Brothers Ricky, Jordan Taylor survive last-lap turmoil
Saturday’s Chevrolet Sports Car Classic was just that – truly a classic – for brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor (Ricky is at the left in photo), who survived a wild final lap and held on to score their first Tudor United SportsCar Championship victory of the season and brought the No. 10 Konica Minolta Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype for Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) the victory for the second year in a row on the Raceway at Belle Isle temporary circuit in downtown Detroit.
The 24-year-old Ricky Taylor played the role of closer for the first time this season and spent his entire 54-minute stint leading today’s one-hour, 40-minute race until the final lap, when it appeared for a brief moment his door to victory number one of 2014 was slammed shut. Joao Barbosa made an inside move on Taylor, side-slammed him into the wall outside turn three and slipped past in his No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP and into the lead. However, Barbosa lost momentum, apparently having cut a tire as a result of the contact, and Taylor was able to recover and regain the lead through the sequence of turns four, five and six. Taylor wasn’t out of the woods, yet, as he had his rearview mirror full of the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP of Richard Westbrook down the long backstraight and the final five turns, but he was able to stay ahead of his 2013 teammate and take the checkered flag by .207 of a second.
“It used up the last bit of life I had to hold off Westbrook,” said Taylor, who won seven races with WTR while co-driving with veteran Italian Max “The Ax” Angelelli from 2010 through 2012. “He made it really hard and he was really good, but putting us in the wall like that was a little uncalled for. But we were racing for the win and I will take it. Otherwise, it was a great race and I have to give it up for the guys. Our Konica Minolta Corvette DP was a great car today. I just had to keep it up there and defend like mad, but I couldn’t have been out there if not for the guys, Chevrolet and everybody who supports our team. And now we’re leading the championship and that’s what we want.”
Before the last-lap drama, Taylor appeared to have little trouble maintaining a lead of anywhere from two to four seconds after the race went green for the final 27 minutes. But in the final three minutes, Barbosa pulled right behind him and began to apply heavy pressure. With two laps remaining, he attempted an outside move around the same right-hand turn three where the fateful last-lap incident occurred, but Taylor was able to hold him off that time.
For the 23-year-old Jordan Taylor, who won this race last year co-driving with Angelelli en route to the 2013 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series driver championship, his opening 46-minute stint today was somewhat as dramatic as his brother’s, but for altogether different reasons.
From the fifth starting position he earned in qualifying Friday, the younger Taylor made short work of moving into third, getting by the LMP2 prototypes of Olivier Pla and Scott Sharp by the time he finished his first tour of the 2.35-mile, 13-turn circuit.
By lap 12, 18 minutes into the race, Taylor got around Christian Fittipaldi, who started the race in the No. 5 Action Express Corvette DP, for second place. Five laps later, at the 26-minute mark, Taylor got past Michael Valiante, who started the race in the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP, and put the No. 10 WTR Corvette DP in the lead for what turned out to be the rest of the day.
The day’s first full-course caution occurred on lap 21, 36 minutes into the race, and Taylor pitted three laps later to hand the car over to his older brother. Swift work by the WTR crew put Ricky Taylor right back on track in the lead.
“Yeah, it was obviously a great start for us as we went from fifth to the lead in my stint, so I couldn’t have asked for much more,” said Jordan Taylor, who also won the GT-class race here in the Autohaus Motorsports Camaro alongside Paul Edwards in 2012. “The guys in the pits did the great job keeping the lead for us, and then Ricky obviously did a great job all the way to the end. So it’s a real team effort. I was trying to not listen or watch anything during the last few laps because it was so stressful, but we had the right guy in the car at the end. Ricky was awesome. A couple of years ago, we had to finish a race against Scott Pruett where Ricky held him off for an hour. So we knew we had the right guy in the car and, although I don’t think we had the fastest Corvette, we had the strongest guys in the pits and the right guy in the car in traffic. So we can’t really complain. It got a little aggressive unnecessarily at some points in the race, but thankfully Ricky brought it home for the win.”
The victory, coupled with the sixth-place finish by the Action Express Corvette team that led WTR and the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates teams by three points starting the day, enabled WTR to take the championship lead after five events. The Ganassi duo of Pruett and Memo Rojas finished 11th in class, 45 laps off the pace, after terminal clutch issues in the early going. WTR has now scored one victory, three second-place finishes and one seventh-place finish this season.
“For Ricky, Jordan and us as a family – I cannot put into words what this means,” team owner Wayne Taylor said. “The thing about it, Jordan won in a Camaro here in 2012, then Jordan and Max won here last year, and now the two of them won here today, just the two of them for the first time. That’s just an unbelievable run. One great thing about today was that Ricky finished the race after Jordan started for the first time this year. So, confidence-wise for both of them, this was really, really good. As for that drama on the last lap, my initial thought was, ‘That was a disgraceful move.’ You know, it’s fine to challenge for the lead and put yourself inside, but to push somebody into the wall – I guess they got what they deserved. Anyway, we beat them and we beat everybody. This proved that the two of them are totally interchangeable. I’m hoping everybody is watching these two and taking note of what they are doing. This weekend was also really special in that we had Konica Minolta here with us and I can’t think of a better way to thank them for all they do for us than by bringing home a win like this. And to do it in the backyard of our longtime partners from Chevrolet for the second year in a row, this is absolutely tremendous.”
Round six of the 2014 Tudor United SportsCar Championship is the annual Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen on Sunday, June 29 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. FOX Sports 1 will carry the television broadcast live beginning at 11 a.m. EDT. Ricky and Jordan Taylor, in the meantime, will be competing June 21-22 in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France. Both left immediately after today’s race to fly to Le Mans for Sunday’s official test day at Circuit la Sarthe. Jordan Taylor joins Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia in the factory GTE Pro-class No. 73 Chevrolet Corvette C7. Ricky Taylor joins Frenchman Pierre Ragues and Japanese woman driver Keiko Ihara in the No. 50 Larbre Competition Morgan Judd.