DAYTONA BEACH – The Velocity Worldwide era begins for Wayne Taylor Racing this weekend with a new full-time co-driver and the reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion also sharing the driving duties with veteran Italian Max “The Ax” Angelelli at the year’s biggest race – the 51st running of the traditional GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Rolex 24 At Daytona.
The team owner’s 21-year-old son Jordan Taylor, a veteran of 44 starts in Daytona Prototype and GT-class competition the past five seasons, takes over as Angelelli’s full-time co-driver in 2013, replacing his 23-year-old brother Ricky Taylor, who left after three seasons to join the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP team. Jordan Taylor is a two-time Rolex Series winner, seven-time podium finisher, six-time pole qualifier, and 2011 runner-up in the GT-class driver standings. Angelelli and Ricky Taylor co-drove to seven wins and 19 podium finishes the past three seasons, placed second in the season-ending points in 2010 and 2011 before finishing fifth last year, and the elder Taylor brother qualified on the pole 10 times in all. This weekend marks Jordan Taylor’s sixth consecutive Rolex 24 with a best finish of eighth last year in the GT-class No. 88 Autohaus Motorsports Camaro GT.R alongside Paul Edwards, Tom Milner and Mathew Marsh.
With the younger Taylor brother as his teammate, Angelelli fully expects the No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Corvette DP program to not miss a beat as it embarks on its annual goal of securing the Rolex Series championship. Helping the cause in a big way this weekend is none other than the hottest American in open-wheel racing the past three seasons – 32-year-old Ryan Hunter-Reay, who’s fresh off a stellar 2012 season during which he netted his first career IndyCar championship with the Andretti Autosport Chevrolet team.
Hunter-Reay will be making his seventh consecutive Rolex 24 appearance this weekend and 16th career Rolex Series start. At the 2006 Rolex Series season finale at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah, Hunter-Reay co-drove with Angelelli and Wayne Taylor in the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley. The trio led the most laps but saw its victory bid ended by late-race electrical gremlins. Nonetheless, Hunter-Reay credits that year’s Rolex Series outings with jumpstarting his racing career that, at the time, appeared to be hanging in the balance. He calls this weekend’s outing with the No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Corvette DP team his opportunity to give back and is thrilled to be participating with one of the top Chevrolet-backed efforts.
In his six previous Rolex 24s, Hunter-Reay’s best finish was a third-place run in 2010 as co-driver of the No. 95 NPN Racing BMW Riley with Lucas Luhr, Richard Westbrook and Scott Tucker. He also scored top-10 finishes in 2008 (eighth in the No. 91 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley with Johnny O’Connell, Jim Matthews and Marc Goosens) and 2012 (10th in the No. 2 Starworks Motorsport Ford Riley with Marco Andretti, Michael Valiante and Scott Mayer).
Max Angelelli, co-driver of the No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Corvette Dallara DP for Wayne Taylor Racing:
You have a new primary sponsor in Velocity Worldwide, a new full-time co-driver in Jordan Taylor, the reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion co-driving with you this year – is your level of anticipation for this year’s Rolex 24 higher than most years? “I always enjoy starting a new year with the Rolex 24 no matter what the circumstances are. But yes, this year there are some major, major changes that have taken place and that adds to the excitement, for sure. First of all, we announced our new sponsor Velocity Worldwide at the test earlier this month and that is huge. We’re happy, we’re proud to be associated with them and we’re looking forward to a great season on and off the track. I have a new full-time co-driver for the first time in three years and I am very excited about the chance to work with Jordan this year. I have watched both Ricky (Taylor) and Jordan grow up before my eyes, and the chance to co-drive with Jordan this year is very, very special after the success we had with Ricky the last three years. Having Ryan Hunter-Reay back with us this weekend really makes me feel good about our chances for the race. Our driver lineup looks really, really good. We all know what it takes to win a race like this one. We just need to execute our plan and hope we have no major problems.”
How does the No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Corvette DP seem to stack up against the competition after your experience at the Roar Before the 24 test days three weekends ago? “Everybody has gotten used to seeing us at or near the top of the timesheet each year, but that was not the case this year. I’m pretty confident that, as everybody knows, a fast lap time is not what it’s all about for such a long race as the Rolex 24. But we have to admit that it was a concern to see six Ford- or BMW-powered Rileys with the six fastest laps. Our team was actually experimenting with many items on our car that were specific to the 24-hour race distance and not all of them worked. So you have to take all of that into consideration when you look at our lap times over the course of the test. For the sake of our team, our sponsors and our fans, I certainly hope we can reverse the results that we all saw at the test. When everything is said and done, let’s just see where we will be at the end of 24 hours.”
This will be your 10th Rolex 24 with Wayne Taylor and the 12th of your career. Do you follow a particular routine after tackling such a huge monster of a race for so many years?
“I treat it like anything but a routine. It can’t be a routine because, once it’s a routine, you enter into a mode of making mistakes. If you feel it’s just a routine, you open yourself for a major mistake because you start underestimating the challenge and the difficulty of the race and the event itself. The event is very long. People think it’s just one race. It actually feels like a full week of work. The first free practice on Thursday is just as important as the race itself. Any mistakes in free practice will be reflected in the race. So every lap of practice is just as important as the race laps. It will be difficult, as it always is. This is the only race I arrive basically a week before because I want to have time to relax with the Taylor family, playing our ping pong tournaments and things like that and going to the movies. It’s a total family atmosphere and is a nice, calm atmosphere for me – so comfortable, you have no idea. Once we get to the racetrack, I can be sure I have had plenty of rest. Once the race gets going, I’m very lucky because I can sleep between all my stints regardless of the time of day. The noise doesn’t bother me. It’s actually quite soothing.”
What is it like to be racing for such a long distance with not only other Daytona Prototypes on track, but with almost twice as many of the slower GT-class competitors at the same time? “For me, GT cars are never a concern. For me, the GT cars offer great opportunities where I can gain or lose on the racetrack. It’s entirely up to me. The goal is to use the GTs to catch up if I’m behind and increase my lead if I’m ahead. I’ve always treated it like a positive.”
Jordan Taylor, co-driver of the No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Corvette Dallara DP for Wayne Taylor Racing:
Your overall thoughts about joining Wayne Taylor Racing as Max Angelelli’s full-time co-driver in 2013? “I’d say excitement is the overriding feeling. I’ve been in GT for the past few years now. I have done DP over the years, so it’s nice to come back to the big class, the lead class, which gets the most attention. I was always proud to be in the GT class because I respect those guys a lot, and I don’t feel they do get the respect they deserve. Obviously, coming to my dad’s team, which has a new identity with Velocity Worldwide, it’s exciting. Especially having Ryan, after his year last year, it will be cool to drive along with him, another cool guy to compare yourself with in the same equipment. I’m really looking forward to it. I think we have a great shot at doing well. I think it’s really cool and I’m obviously excited to join the team, to drive with Max, to be with my dad around the racetrack. I was always a little hesitant to want to drive with my dad just for that logo on a driver that he’s just driving for his dad’s team and looks like he’s just been given the opportunity. But when you look at it from the inside, my dad has this team that has won races. It’s capable of winning a championship, has a great teammate in Max, great crew guys and everything, so why not make the most of that opportunity. You can’t pass up the chance to go to a place where you’re going to be in a good environment, where everyone is willing to help and teach you, to help you move along in your career.”
Have you sought any advice from older brother Ricky about driving for your dad? “Yeah, he’s actually warned me about driving for dad a little bit. I know I need to be ready about two hours before I need to get into the car or dad will start yelling (laughs). Seriously, though, he’s always said good things about the team. He’s gotten closer to my dad because he spends those really up-and-down times that you have in racing, those highs and lows, he’s spent them all with my dad on the pit box and on the radio. They’ve gone through a lot together. I’m sure we’ll be going through a lot of the same things, whether we’re winning, or having bad races that are bound to happen at some point. You go through those highs and lows. It’s cool to experience those things with your family. Now it’s my turn to go through the same thing.”
What do you expect to be the biggest challenge adapting to the DP-class cars, once again? “I’m excited to go to DP. It’s the top class in GRAND-AM and it will be cool to go for overall wins, which I haven’t been able to go for in my career, yet. Going to a new team with my family, Max who is like a brother to me, it’s just a great experience every way you look at it. The biggest thing will be learning the downforce of the DP, the capabilities that go with that. I drove the Action Express Corvette DP at Watkins Glen, so that gave me an idea what it’s like. Going from GT to DP is more a matter of looking out the front of the car than having one eye in the mirror. I can keep my eyes out the front windshield just because I hopefully won’t have cars driving by me on the straights. It’s something new, but it’ll just be another challenge, another thing to learn. I’m with Max and my dad, mentors I’ve had all the way through my career, so it’s more and more a matter of learning from their experiences.”
You’ll actually be racing head-to-head against your brother Ricky for the first time in a long time. How is that going to be? “That means some awkward dinners at the house (laughs). Seriously, I don’t think it needs to be too much different. We’ve always wanted to help each other and move forward together. It’s just now we’re not able to share as much information that the engineers are giving us, or the data guys or our teammates are giving us because we’re on different teams. We aren’t able to tell each other those little things we were able to in years past. Surely, we’ll follow each other on the track whenever we can, looking for little things, talking about, ‘Why are you taking that line,’ those kinds of things that we can help each other with. If we ever hit each other, it’ll be a little awkward at home, for sure. But on a normal weekend, it’s all good.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay, co-driver of the No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Corvette Dallara DP for Wayne Taylor Racing:
Your overall thoughts as you head to Daytona for your seventh consecutive Rolex 24? “This is a great time of year – Daytona. It’s great to be back for one of my favorite races. To be joining back up with Wayne is huge. I remember, at one point in my career back in 2006, things had stalled down and this series was the springboard. Max and Wayne, getting back with them back then was where I needed to be. I’ll never forget that and I thank them very much for that. To be back with the team, to be back with Chevrolet, I’m so proud of what we accomplished last year, what they accomplished as a manufacturer in IndyCar. But really, as a whole, as a big picture, it’s great to be a part of the team. I’m really honored to be a Chevy driver, really to bring it full circle, to be here in sports car racing with them. It’s a big deal for me, personally. This lineup we have here with Max and Jordan I think is one of the best out there. So I think this is my best shot, yet, at the Rolex 24. We’ll have Velocity Worldwide on the side of the car and it looks amazing. Everybody here wants to win. This team has come so close so many times. I hate to say it, but these guys are kind of due for a good result. I won’t say we’re due for a win because I don’t want to jinx anything. The bad luck over the years really hasn’t allowed the team to really show what it’s capable of. Now, we’re ready to go for it. We’re really hungry for it. It’s a great organization to be a part of and I’m very happy to be here.”
You’re coming off your first IndyCar championship in 2012 and a stellar run the past three years. But you talked about the Rolex Series as being your career springboard back in 2006. How was that? “My career has been far from straightforward over the years. That makes you stronger. When you have to sit at home thinking about the fact you may not get the chance to race cars again, it makes you that much hungrier. I found a new hunger in racing prior to driving the No. 10 SunTrust car with Max and Wayne at Utah that year in 2006. From there on, it was a new energy that I found in racing. I think that was big for my career, in general. But heading back to Daytona every year, I don’t know what I’d do without this race. It kind of sets the tone for the year. It’s a big deal. It’s a big deal in racing worldwide. I’m just so happy to be back with such a strong lineup and in a good position in my career.”
Being an IndyCar regular, how do you switch gears, mentally, to driving bigger, heavier prototypes in a big race like the Rolex 24? “Really, it’s just a different type of racing. Just like you would adapt to any different type of car, whether it be a Corvette Daytona Prototype or an ALMS car, it just depends on what you’re driving. You drive within that. Really, the mentality that changes is that you are in an endurance race. You have to take care of the car. You can’t hit curbs. You have to look after it to hand it off to the next guy. You can’t be too hard on the brakes and you have to be good on fuel to be there in the end as it actually becomes a sprint race in the last few hours. Rolex 24s the past few years have been like sprint races the entire time, but there is that bit of conservation in there. You are looking at your equipment. If you’re not, you’re going to see cars drop out, for sure. It’s a different mentality. That’s what I love about sports car racing. It’s completely different than what I do year- round. It makes you adapt, makes you think, ‘Hey, this guy has me beat here in this corner, I need to change that.’ You learn a lot about yourself and, really, your skill set in racing.”
Wayne Taylor, team owner of the No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Corvette Dallara DP for Wayne Taylor Racing:
Your overall thoughts heading back to Daytona with so many new things having happened at Wayne Taylor Racing since we last saw the team in victory lane last September at Lime Rock? “I am really, really excited this year. I’m so excited to welcome our new primary sponsor, Velocity Worldwide, and welcome back our existing partners. We’ve have my son Jordan racing with us for the first time alongside Max, and we welcome Ryan Hunter-Reay back to the fold after his truly incredible season in winning the IndyCar championship. It looks like the weather’s going to be good to us. And this year, I actually have two chances of winning this race between our team and my other son Ricky, who’s racing with the Spirit of Daytona team for the first time.”
How did your new primary sponsorship from Velocity Worldwide come about and, can you tell us a little bit about the company? “With the evolution of the new Corvette DP program a year ago, and the merger announced last year between GRAND-AM and the American Le Mans Series, the tone was clearly set for bringing a new client – a new sponsor – into the series at the ground level. We got to know Paul Blakely (CEO Americas) from Velocity Worldwide and I figured out fairly quickly that a lot of my clients were potentially his clients, and vice-versa. We spent the year developing a relationship and understanding what each other’s brands represented. We bounced a lot of stuff off each other and we entertained some of their clients. Meanwhile, they were developing this revolutionary new software for their digital platform. Paul and Velocity Worldwide recognized sports car racing as a great place to do business. I think they’re going to bring stuff to the series, to the racing fraternity, that’s never been seen before. They can, basically with their new digital platform called Darius, tell you exactly what your return is on investment in real-time. It’s exciting. We’ve learned by doing all these years in racing that it takes a lot of work and effort to make the programs work like we did for our good partners like SunTrust and Toshiba. As you evolve, you have to add more to drive more revenue. What Velocity Worldwide can do is not only measure the return on investment, but also streamline the way companies try to generate revenue. The programs we did initially with Toshiba and SunTrust were highly successful, and I can see really going to the next step with Velocity Worldwide. For race teams, drivers and owners, this is going to be an area where anybody will be able to use this platform. There are so many agencies out there, so many driver managers and people like that who are trying everything to bring more money into the sport, we believe these tools we’re going to have thanks to Velocity Worldwide will help the racing industry. Basically, in the branding of Velocity and Wayne Taylor Racing, the greatest part of this relationship is we are both as passionate about each other’s program as we are about our own. Working together has been just fantastic. It’s as exciting for me as driving the racecars that I did many years ago.”
Your younger son Jordan assumes the role of Max’s full-time co-driver this year after you enjoyed a successful three-year run with your older son Ricky. Is there a pattern developing here? “Well, we’re preparing to get me back in the seat (laughs). Seriously, this is such a difficult sport, a difficult game, a difficult business that, when you have an opportunity to make it a family affair, you do that. But you only do that if you really understand they have the talent to do this job. If they don’t have the talent, you don’t just do it. Both Ricky and Jordan have shown they have the talent to do the job. We felt that Ricky driving with us was putting him in the best position for his career. We feel happy to see him move on. That was something we always wanted to achieve. So, I thank those guys at Spirit of Daytona. He did win seven races with us and 10 poles. Jordan, having his three-race deal with General Motors to run the Corvette at Sebring, Le Mans and the Petit Le Mans, obviously that’s not enough racing for the year. When Ricky left, Jordan was just the obvious choice. He and Max get along really well. So I think this could be a really good year. Honestly, I’m so thankful to everybody and proud that I’ve been able to do this.”
You also were able to secure Ryan Hunter-Reay as your third co-driver this weekend, fresh off his IndyCar championship. How do you feel about your driver lineup for this year’s Rolex 24? “With help from Mark Kent and Chevrolet, we were able to get Ryan’s services to join Jordan and Max. I’ve always been a fan of Ryan’s from way, way back. I got to drive with him when I was still driving. I think this is exciting. He just won the IndyCar championship. He’s on a roll. He’s the winningest American IndyCar driver out there. He has a lot of experience in these long-distance races. I think he’s going to be a great partner for us and we look forward to working with him this weekend.”
Wayne Taylor Racing