Stars of Karting Has Laid a Solid Foundation for Ricky and Jordan Taylor It was pouring rain in the early stages of the June 21 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series EMCO Gears Classic at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course near Lexington. Strapped into...
Stars of Karting Has Laid a Solid Foundation for Ricky and Jordan Taylor
It was pouring rain in the early stages of the June 21 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series EMCO Gears Classic at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course near Lexington. Strapped into the No. 47 Doran Racing Ford Dallara was 18-year-old Ricky Taylor, who was making only his third career start in America's most competitive road racing series.
Never having driven a Daytona Prototype in such treacherous conditions, young Taylor tapped into his experience from years ago in the Snap-On Stars of Karting to help get him through his driving stint surrounded by 40 other fierce competitors on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road circuit.
"My Stars of Karting experience taught me how to race in the rain," said Taylor, who co-drove the No. 47 prototype with Burt Frisselle at Mid-Ohio and the duo combined for a seventh-place finish in the 2-hour, 45-minute race. "The only other times I ever raced in the rain before Mid-Ohio was in my karting and Skip Barber days, so that was the only thing I had to refer back to as to what I needed to do, where I needed to be on the track, and what lines I needed to take. It really got me through my stint without any problems."
Taylor just last January made his first career Rolex Series start co-driving the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley of Wayne Taylor Racing team alongside his three-time sports car championship-winning father, Wayne Taylor, as well as full-time team co-drivers Max Angelelli and Michael Valiante at the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona.
The younger Taylor is one of the most recent Stars of Karting alumni to rise into the major auto racing ranks. His head-turning performance at Daytona, during which he drove the SunTrust Racing machine into the lead in the opening hours and resulted in an overall fifth-place finish, led to his second Rolex Series start just a few months later at Virginia International Raceway near Alton. There, Taylor co-drove with another relative youngster, Jared Beyer, in the No. 19 Beyer Racing Ford Crawford. Taylor qualified fifth and drove another steady opening-race stint before handing the car off to Beyer.
Taylor is slated to get behind the wheel of the No. 47 Doran Racing Ford Dallara at the next two Rolex Series events at Daytona (July 3) and Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. (July 20). In addition, he's driving full-time in the 12-race IMSA Lights Prototype class of the American Le Mans Series, where he drove the No. 11 Brach's Racing Team Elan DP02 to his first series victory in only his fourth series start May 17 at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah.
Younger brother Jordan Taylor, who turned 17 in May and, like Ricky, was a Stars of Karting regular in 2005 and 2006, has also been making noise in the Rolex Series, American Le Mans Series, and the F2000 Championship Series this year. Jordan also made his Rolex Series debut at this year's Rolex 24 At Daytona, becoming one of the youngest in history to pilot a racing machine in America's most prestigious endurance race when he strapped himself into the No. 17 Terra Firma Motorsports Porsche GT-class entry that scored a top-15 finish.
As they make their steady rise through the racing ranks, both Taylor brothers remain strong advocates for the racing education they received in the Stars of Karting, which hails SunTrust as its Official Bank for the third year in a row.
"I think everybody has to start in karting, and Stars of Karting is definitely the most competitive karting in North America and the best place to make a start," Ricky Taylor said. "It's got a long history, a lot of competition, different classes, and I think it's just a great starting place. The whole karting thing really taught me about car control and what it takes to do well, and pass, and race, in general. It's that foundation and learning the basics of racing there that has helped me so much."
"It was a great formula to start my career," Jordan Taylor said. "Basically, you start from the basics as a Cadet, and it teaches you all the fundamentals to make your way to the top class of karting. And then, that championship pushes you into the next system, which is Skip Barber or another small formula. So I think Stars of Karting is a great starting position on the ladder for young drivers. It's definitely the most competitive championship in North America for karting. It brings teams and drivers from all over the world and they go to the best facilities in America. More than any other championship, it has more drivers and the level of the drivers is so much higher. The experience was priceless."
Another youngster, 14-year-old Spencer Pigot, is in his fourth year of racing in the Stars of Karting series. He has driven his SunTrust-sponsored kart to four wins and five other podium finishes in the last two years in both Stars of Karting and World Karting Association competition.
Like the Taylor brothers who are paving the way up the racing ladder that lies ahead, Pigot is a proud supporter of the Stars of Karting series and has his sites set firmly on reaching the top levels of the sport.
"I think it's a really good series. It's all the best karters in North America. I think it's the most competitive series in the country," said Pigot, who won the WKA National Championship in 2006. "I think it's the most organized series and it's just grown and grown and has gotten good sponsors like Snap-On and SunTrust and they've liked what they've seen, as well. Some day, I'd like to race Indy cars or, obviously, Grand-Am would be really cool, too. I think the Stars of Karting is a great place to learn what I'm going to need to get to the next level."
While it's no secret most young karters like Pigot have aspirations to drive open-wheel someday, Ricky Taylor would advise at least some of them to recognize the future that lies ahead in a series like the Rolex Series.
"It seems like everybody wants to go open wheel," he said. "But they're forgetting about Grand-Am and the Rolex Series and how quickly it's growing and I think a lot of people could have a future there."
Jordan Taylor echoes those sentiments as he considers his future.
"I'm really happy with where I've gotten so far," Jordan Taylor said. "From here, I'd definitely like to keep racing prototypes and, hopefully, do at least some of the things my dad has done. I'd love to do Le Mans and all the major endurance races in sports cars, and my main goal is the top prototype championship."
Those who know these young gentlemen most certainly will not doubt their ability to reach their goals.