It’s just a few hours east on the Interstate from Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., to Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga., but it felt like the two world-class road courses are light years apart for Max Angelelli, Jordan Taylor and the rest of the No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Corvette Dallara DP team of Wayne Taylor Racing after Saturday’s GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Visual Studio Ultimate Grand Prix of Atlanta.
Angelelli, whose victory two weeks ago was the 22nd of his Rolex Series career and the first Daytona Prototype-class win for his 21-year-old co-driver Taylor, was actually three laps from bringing home the No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Corvette in fourth place – which still would have been a disappointment in itself.
But, heading into the high-speed right-hand turn one on the third-to-last lap of the race, Angelelli was dive-bombed on the inside by the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford of Antonio Pizzonia. The Brazilian was carrying so much speed that the only thing that appeared to keep him on course was Angelelli and the Velocity Worldwide Corvette on the outside.
Heavy contact was made – enough to break the right-front upright suspension piece on the No. 10 car – and Angelelli ventured off into the grass. The Italian was able to resume, but not before losing fourth place to Pizzonia, and then fifth place to Richard Westbrook in the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP.
Whether the incident was coincidental remains to be seen, but it was Angelelli and Pizzonia who got together in turn one two races ago at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, and the Velocity Worldwide driver was issued a harsh, 60-second penalty that relegated the No. 10 Corvette to a 10th-place finish after dominating a good portion of the race to that point. As of Saturday evening, no penalty had been levied against the No. 6 team.
“Same drivers, opposite result, it’s very disappointing,” Angelelli said immediately after the race. “It did not cost us the race win today, like the outcome of the incident at Texas might have, but it was clear we had a solid podium car today, quite possibly a second-place car. It just didn’t turn out that way, so there are many questions we need to sit down and find answers to before we go racing again.”
Once again, Taylor started the day with a clean opening stint from the third starting spot on a grid determined by team point standings after qualifying Friday was rained out.
While Memo Rojas in the championship-leading and polesitting No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley that jumped out to and maintained a comfortable lead from the start, Taylor kept the Velocity Worldwide Corvette hot on the heels of Jon Fogarty in the No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP.
After dogging Fogarty for the opening 20 laps, Taylor finally got by to take over second place at the 32-minute mark of today’s two-hour, 45-minute event. Taylor then got to within 2.2 seconds of Rojas before the Ganassi driver pitted for tires, fuel and a driver change at the 49-minute mark, handing the lead over to the Velocity Worldwide car for the next three laps. Taylor then pitted to hand the No. 10 Corvette over to Angelelli at the 53-minute mark.
“I think it was an average stint for me,” Taylor said. “We wanted to move forward from third. But, once we got going, we kind of settled into a pace and stayed in third. Fogarty got caught up in traffic and we were able to pass him that way.
Traffic was a big deal. It could separate everyone really quickly. I was lucky to get him there and then get a good gap on him. We were in a comfortable second place for quite a while, even most of the way through Max’s stint. But then all the strategy came into play. I think we made good calls in the pits. I think it was just an unfortunate incident at the end.”
Angelelli resumed behind Scott Pruett, who was now in the No. 01 Ganassi BMW, and the two held down the top two positions for the rest of that stint after the rest of the field cycled through green-flag pit stops.
The final round of green-flag stops occurred with roughly 40 minutes remaining. While Pruett and Angelelli and the rest of the leaders took on fuel and tires, the No. 99 Gainsco Corvette, now driven by Alex Gurney, took on fuel only and slipped back into the running order between Pruett and Angelelli.
Then, Ryan Dalziel in the No. 2 Starworks with Alex Popow Ford Riley, who made his final stop several laps earlier, was able to slip past Angelelli, who had just rejoined the race on cold tires. That left Angelelli in fourth place but on significantly newer tires than Gurney had on the No. 99 Corvette down the closing stretch.
But, not only was Gurney able to stay ahead of Angelelli to hold down the final podium spot, the fateful incident with Pizzonia cost the Velocity Worldwide team two more precious positions.
“It’s incredibly disappointing,” team owner Wayne Taylor said. “The 01 car was in a different league. The guys won the race. They deserved to win. At the beginning of the race, it was clear we didn’t have a car to win, but we definitely had a podium car. To end up sixth is just not good enough.”
Wayne Taylor Racing