the first guys who said it was going to be really difficult to balance an LMP2 car with a Daytona Prototype but they really have done a good job with two very different cars that find their speed in different areas.
It was going to be tough to balance it, but if you watched the races at Belle Isle and Laguna Seca and the other places we’ve run this year, the races have been really good, and I think Watkins Glen is going to be another one. Now we’re going to have all the classes on track together like we had at Sebring, so I think it’s going to be an action-packed race. It was nice to get that big win at Belle Isle. It’s been a pretty consistent year for us and it was nice to finally get that first win. Now we’re in the points lead and it’s still very early on, so we’ll just take it race by race and try and maintain that lead.”
You helped bring home a solid second-place finish in the factory Corvette C7.R in your third opportunity to drive at the 24 Hours of Le Mans two weekends ago. How was that experience for you? “It was an awesome experience, especially standing way up there on the podium for the first time, looking down on thousands and thousands of people. It’s something I’ll never forget. My last stint was my best-ever stint at Le Mans, no doubt about it. The car was awesome and we were much better on the tires than the Porsche we beat for second place at the end. We were able to triple-stint our tires, but they only double-stinted. Regardless, we had the strongest package out there and it was just an awesome experience in every way. We were just unfortunate in the beginning of the race, but we came out of it with a solid podium finish. I can’t wait to go back.”
MAX ANGELELLI, driver, No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype:
You’re back with the Taylor brothers for the first time since the Sebring 12-hour in March. What are your thoughts as you’re headed back to Watkins Glen? “I’m very happy to be able to drive again and I’m looking forward to this new experience. But now that I’m not a full-time driver, I have to ask permission to do things (laughs), like anything relating to changes in the racecar. We tested at Watkins Glen a few weeks ago and I could feel the difference when you don’t drive every weekend.
This is what and where I’ll be focusing on this weekend – looking at where I am on the track, not getting involved in a battle that is not mine, try to just bring the car home and do whatever my role calls for. I just want to deliver a top assignment. It’s not mentally challenging to drive just part-time. It’s really about just coordinating body movements – when to brake, when to turn, how to handle the car. These things require some time and they don’t just happen all of a sudden. It was definitely good to have had the opportunity to test with all the new changes to the racecar.”
What did you learn at the test? “It was actually very surprising. We were all three very surprised how physical the car became. In the past, you really did not need three drivers for the six-hour race. The third driver was maybe for a gentleman driver who needed extra help. It was without question a two-driver race for professionals. Now, three drivers is an advantage. We learned at the test about the two forces that have increased dramatically – the lateral force, which you can call G-load, and the forward force, which you feel the most when you brake. Those two are much higher than they were in the past.
When cornering, the G-loads are much higher, now. That means heavier steering, more lateral push, and having to work harder to hold your head, body and legs in proper position more than the past. When you brake, you have to push the pedal a lot harder, brake a lot later, and that requires a lot more attention and focus because of all of this energy that is going through you. If your body is like a tank when it comes to storing energy, in the past we used three-quarters of a tank to do two stints during the Watkins Glen six-hour. Now, we use an entire tank to do one-and-a-half stints. And The Glen has always been extremely difficult, to begin with.”
WAYNE TAYLOR, owner, No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype:
What is your outlook for this weekend’s six-hour endurance marathon at Watkins Glen? “I’m always excited to go to Watkins Glen. I’ve always said it’s arguably my favorite racetrack. It’s going to be special having Max back in the car. It’s time for him to get back in. That’s going to be great. The three of them together – with Ricky and Jordan – are going to be good. Really, really good. We learned some stuff at the test that will give us a head start for when practice starts on Friday. It’s a lot different than in years past with all the updates to the Daytona Prototypes.
This weekend is definitely a huge event with all of our partners. Konica Minolta is based just down in New Jersey. They will be at the racetrack in full force and we’re really looking forward to hosting them. We’ll look to put on the best show possible. It’s a long race and anything can happen. But it’s always been one of the best tracks on the schedule for our team. We have the three best drivers out there, so we’re once again hoping for big things.”
You had a chance to watch both of your boys race at Le Mans once again this year. How was that experience for you? “Well, my initial reaction is that, just going all the way there and back, it’s a real grind. And it’s such a long race experience when you’re not driving. I got up at 7 on race day (Saturday) and never touched a bed until midnight Sunday. But all of that is erased when you walk through the gate and into the paddock. It brought back memories of the 12 or 13 years I was fortunate enough to drive in that race, to experience that wonderful experience, walking through the paddock after my stints with my two boys hanging off both of my shoulders.
It’s a really, really special thing, actually. Ricky, unfortunately, didn’t have the best of cars out there but he had a great experience. Jordan did great with a great team. He seems to have grown so much the last three years there. It’s amazing where he is today compared to where he was when he started there for the first time. It was great to be surrounded by all our friends from GM, Pratt-Miller, we’re all teammates. Konica Minolta was there for Ricky. It was a hectic week, but for all the right reasons.”
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