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.
Yes, it will be a family affair in the truest sense for the drivers of the No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype for Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) as they help usher in the long-awaited Tudor United SportsCar Championship era, which represents the recent merger of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series and the American Le Mans Series.
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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”