Team, Drivers Buoyed by Historic GRAND-AM/ALMS Merger Announcement
MONTEREY, Calif. (Sept. 6, 2012) – On the heels of Wednesday’s blockbuster announcement that rocked the sports car racing world, the SunTrust Racing duo of Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor head to the outskirts of beautiful Monterey, Calif., for Sunday’s GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Continental Tire Sports Car Festival at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with truly grand hopes for the future.
GRAND-AM and American Le Mans Series officials gathered in Daytona Beach, Fla., early Wednesday to announce that the rival series have merged into a single sports car racing entity that will officially begin competition as such at the 2014 season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona. It was welcome news, to say the least, for SunTrust’s Angelelli and Taylor, and for countless other drivers, team owners, crewmembers, series officials, racetrack owners – pretty much anybody and everybody with a stake in the future health and viability of sports car racing in the U.S. and around the world.
Wednesday’s news was also a fitting sendoff for the drivers of the No. 10 SunTrust Corvette Dallara DP of Wayne Taylor Racing as they embark on the final two-race stretch of the 2012 Rolex Series season with, uncharacteristically enough, no championship at stake for the first time in four years. To not be heading to the season’s final races with at least a mathematical chance to win the Rolex Series title, as the team is this season despite a pair of victories and three podium finishes in all, is certainly uncommon ground for the SunTrust Racing program since it joined the series in 2004.
Champions in 2005 with Angelelli and team owner Wayne Taylor behind the wheel, runners-up the last two seasons, as well as in 2004, and third-place finishers in 2006, 2007 and 2009, the only other time the SunTrust team was not sitting in the top-three heading to the final two races was in 2008, when it finished sixth thanks, in large part, to a devastating transporter fire that destroyed its racecar and travelling equipment.
This year, the SunTrust team is seventh in the standings with two races remaining, 46 points behind the championship-leading No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley, but only 14 points behind the third-place No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP. It’ll take a little help, but keeping the top-three streak alive is still very much within the realm of possibility for Angelelli and Taylor.
The 2.238-mile, 11-turn hillside road circuit at Laguna Seca has been relatively kind to the SunTrust team in six previous visits. Angelelli and Jan Magnussen drove the SunTrust Racing machine to victory there in 2006. And Angelelli has scored back-to-back podiums in the most recent visits – with Brian Frisselle in 2009, and with Taylor last season after starting on the pole and leading a race-high 52 laps.
With an extra spring in everyone’s step after hearing Wednesday’s historic announcement, the atmosphere will be more conducive than ever for an all-out assault on the race win come Sunday afternoon at Laguna Seca.
Max Angelelli, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Corvette Dallara DP:
Talk just a bit about what the merger between GRAND-AM and the American Le Mans Series means to you. “I think it’s the greatest news we’ve had in the last 10 years, for sure. It’s not only good for us, personally, or the U.S., but good for the entire sports car world. That goes well beyond the United States. Obviously, there are many, many questions that will be answered about what exactly the series will look like and I can’t wait to find out. I would guess the new schedule will mean we will be going to Daytona and Watkins Glen, and also Sebring and Road Atlanta. If you think about just those big four racetracks, that is going to mean it’s a major, major championship. If you add all the possible sprint races and where those will take us in-between, I think that will amount to a stellar championship that everybody will want to be a part of. As for the racecars, I am very interested in knowing, as I’m sure everybody is, what kinds of racecars will be involved. But, bottom line, the announcement makes me very, very happy.”
You’re heading back to Laguna Seca this weekend, where the SunTrust team has had a good bit of success in its previous six visits. What are your expectations this weekend? “The SunTrust team has always found Laguna Seca to be a very gentle racetrack for the cars that we have brought there. These kinds of high-downforce tracks with a minimum of straightaways are where we have been strongest and they have been very good to us. I really like the track. There is a lot of history there. I really like to be in Monterey, and Carmel, and to see the Pacific Ocean and Monterey Bay. There are great places to go away from the track. It is a really nice event, and it’s an event that I’m really hoping keeps returning to our schedule next year, and for our new championship beginning in 2014. One thing I do miss this year is the pressure of racing for the championship at the end of the season. It’s something that has always been a part of SunTrust’s DNA and we just have had too many things go wrong for us this year to make it possible again. It’s a strange feeling, but it does allow us to go for the win this weekend and again at the end of the month at Lime Rock. We definitely want to get a win or two before the end of the season.”
Ricky Taylor, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Corvette Dallara DP:
What are your thoughts about the news that rocked the sports-car-racing world on Wednesday? “I’m super excited. A lot of people were a little bit pessimistic that this was ever going to happen. I think it’s great. Everybody looks back to the good old days when there were GTP cars and everybody was running as one. I never got to experience that first-hand, just look back on my dad’s racing days and hear stories about how great it once was. It’s really exciting to be a part of history. It’s a huge milestone in sports car racing. The whole class structure is going to be interesting as far as how all that works out. This kind of solidifies the feelings I’ve had for sports car racing and the future for not only me, but so many other drivers. Everybody will be working as one. There won’t be any questions about which series people will participate in, have allegiance to, debate which is better, etc. This creates a more secure home for all of us in sports car racing.”
What is your outlook as far as what to expect on the racetrack at Laguna Seca this weekend? “I think the fact that we’re not fighting for the championship at this point in the season really allows us to go out and really enjoy an aggressive, all-out fight for the race win at a track that we like a lot. It should be a good track for us. It should suit the SunTrust Corvette pretty well. We had a good race at Laguna last year. We had a blip of a problem on a late pit stop, and then Max was run off into the pit exit lane that cost us a penalty, otherwise I think we had the car to beat. With a mistake-free race this year, we should be a favorite, for sure, to get the win. We can afford to be really aggressive and go for it, and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re not holding anything back like we would if we were trying to preserve a championship bid.”
Wayne Taylor, team owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Corvette Dallara DP:
How do you feel about GRAND-AM merging with the American Le Mans Series? “Firstly, one sports car series is better than two. I think, the people who made this happen, they’ve done a great job in bringing the two entities together. This is going to make sports car racing much, much better in the U.S. and, I’m sure, internationally. Obviously, there is a load of questions as far as what kinds of cars we’re going to run and what the class structure will be like and how everything is going to fit together. As a team owner, as I’m sure is the case with everybody else in our shoes in both series right now, I just hope we don’t have to buy or build brand new racecars for 2014 after all we’ve had to invest in, lately. But it’s certainly a great opportunity for all of my partners because just about everything we do is business-to-business-based. This will give us a lot of new opportunities with teams, drivers, racetracks, race markets and everything that goes with that as both series will be under one roof. I think it will be absolutely great for someone in my position.”
As for the matter at-hand, any special thoughts about this weekend’s race at Laguna Seca? “As always, I’m looking forward to being there. It’s a truly wonderful place to visit, and a historic racetrack where we have had really good racecars. With no shot at winning the championship, we just need to go and win the race. That’s really all there is to say.”
Source: SunTrust Racing