52nd Rolex 24 At Daytona is a family affair in the truest sense as dad comes out of retirement to drive with his sons, former co-driver
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 21, 2014) – Three-time sports car champion and two-time Rolex 24 At Daytona winner Wayne Taylor hung up the racing gloves as a full-time competitor in 2006 and, albeit for one-off appearances in the 2007 through 2010 Rolex 24s, he says he hasn’t missed it one bit while running the perennially championship-contending team that bears his name.
But for this weekend’s 52nd Rolex 24 on the Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway road circuit, Taylor has decided to come out of retirement to fulfill one of his racing dreams by co-driving for the first time with both of his sons Ricky and Jordan, as well as his longtime friend and business partner Max “The Ax” Angelelli, with whom he co-drove to the 2005 Rolex 24 race win and season-long championship.
Angelelli and the 22-year-old Jordan Taylor came within 21 seconds of winning this race a year ago with a near-flawless performance by the WTR organization and its No. 10 Corvette. They went on to win five races in 2013, including the final three of the season in thoroughly dominating fashion to clinch the final Rolex Series driver championship for Angelelli and the younger Taylor brother.
With 24-year-old Ricky Taylor returning to the team after a one-year stint driving the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP team, the decision to join his sons and Angelelli for this year’s festivities at their home racetrack was an easy one for longtime Apopka, Fla., resident Wayne Taylor, who first won the Rolex 24 with Scott Sharp and Jim Pace in 1996 before scoring his second win with Angelelli and Frenchman Emmanuel Collard in 2005.
The Taylor brothers will assume the role of full-time co-drivers for the inaugural, 12-race Tudor Championship schedule for 2014 while Angelelli steps out of his full-time role to become the third driver at the four North American Endurance Cup events – the Rolex 24, the 12 Hours of Sebring, the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, and the Petit Le Mans.
Wayne Taylor, meanwhile, will be content this weekend to drive a minimal amount of laps around the 3.56-mile, 12-turn superspeedway road course and leave the lion’s share of the driving to his sons, who already have a championship and an impressive 14 Rolex Series wins between them, and Angelelli, who’s hoisted first-place trophies 26 times since joining the Rolex Series in 2004.
The green flag flies at 2:10 p.m. EST Saturday for the 52nd Rolex 24 with the FOX network providing two hours of live television coverage beginning at 2 p.m. FOX Sports 2 takes over from 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday while FOX Sports 1 concludes the television coverage from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. IMSA.com will stream live video and audio from 9 p.m. Saturday to 7 a.m. Sunday, while the Motor Racing Network will provide live radio for the race’s entirety on MRNRadio.com and SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.
JORDAN TAYLOR, driver, No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype for Wayne Taylor Racing:
There are obviously a lot of storylines swirling around the team and its competitors for this year’s Rolex 24. What’s on your mind in particular as we’ve finally arrived at race week?
“I’m pretty calm, personally. Certainly haven’t gotten too worked up about it. It is a huge race, a 24-hour, which is always the case at Daytona. In some respects, though, there is not so much pressure on you as a driver the first 20 hours of the race. Not a ton of pressure until those last few hours when, whoever is in the car, will be under pressure to get it to the end. We’ve got all the confidence in the world in each other – the drivers, the mechanics, the pit stop crew, the guys calling strategy. Those are the things we really don’t have to worry too much about. The unpredictable part, as we saw again at the test, is that traffic is a mess out on the track. I got only a few clean laps in three days of testing. If I wasn’t watching where I was going, there were times I would’ve had a car driving straight into me. So, everyone will have to take it easy at certain times. The key to this race, like it always is, is to just stay on the lead lap, take it easy, and not get in trouble. It was a little difficult to get a clear picture of who was trying to do what at the test. But, as for what we can control, our car, our team, we’re pretty confident because our car was nice to drive at that pace.”
How exciting is it for you to be co-driving with your brother and Max and your dad?
“To be honest, I’m not really thinking about it too much. It is cool and special, but also kind of weird at the same time. We’ve all been at the track together our whole lives, so it doesn’t feel that much different, other than the fact we’re in the same car together for the first time. We’ve been talking about getting together our whole lives, so it’s almost a natural fit now that we’re all doing it. If we can at least get on the podium, it will be very special. Max is pretty much an older brother to me – I’ve known him since I was 7. He’s always been there for me. Now, everyone is in the same car and we’re one, big, happy family. As long we all do what we know how to do, it’ll be a nice environment. If things start to go wrong, knowing each other so well can probably help us fight our way through anything.”
Max and Ricky have co-driven with your dad and you have not. Can you talk specifically about driving with your dad?
RICKY TAYLOR, driver, No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype for Wayne Taylor Racing:
Are you caught up in the excitement of returning to the team, co-driving with your brother, your dad and Max?
“I’m definitely focused on the race, first and foremost. I think, in a lot of ways, for me it’s just another race. My dad will be driving with us, so obviously that’s something very special. We’ve all been answering lots of questions about what it’s like driving together. Past that, it’s probably the biggest 24-hour I’ve ever done. I’ve been working on what I always work on and that’s winning the race. It’s Daytona, there’s been a merger that’s created this exciting, new series. We have the situation with the team coming off a championship. I think there are a lot of factors going into the race this year that makes it really big and really special. But, bottom line, we’re all here to win a race and we’ll deal with the rest of it after it’s all over.”
How did you feel about the team’s performance at the Roar Before the 24 Test Days?
“I think it’s really difficult to tell how everybody really stacks up until you get to the race weekend. Obviously, we have a good feeling about our particular performance. We had no really long runs. I’m not sure many if any other teams had that luxury. So, it’ll be interesting to see how all the different cars react. At the test, conditions went from cold to hot, back to cold, and back to hot. There were lots of different scenarios and we saw different cars react differently as the conditions kept changing. Considering the race weekend is going to throw a lot of different conditions at us, I think we’ll see different teams have good moments and bad moments at various times. It’s certainly going to be interesting and challenging. The main thing will be to have a good car over the last few hours.”
You’re back with the team after being away for a year. How has it been getting reacclimated?
“I drove with Max for three years and he’s continuing with us in the endurance races this year. We’re definitely used to working with each other. I’m accustomed to his advice and criticism and it’s all good. I’m driving with Jordan, really, for the first time but, after three test sessions, it already seems like we’ve been teammates for a whole year. So, it doesn’t feel like there’s been any learning curve. I feel like I’ve been with him for a good, long while, now. It’s a cool feeling for us to hand the car off to each other. One funny thing is, people think we’re similar as drivers but, in reality, that’s absolutely not the case. We’re definitely not similar. Before the season, we met with Brian (Pillar) our engineer and we went over what we thought were our strengths and weaknesses, and he told us what he thought they were, as well. He was spot on. It’s nice that Jordan and I can complement each other. There are things I’m not good at that he’s good at, and vice-versa. Hopefully, the team can use us as tools for the various jobs that need to be done out on the racetrack. I think that’s a good thing. Over the years, we’ve kind of been figuring out our differences. It’s good that there is this contrast between us.”
MAX ANGELELLI, driver, No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype for Wayne Taylor Racing:
You’ve had many exciting moments at Daytona, but this must certainly be one of the most special Rolex 24s ever. Do you agree?
“Yes, I feel very happy, very grateful for this very unique opportunity. Wayne and I have had a very unique relationship since 1999 and have won races and championships together. I have known Ricky and Jordan since they were very young, and I have enjoyed working with them, helping them, trying to teach them everything I could. It has been an enormous undertaking in a lot of ways, but the enjoyment is incredible. Now we’ve seen them racing for so many years, showing how successful they can be. They are very fast and very focused. It’s very, very enjoyable. I have so much enjoyment from everything that has happened with this family. Every bit of time and energy has been worth it, and I’m fortunate to see what will be happening here this weekend and this year with my own eyes. It’s priceless. I don’t have a blood relationship with the Taylors. I’m just a family friend. So, being able to drive together with Ricky, Jordan and Wayne, I feel very grateful to be accepted and be on board with them. It’s a great gift.”
You’re stepping out of your full-time role as co-driver to be the third driver at the endurance events. Your thoughts on that?
“The way I see it, I am going to focus on winning the North American Endurance Cup. It is a championship within the championship – the four endurance races. Daytona is the first race of that championship and, for me, it’s a championship that I really would like to win. The importance of the race itself this weekend is enormous. It’s the first race of the year. There is the usual tension that goes with that. The level of driving talent and the number of cars is massive. It is the first race of the new series. We’ll be trying to win the race as always. And if we don’t win, we want to finish the race intact and on the podium. If we have a shot at the end, if we feel comfortable, if the car is competitive, we will do anything to win the race.”
Shortly after winning the 2013 Rolex Series driver championship with Jordan, you celebrated by fulfilling a lifelong dream and taking flight in a fighter jet. How was that experience for you last October?
“That was something that I spent many, many months to build, to organize, to orchestrate. It was planned so much ahead of time, it just so happened that we won the championship along the way. It was a nice way to maximize the enjoyment of my trip to Russia to fly in a MIG-29 – as a champion. That was very much a welcome thing to go there under those circumstances. I don’t have enough words to explain how amazing the whole thing was. It was so unreal. You actually feel like you were on a mission. Everything you see, the way they treat you, what you experience, it’s just much better than what you see in the movies. You have your behind in the seat of that jet and it’s a flight without limits. We were able to really push it hard. So I really got the absolute most out of it. I want to do it again.”
WAYNE TAYLOR, owner, No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype for Wayne Taylor Racing:
You set to be living out a racing dream this weekend and that is to co-drive with both of your sons at the Rolex 24. What are your thoughts about this momentous opportunity?
“I’m really only doing this for the family and the boys and Max and my team and all my partners. When I stopped driving full-time back in 2006, I was done with driving and have been ever since. Having said that, I knew that an opportunity to drive with my boys might never come again, so I really had to think hard about it. I did some laps – I didn’t do a lot – but I enjoyed myself enough, especially night driving, to say I’m prepared to do this. So, I’m really looking forward to it. At the same time I’m a little nervous. In my career, I always was the guy who was the fastest. Now, I’m the slowest, so it’s weird. My job is to stay out of trouble and stay on the lead lap. One thing I’m a little worried about is some of the traffic we saw at the test. A lot of drivers appeared to be very new to this. Daytona’s all about being fast but, most importantly, about keeping the car in a good condition for the last three hours of the race. That’s when it really starts. I’m excited about driving with the boys. Having had to drive these cars now compared to when I was driving full-time, I’m inclined to say the boys are better than I ever was. It takes a 110-percent focus because these cars are really difficult, and this has proven to me what they are really made of. Yes, it’s much more difficult, but I’m up to the task.”
What did you think of the team’s performance at the test?
“We’re relatively OK with where we are. I think the regulations as we ran at the Roar were very fair. Now they’ve taken some more power away from us (the Corvette Daytona Prototypes), so we’ll see how we stack up when we hit the track on Thursday. I think this balance of performance thing is going to continue to evolve. If all things are equal, as far as the teams and drivers are concerned, we proved last year that we can not only beat everybody on the track, but we can beat them in the pits, and with strategy, and that will go a long way toward winning this thing this weekend. So the plan is to do it all over again here starting this weekend, showing that championship form this team displayed last year.”