Ricky & Jordan Taylor, Konica Minolta Corvette DP Team earn much-needed runner-up result in Lone Star Le Mans at Circuit of the Americas in Austin
After back-to-back years of hard luck on race day at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, co-drivers Ricky and Jordan Taylor and their No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP team for Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) broke through with a solid podium finish during Saturday’s Lone Star Le Mans race, the penultimate event on the 2015 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship calendar.
For once, it was an almost squeaky-clean performance from start to finish for the Taylor brothers on the colorful 3.4-mile, 20-turn circuit, and it was business-as-usual flawless work in the pits by the WTR crew and strategists that led to the team’s second-place finish and fifth podium of the season after two hours and 40 minutes of racing in grueling Texas heat.
Younger brother Jordan Taylor, who qualified the No. 10 Corvette DP fourth late Friday afternoon, made short work of jumping ahead two positions on the opening lap of today’s race and held his position behind polesitter Scott Pruett in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates entry before the first caution period of the race ended an initial, 23-minute green-flag run.
We didn’t have the car to win, I don’t think, today, but the team gave us a shot and that’s all you can ever ask for.
Taylor pitted from second place, as did a majority of the lead pack – some taking tires, some not – and a variety of strategies already began to unfold for the remainder of the race. He resumed in fifth place and began the next 46 minutes of green-flag racing making solid but fortunately insignificant contact with the fourth-place No. 31 Action Express Racing Corvette DP of Eric Curran on the restart as the two cars rounded turn one.
Curran and Taylor eventually worked their way up to first and second as others in front of them pitted on their different strategies, and Taylor was called back into the pits on lap 33, one hour and 14 minutes into the race, for fresh tires and fuel and to hand the No. 10 Corvette DP over to his brother.
“It was a good couple of green-flag runs,” said Taylor, who finished seventh here a year ago after a freak incident in the first corner of the very first lap after a late-race penalty took them out of contention here the previous year. “It was a hot day, so we were trying to extend my stint to make Ricky’s a little bit shorter. I did two green-flag runs and they were pretty clean for the most part. We ran second for pretty much the whole day.
I was behind the 01 for my first one and then was somewhat stuck behind the 31 for my second stint. That kind of opened up strategy a bit and stopped us early from behind the 31 when he couldn’t jump into the pits. And Ricky pretty much kept it clean from there. The 31 pretty much took himself out of the race a little later. Same for the 5 car (Action Express Racing Corvette DP of Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa). And the 01 was too far ahead to catch. Second place, I think we’re pretty happy with that today.”
Just four laps into his stint, Ricky Taylor brilliantly escaped what could have been another heavy dose of bad luck at this track when he juked hard to the left, then to the right, in threading the needle between a pair of spinning cars ahead of him to hold onto second place.
After the final round of pit stops were completed by the field with some 42 minutes remaining, Taylor found himself in second place behind Memo Rojas in the No. 0 Delta Wing prototype with Joey Hand in the No. 01 Ganassi Ford closing quickly. The three bunched up with some 34 minutes remaining in a skirmish for the lead with Hand emerging in first, Rojas falling to third and Taylor remaining in second.
Hand gradually pulled away from there and crossed the finish line 16.9 seconds ahead of the runner-up Taylor with Richard Westbrook in the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Corvette DP he shares with Michael Valiante finishing third. It was the first victory for the No. 01 Ganassi team since this race a year ago.
“We had a good day, I think,” Ricky Taylor said. “The team maximized our performance for the day. The stops were great. The strategy was good. We didn’t have the car to win, I don’t think, today, but the team gave us a shot and that’s all you can ever ask for. It’s nice to get on the podium again in front of all of our Konica Minolta partners who came out in full force this weekend to cheer us on. We’ll go on to Petit (Le Mans at Road Atlanta) and build on this momentum and hopefully close out the year on a positive note like we did last year with a really huge win.”
The runner-up finish, combined with the third-place finish by the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP, enabled the Taylor brothers to shave just two points off their deficit to the championship lead. They now trail Westbrook and Valiante by 16 points heading to the final race of the season. They are, however, now just 10 points behind the Nos. 5 and 31 Action Express Corvette DPs, which finished fifth and sixth here today.
“I would say it was a pretty good weekend for us,” team owner Wayne Taylor said. The team performed perfectly. The drivers did an outstanding job. The pit stops were perfect. We ran hard, we had no problems throughout the race. We couldn’t have done this without Chevrolet, Konica Minolta, and especially their participation in just coming to the races with us. That says a lot and means a lot to have such a level of high executive power to come and be with us and we really appreciate that. It’s been such an up-and-down year on the racetrack when, in reality, I think we’ve led just about every race all year. We’re back to where we can at last get back to a top-two finish in the final standings at Road at Road Atlanta. That’s the plan, and then we’ll move closer to trying to win the championship outright in 2016.”
The 2015 Tudor United SportsCar Championship concludes Oct. 3 with the annual Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. Saturday’s 10-hour endurance race will be broadcast live with FOX Sports 2 and IMSA.com alternating segments beginning at 11 a.m. EDT. FOX Sports 1 will air a three-hour race highlight show at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 4.
Wayne Taylor Racing