It’ll be business as usual for Velocity Worldwide Corvette DP duo with Rolex Series Championship hanging in the balance at Lime Rock finale
LAKEVILLE, Conn. (Sept. 24, 2013) – It’s Championship Weekend for Max Angelelli, Jordan Taylor, their No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Corvette Dallara DP team for Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) and the rest of their GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series counterparts and, with that, Angelelli, Taylor and Company stand firmly behind the notion that this is strictly about the here-and-now – nothing more, nothing less.
Forget the fact the veteran Italian Angelelli and his 22-year-old first-year co-driver Taylor head to Saturday’s Rolex Series season finale at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn., with an eight-point lead in the driver championship, riding a two-race winning streak and with a series-high four race wins in all in 2013.
Forget the fact Angelelli and his co-driver’s older brother Ricky Taylor were a perfect three-for-three in dominating wins each of the last three seasons with the No. 10 WTR team at the historic 1.53-mile, seven-turn road course set in the rolling hills of eastern Connecticut.
All of those thoughts will be the furthest things from the minds of Angelelli, Taylor and the Velocity Worldwide Corvette DP team Saturday and it will be all about business as usual, which is precisely what put this bunch in position to clinch its first Rolex Series title in eight years with a fourth-place finish or better this weekend. That means executing its race preparation and strategy to perfection just one more time for the engineers and mechanics. It means executing what has become the team’s hallmark lightning-fast pit stops by the crew. And it means keeping it ultra clean on the tiny bullring of a road course for the fourth year in a row by Angelelli, and this year by Jordan Taylor.
Looming eerily within striking distance of the championship, eight points behind, is the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates duo of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, who have won each of the last three Rolex Series titles. Pruett has won five in his illustrious road racing career, and the Ganassi team does hold an 11-point lead in the team championship, which it can clinch simply by finishing sixth or better Saturday.
Just three points further back in the driver championship – 11 points behind Angelelli and Taylor – lies the No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP duo of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, who won Rolex Series titles in 2007 and 2009. A seventh-place finish or better Saturday by Angelelli and Taylor would eliminate the Gainsco duo.
A ninth-place finish or better by Angelelli and Taylor would eliminate the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP team’s Christian Fittipaldi, who is 13 points out of first, and an 11th-place finish or better by the WTR duo would eliminate Fittipaldi’s co-driver Joao Barbosa, who is 15 points back.
Simply reaching the 30-minute mark of the race – the minimum time required to score driver championship points – would eliminate the No. 2 Starworks BMW Riley duo of Ryan Dalziel and Alex Popow, who are 20 points back of first.
Clinch scenarios notwithstanding, Angelelli and Taylor both have been here before. For Angelelli, his road to the title on championship weekend in 2005 was not nearly as dramatic, however. He and Wayne Taylor, the three-time sports-car-racing champion, needed to simply take the green flag in that year’s Mexico City finale to clinch the team title for what was then known as No. 10 SunTrust Racing team, and they needed to simply reach the 30-minute mark of the race to claim the driver championship. They finished second in the race to earn their 10th podium finish in 14 events that season and won the championship by a whopping 34 points over the Ganassi team’s Pruett and Luis Diaz. Angelelli and Taylor were near-perfect in 2005, dominating the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona and going on to win four more races while finishing on the lead lap at every single event – that’s 2,056 of a possible 2,056 race laps – to set a Rolex Series record that still stands. They led a whopping 508 of those 2,056 race laps for a percentage of 24.7 percent on the season.
Jordan Taylor, meanwhile, is just two seasons removed from experiencing the bonafide pressures of Rolex Series Championship Weekend. He and co-driver Bill Lester took a three-point lead in the GT-class championship to the finale at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington in 2011. But a heartbreaking eighth-place finish in their No. 88 Autohaus Motorsports Camaro GT.R, combined with a fourth-place run by their rivals Andrew Davis and Leh Keen in the No. 59 Brumos Porsche, left them two points short of the title.
It was a terribly bitter pill to swallow for the then-20-year-old Taylor, who has vowed to this day to do everything in his power to never again let such an opportunity slip away. He has challenged all of his WTR teammates to follow suit this weekend and, judging by their collective performance particularly at the last two events at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca near Monterey, Calif., the No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Corvette DP effort appears more than capable to rise up to it.
Angelelli and Taylor led 126 of 228 race laps combined in their victories at Kansas and Laguna Seca to give them four victories on the season – the most for the team in a season since Angelelli and Wayne Taylor’s five in 2005. After their solid second-place run at the season-opening Rolex 24 – again, the team’s best finish at the twice-around-the-clock endurance marathon since Angelelli and Wayne Taylor’s victory in 2005 – the Italian and his 22-year-old co-driver were victorious at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., in April and on the Street of Belle Isle temporary road circuit in downtown Detroit in June.
The four victories and the runner-up finish at Daytona are the team’s only podium finishes this season, however, as their top runs were offset by finishes of 10th at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, in March after a late-race penalty, 10th at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International after a first-lap mechanical issue, and 15th at the Brickyard Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after getting taken out from behind late in the race by a guest driver from the NASCAR and IndyCar ranks.
Had it not been for the latter misfortunes, Angelelli and Taylor may well have had significantly more than an eight-point cushion in the championship standings. But, again, all of that will be the furthest thing from their minds as they look to focus one more time this season on assembling the perfect combination of race preparation, pit stops, strategy and clean racing on the racetrack.
Max Angelelli, co-driver of the No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Corvette Dallara DP for Wayne Taylor Racing:
With an eight-point lead in the championship, what will be your approach to Saturday’s season finale?
“I will personally be playing it conservatively, and this is what I have been doing so far since I began qualifying and starting the races. But, bear in mind that you can only be conservative if you have your opponents under control or behind you, so a lot of what actually happens will be determined by where we qualify, and how the early part of the race plays out.”
Just how safe do you feel, if at all, with an eight-point lead over Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas?
“In GRAND-AM, nothing is safe until we see the checkered flag. It is certainly a nice position that we are in, but anything can happen in the race on any given weekend. Just look at some of our opponents in the last few races, like the No. 5 (Action Express Racing Corvette DP) and the No. 99 (Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP). Final results are totally unpredictable. One thing for sure – it will be very exciting for the fans because there are at least eight drivers, possibly 10, who still have a mathematical chance to win the championship.”
You’re completing your 10th and final season of GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series racing, with the United SportsCar Racing series kicking off next year. Do you have a favorite memory from the last decade?
Jordan Taylor, co-driver of the No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Corvette Dallara DP for Wayne Taylor Racing:
Your thoughts about heading to Lime Rock for Saturday’s season finale?
“Going to Lime Rock with an eight-point lead, it’s a little bit of a buffer, but we can’t really change what we’ve been doing all year when things were working. Hopefully, we can keep it going one more time. There will most likely be some fireworks because Lime Rock is a difficult place to pass. Especially going through GT traffic, it’s going to be interesting. I think you’ll see some desperate guys making some desperate moves trying to win the championship. It’s a riskier track for a season finale, especially when you have the points lead and all you want is a clean day. It’s definitely a track that promotes a bit of rubbing and racing, so it’ll definitely be a good one for the fans. I think that’s why the series scheduled it this way.”
What will be your approach with an eight-point lead in the championship?
“I think we go into the race the same way we’ve gone into all these races. We went into Laguna thinking we didn’t have a car to win the race. We went into the weekend basically thinking we needed to get out of there in contention for the championship and the goal was to just beat the guys we were racing for the championship and not necessarily win the race. Then, it just so happened the car was the best it’d been all year and we were able to win the race. I think we go into Lime Rock with the same mindset, just looking to beat the guys we’re actually racing for the championship and not get caught up in a race that’s going to hurt us in the long run. We’ll be watching our contenders throughout the whole weekend.”
You went to the 2011 season finale at Mid-Ohio with a three-point lead in the GT-class championship in the No. 88 Autohaus Motorsports Camaro GT.R you co-drove with Bill Lester. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out and you fell two points of Leh Keen and Andrew Davis for the championship. Will that experience help you at all this weekend at Lime Rock?
“Going through 2011 and understanding what it feels like to go through a whole year battling for the championship, and to lose it by two points in the last race, that was pretty devastating. You basically feel like all the hard work from an entire year has been wasted and you have to wait until the following year to try it all over again. Going into Lime Rock this weekend, I know we’re in a great position to battle for the championship, but it’s never over until it’s over. Nobody on the team wants to leave Lime Rock the way I left Mid-Ohio in 2011 – I know I don’t – so we will all be pushing to do everything we can to win the championship. It’s the last year of GRAND-AM, so to win this championship would be really special for a lot of reasons.”
Wayne Taylor, team owner of the No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Corvette Dallara DP for Wayne Taylor Racing:
You’re heading to the season finale at Lime Rock on a two-race winning streak and a three-race winning streak at the track. What are your thoughts about this weekend?
“Firstly, just because we won the last two races this season, and the last three races at Lime Rock, that doesn’t mean we’re going there feeling sure of a win, or sure of anything, for that matter. The championship is so critical, we’ve just got to do what we’ve done the last two races, which is to go and make sure we don’t make any mistakes, keep the car in front. It’s all about track position so, basically, if we are able to do what we did at Kansas and Laguna Seca, we should be in pretty good shape. At this point, I’m not really thinking about the championship in terms of winning it or losing it. We just need to focus on the race itself, like we always do. We can’t clutter our minds and put any more pressure on ourselves than we need to because so many things can happen that you just can’t bank on anything. Plus, Lime Rock is the one racetrack where you can really go a lap down quickly. If you don’t have everything 100 percent right, if you don’t do everything just perfectly, you can be in really bad shape in the blink of an eye.”
Do you feel any sense of security, whatsoever, with an eight-point lead in the championship?
“An eight point lead doesn’t mean anything at the moment. Honestly, it does make you feel a little better that you’re not chasing and you’re defending. But, it’s just best not to think about any of that stuff and do what we do best, which is go race.”