‘The Axe’ Has Developed A Velvet Edge
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Max the Axe. It’s a hard-edge nickname for a hard edge sports car driver. One whose every move, thought and ethic are focused on one thing and one thing only; getting his car and himself to checkered flags before every other man, woman or child sharing his track.
No, Max Angelelli would seem to be the unlikeliest of all people to whom you would turn over your children’s future and career. But Grand-Am Rolex team-owner Wayne Taylor has pretty much done that – by pairing his sons with Angelelli in the seat of his Daytona Prototype – and the result has been impressive.
Ricky Taylor is Wayne Taylor’s 24-year-old son who was 19 when he was assigned to co-drive the WTR DP with Angelelli in 2008. Two years later, Ricky and Angelelli finished second in points with a win at Lime Rock and six other podium finishes. In 2011, the two again finished second in points on the strength of three Grand-Am wins and six straight poles.
This year, papa Taylor has turned his youngest son, 22-year-old Jordan, over to Angelelli and the results has been similarly successful: two victories and three straight poles in eight races heading into the next event, which is at Road America. And, until their No. 10 Corvette was spun by A.J. Allmendinger while leading with less than an hour to go, Angelelli and Jordan Taylor were at the top of the series standings.
The 46-year-old Angelelli shakes his head and issues a staccato string of no-no-no’s when it is suggested to him that he has been like a second father to the Taylor kids. More like an uncle.
“We have a very tight relationship,” Angelelli said in his still medium-strong Italian accent during a visit to
Kansas Speedway – site of the Aug. 17 Grand-Am race – this week. “I feel honored to be part of the family with Wayne and Shelley (Wayne’s wife).
“I like to feel I’m part of the family. It’s a tough business and you don’t have this kind of relationship very often between people.”
Angelelli was born in Bologna, Italy. Early in life, his goal was to become an Olympic swimmer. His interests soon turned to racing. One of his early rides was for a meat company. When not on the track, he would sell the meat to local restaurants and he was paid not in cash but in prosciutto hams.
After that, his career took a more conventional course for European drivers as he made his way up to Formula 3. He would begin racing in America in the late 1990s. In 1999, he finished second at the Rolex 24 in Daytona. Angelelli ran in the American Le Mans Series and drove in the 24-hour race at Le Mans.
In 2004, he teamed with Wayne Taylor– who was also a top-tier driver at that point – at SunTrust Racing. In 2005, Taylor and Angelelli won the Grand-Am drivers championship together. In 2007, Wayne Taylor Racing was establish with Taylor and Angelelli were the drivers.
Beginning in 2008, the elder Taylor stepped back from driving full time in order to run the team. Angelelli did not.
In 2010, Ricky Taylor joined the team as his co-driver. And this year, Jordan, already a veteran of the Grand-Am GT class, is in the DP Corvette full time.
Jordan, who remembers being a pre-schooler walking through paddocks at places like Sebring and Daytona wearing “little drivers suits” while holding dad’s hand, and “The Axe” have known each other for a long time. More than just known, as Jordan says.
Perhaps that is why Jordan had a few streaks of apprehension run through his head when they became teammates.
“Max went through a lot of teammates in his career and I don’t think they all left happily,” Jordan said as he sat
under a canopy near the Kansas Speedway pit wall. “It was always a tough relationship. But I’ve known Max for 15 years now and he’s more like a brother and we have a great relationship. Before driving with him, I was worried that the relationship would change.
“I think my dad was hesitant to put Ricky with him or even me with him because we didn’t know how he would treat us and work with us. But it’s been a happy surprise, a happy deal. I think it was the best decision we could have made.”
Jordan says look at the results of pairing the Jordan boys with Angelelli. It’s no co-incidence that the numbers impress.
“He definitely takes it seriously,” Jordan, looking much younger than 22 if that’s possible, said. “I think he likes to help us; both my brother and me. He’s helped us a lot and he’s proud of that. He’s been a great mentor and I don’t think he ever expected to be in that position of mentor. His residual mentality is mostly about himself and winning races but he’s taken on a different role the last four years of being more like family with us and it’s been a great couple of years.”
Angelelli can show some very family-like traits when talking about the Taylors. He can get defensive about Ricky and Jordan when he’s questioned about their abilities.
Asked at Kansas if he thinks he has played a role in turning two young boys with a championship-winning team-owner/father into top tier racers, Angelelli vaulted to their defense.
“They are great kids. The deserve to be where they are,” Angelelli said. “And not by name, but by results. I’m very proud of both of them and very proud to have drove with both of them. It’s been good for me. It’s been a good experience.”
The familial bond also shows when he’s asked to compare Ricky and Jordan as drivers.
“No,” he said at the request. “No, because why should I? It’s two different generations of racing experience. They are different persons, different drivers, different competitors. To me, it’s not about the differences or the good or the bad. What’s important to me is the final results. That is, poles and wins. Forget about that (comparing them). Everybody is different. I am different than you, you are different than me. As long as we reach the results, that’s all that counts.”
Angelelli says he is in no way surprised about the positive results Jordan has been able to attain in this, his rookie DP season. He cites Jordan’s experience while driving GT cars with Autohaus Racing in Grand-Am and also driving the bigger C6 Corvette GT ALMS cars in huge events like the Le Mans 24-hour race and the 12-hour Sebring race.
And he cites his last two co-driver’s natural talents.
“Let me put it this way,” Angelelli said. “I’m surprised when average drivers win races. That’s when it surprises me. But they are not average drivers, they are good drivers and they are winning races and poles so I am not surprised.”
Even with last week’s 15th-place finish at the Brickyard Grand Prix, Angelelli and Jordan Taylor remain optimistic about winning the 2013 championship. They are 19 points behind leaders Ryan Dalziel and Alex Popow of Starworks Motorsports and nine behind the second-place GAINSCO/Bob Stallings tandem of Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney.
There are four races left in the season with the next being at driver favorite Road America next weekend. With a little luck combined with the veteran talents and leadership of Angelelli and the youthful talents of Jordan Taylor, the Rolex Grand-Am Series could have a DP championship with an extended family feel to it, if not a Hollywood name to it: Jordan and The Axe.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at email@example.comNo Comment