What is a perennial championship-contending race team to do? Saturday’s disappointing fifth-place finish in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Montreal 200 at the legendary Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor just typifies the kind of season the No. 10 SunTrust Corvette Dallara DP team of Wayne Taylor Racing has had to endure.
With less than 30 minutes to go in the two-hour sprint race on the 2.71-mile, 15-turn home of the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix, the 23-year-old Taylor had a solid second-place finish well in-hand when Ryan Dalziel in the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport Ford Riley gave him an inadvertent shove from behind and sent him spinning while trying to negotiate the course’s right-hand hairpin turn 10.
Taylor was able to resume, but all the way back in sixth place. And the deficit to the eventual podium finishers was just too much to make up under green-flag conditions that prevailed over the final 20-plus minutes, leaving the SunTrust team having to swallow another bitter pill in the form of a fifth-place finish.
“I could see everyone was kind of struggling with tire wear and had their hands full,” Taylor said in describing the lap-49 incident while he, Dalziel and the polesitting No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP now driven by Alex Gurney were running nose-to-tail in third, fourth and fifth, respectively. “We went into the hairpin and were working through GT traffic. I felt a hit in the rear and that was pretty much it for us. He (Dalziel) came and apologized afterward, so I know it wasn’t anything intentional.
But it cost us the race, really. We had a good, solid P2 car. We had good track position, we were ahead of the 99 (Gurney), which was a really dominant car all weekend. The 01 (Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, the eventual race-winner) was really a strong car today so, at the end of the day, a second-place finish was really feasible for us. The best thing for us today was that we had a great strategy and the pit stops were incredible. We gained positions every time, even on the 8 (Dalziel), which at one time had an eight-second lead on us.”
Taylor’s day began 50 minutes into the race when he took over the SunTrust Corvette DP from the veteran Italian Angelelli, who held steady during his opening stint in the fourth position he earned in qualifying Friday afternoon. Taylor got by Darren Law in the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP shortly after a lap-22 restart for third, and he stayed there until the day’s final scheduled stop for tires and fuel with 45 minutes remaining.
Back in fourth place after the green-flag stop, Taylor bided his time behind Gurney in the Gainsco Corvette DP for the next 10 minutes before passing him for third with some 35 minutes of racing left. Dalziel also passed Gurney and stayed close behind Taylor until the fateful incident in the hairpin five laps later.
“Today was another one of those days,” said Angelelli, who won this race for SunTrust in 2007 with Jan Magnussen and in 2009 with Brian Frisselle. “It’s become kind of common for us this year, unfortunately. It’s a shame. We were ahead of the 99 before the incident and were looking good for a podium finish, for sure – either second or third. It was just such an unlucky occurrence. It took away what would have been a really good day for us. Other than that, my stint was pretty uneventful.”
The top-five finish was the SunTrust team’s fifth in 11 races this season, offset by a highly uncharacteristic five DNFs (did not finish) that have left Angelelli and Taylor scrambling to try and salvage an eighth top-three finish in the season-ending points since joining the Rolex Series in 2004. The team dropped from 10 to 14 points behind today’s third-place finishing No. 5 Action Express Corvette, which also held onto the third-place position in the championship standings with two races remaining.
Pruett and Rojas, the two-time-defending series champions, scored their second victory of the season by a 22-second margin over runners-up Gurney and Jon Fogarty in the Gainsco Corvette DP. Dalziel and the No. 8 Starworks Ford team, after having served a 15-second penalty for contact deemed avoidable in the incident with Taylor, ended up eighth and dropped from within six points to 18 points behind Pruett and Rojas for the championship lead with two races remaining.
“Every single race, it seems something has just bitten us this season,” team owner Wayne Taylor said. “The guys did a spectacular job in the pits today. We were on strategy for a solid podium finish. But, once Dalziel took Ricky out, our race was over. At that point, we knew we were going to finish second because we knew the 60 (Oswaldo Negri in the Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley) needed to pit for fuel, which it did.
Dalziel came and apologized to Ricky, but we still are out a second-place finish that would have really kept us on pace for a top-three finish in the points by season’s end, which has become our goal the way this season has gone. Now, we have two weekends off to get our stuff together for the final two races of the season. We need to just keep performing at our best and hope the results actually reflect the effort we put into it.”
Next up for the SunTrust Racing team is the Continental Tire Sports Car Festival on Sunday, Sept. 9, at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca near Monterey, Calif.
Source: SunTrust Racing