MAX ANGELELLI & RICKY TAYLOR
Plenty of Reason for Optimism as SunTrust Rolex Series Team Heads to Homestead
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (April 24, 2012) – It may have been nearly a month since we last saw the No. 10 SunTrust Corvette Dallara DP of Wayne Taylor Racing turning GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series race laps. But the perennial championship contenders, featuring co-drivers Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor, have certainly not been sitting still in their hopes of capturing SunTrust’s first Rolex Series title since the 2005 season.
After a devastating 14th-place result at the season-opening and 50th annual Rolex 24 At Daytona, Angelelli and Taylor rebounded with a solid fifth-place finish at last month’s Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. – the team’s best finish in five years at the scenic permanent road circuit and one that helped the SunTrust team take a huge leap from 14th to ninth in the point standings with 11 races remaining.
In the four weeks since, the SunTrust team has worked tirelessly in the best research and development labs the racing world has to offer in its quest to continue moving toward another Rolex Series title in leaps and bounds.
Probably fitting that the next stop on the 2012 schedule takes Angelelli and Taylor to Homestead-Miami Speedway, a.k.a. “The Championship Track,” where NASCAR’s Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series titles are decided each November. Like Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, the 2.3-mile, 11-turn speedway road course layout at Homestead has not been particularly kind to the SunTrust team in recent years. But it is where Angelelli and his young co-driver’s father and three-time sports car racing champion Wayne Taylor co-drove to a dominating victory en route to the 2005 Rolex Series title for SunTrust, along with runner-up finishes in 2004 and 2007.
Last year, Angelelli and the younger Taylor led a race-high 47 of 116 laps last season en route to SunTrust’s first podium finish at the track since 2007 – certainly a step in the right direction.
Having microanalyzed, tweaked and tuned on virtually every square centimeter of the orange-and-white No. 10 SunTrust Racing machine over the last month, the team heads to Homestead ready for a breakthrough run this weekend.
With 11 races to go until this year’s Rolex Series title is decided Sept. 29 at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn., Angelelli and Taylor find themselves just 17 points out of the points-leading No. 8 Starworks Motorsport Ford Riley tandem of Ryan Dalziel and Enzo Potolicchio, and just 12 points behind the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley duo of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, who won the last two championships over the runner-up SunTrust team in 2010 and 2011.
As everyone knows, Angelelli and Taylor have proven they are capable of mounting a hot streak, which is precisely what they did over the final two-thirds of the 2011 season. Beginning with their Memorial Day victory at Lime Rock, they won three times in all, started on the front row for eight consecutive races (including a near-series-record six consecutive poles by Taylor), finished on the podium seven consecutive times, and led almost 60 percent of all laps contested (514 of 897) over that span.
To make matters interesting for their Rolex Series counterparts, Angelelli and Taylor will swap driving duties this weekend for the first time in a Rolex Series “sprint” race. The veteran Angelelli, one of the most prolific finishing drivers in Rolex Series history, will assume the responsibility of qualifying the No. 10 SunTrust Corvette Dallara DP and starting every other race in alternating fashion from now till season’s end, including Sunday’s two-hour, 45-minute race. He’ll then hand the driving duties over to the 22-year-old Taylor for the finish.
At last June’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, Taylor proved to be a prolific closer in his own right when he performed flawlessly over the final two hours of the race in holding off the veteran and four-time series champion Pruett for the SunTrust team’s second of three victories in 2011. This weekend, Taylor hopes to resurrect that magical performance from last June.
Practice for Sunday’s 2-hour, 45-minute Grand Prix of Miami begins Friday morning with qualifying set for Saturday at 12:45 p.m. EDT. Race time Sunday is 1 p.m. with SPEED carrying the television broadcast live. Live radio by the Motor Racing Network (MRN) and SiriusXM Channel 117 begins with a 15-minute pre-race show at 12:45 p.m. Live timing and scoring during all on-track sessions can be found at www.grand-am.com, and on mobile devices at m.grand-am.com/laptrax.
Max Angelelli, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Corvette Dallara DP:
Your overall thoughts as you head to Homestead this weekend after a fairly successful weekend at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama four weekends ago?
“I am feeling good about going to Homestead. It has not been the typical track for us in terms of being able to win races the last several years. There are a couple of things we have this year that we didn’t have last year or the years before that, so I’m expecting to see a significant rise in our performance in terms of the recent past. One of those is a new tire. That has been the main area where we desperately needed to find improvement at Homestead. We think it will be a good tire for this track. I am very optimistic about that, and the fact we have found some things that we could do to improve the performance of the SunTrust car there. I can’t wait to get there.”
You will qualify the SunTrust car on Saturday and start Sunday’s race for one of the first times ever in a Rolex Series “sprint” race. Are you excited about the opportunity while your young co-driver will get to finish the race?
“I think it’s good for both drivers. To be honest, I would say it’s a little bit unfair that one does one thing and the other does the other thing all the time (laughs). If you change things up now and then, both drivers have the chance to experience different things – qualifying the car, finishing the race. It went very well when we did it at The Glen last summer. We have trained him well – I’d say he’s very well trained. He has already proved that he can race with the best at the end of the race. From now on, we will continue alternating each race. I qualified at Daytona, he qualified at Barber, I’ll qualify at Homestead, he’ll qualify at New Jersey, and so on. It’s always fun to get to do different things.”
Ricky Taylor, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Corvette Dallara DP:
You and Max will swap roles at Homestead for the first time this season. How are you approaching your responsibility as the closer for the first time since you scored a dominating victory last June in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen?
“It’s extra pressure, for sure. I won’t be able to make any mistakes and just trust Max to get in and make up for it. I’m really looking forward to it. I hope I can do a good enough job. I’m excited. It’s a nice responsibility. Max and my dad have been talking to me about finishing the races for some time. Last year’s Watkins Glen race was the first step, just to get my feet wet. It was a great place to do that, knowing the SunTrust car would be good, that it would be a good race for us, so it was a good first taste of being the closer. In the back of their minds, I think this was kind of their plan all along. On one hand, there is plenty of pressure being the qualifying driver and the one who starts the race. I’m definitely looking forward to what the weekend at Homestead has in store.”
After another lengthy, four-week layoff since your last race, you must simply be ready to get back into the racecar, no?
“I’m definitely ready to go. It’s nice now that we’ll be able to get into a rhythm, race weekend-wise. It helps us as drivers to get into a rhythm. We did struggle at Barber, and Homestead has not been historically a super-great track for us. But, since we moved to the Dallara (chassis in 2008), we’ve been improving every year, and this year we’ll improve again. They did a lot of tests during the break after Barber. We learned a lot about the car, so this year we have as good of a racecar as ever for Homestead. The one big goal is improved tire wear, right now. We tested this new tire at Indy last summer, and we’re looking forward to what it will be able to do for us at Homestead and when we race at Indy in July.”
Wayne Taylor, team owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Corvette Dallara DP:
Your overall thoughts heading to Homestead, among other things the fact that Max and Ricky are swapping roles beginning this weekend?
“We’ve just decided that we wanted to change things up a little bit this year, change the driver rotation where we will alternate the order each race. Other teams have tried it, and we decided that we will, too, because we have, as I’ve always said, the best two-driver lineup in the series. No matter who’s driving when, the biggest thing for us is to get a good result this weekend. We had a disastrous (Rolex 24 At) Daytona, and not a great race in Alabama even though it was our best finish there in several years. We’ve done an enormous amount of development on the car since we left Alabama, pushing all the boundaries, so we’re going to Homestead feeling rather upbeat. Barber and Homestead have been our two most challenging racetracks recently, but we’re going to Homestead this weekend with what we feel is a good car, a good setup, so we’ll see what happens. Obviously, we’ll see how the new tire works and, hopefully, that tire they’ve developed now will make it a lot easier for everybody to maintain a competitive pace all the way to the end of the race.”