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Taylor Puts Together ‘Monumental’ Rolex Victory

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, February 1 2021

Wayne Taylor Racing’s move to Acura was a winner over the weekend.

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – When Wayne Taylor decided to switch to Acura after 28 years with General Motors his race team found itself with two months to prepare for the Rolex 24, but the Indiana-based organization never missed a beat.

On Sunday, Wayne Taylor Racing claimed its fourth 24-hour victory at Daytona International Speedway in the last five years and recorded a record-tying third consecutive win in the round-the-clock event. Taylor and Chip Ganassi are now the only team owners with three straight Rolex 24 victories.

“Having received this car so late, it was a monumental program to put together,” Wayne Taylor said. “I was getting a whole new car, with a whole new engine, a whole new partnership. Winning today (Sunday), after only having these cars for two-and-a-half months, is a testament to the people that work on this organization. I’m eternally grateful for all of them.”

Entering the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech Championship season, the only consistency Taylor had for his new venture were three drivers who had driven for Team Penske during its three-year tenure with Acura. Those drivers were his older son Ricky Taylor and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who together won the series’ 2020 title, and Alexander Rossi, another Indianapolis 500 winner. Gone from the lineup were the drivers responsible for WTR’s last two Rolex 24 victories, including Kamui Kobayashi and Renger van der Zande. 

  For the season opening Rolex 24, Taylor encouraged his father to hire Filipe Albuquerque, whom he described as a “super star of a driver” in World Endurance Cup racing. The team skipped off-season testing, forcing Albuquerque to rely on conversations with his teammates to familiarize him with the car.  

“No question the preparation of the car (by Brian Pillar) was masterful, but I do feel that all of these years that we learned about the car we were able to give some direction, especially to Filipe,” Castroneves said.  

The pre-race preparation the three provided Albuquerque paid dividends. In the final 25 minutes, Albuquerque staved off challenges by van der Zande and Kobayashi for the victory. Van der Zande attempted to pass Albuquerque at least twice on the infield road course as well as through the backstretch chicane. 

““I could almost see his eyes in my mirror,” Albuquerque said about van der Zande. “That was probably the hardest race of my life. We started fighting for position with 12 hours to go.” 

With seven minutes remaining in the event, van der Zande’s hopes for a third straight victory evaporated when his Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac suffered its second cut tire. 

“I was lucky he had a puncture,” Albuquerque admitted. “We were not the fastest. We were pushing as hard as we could; one eye on the road and one eye on the mirrors. That’s why it was so mentally hard for us. My style of driving is always pushing, but thinking we need to finish.” 

Kobayashi inherited second in his Action Express Cadillac when van der Zande exited the fray, but he couldn’t catch Albuquerque, finishing 4.704 seconds behind him. That team included Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud, 24 Hours of Le Mans victor Mike Rockenfeller and seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.  

Ricky Taylor described the Jan. 30-31 race as “one of the most hectic, intense, flat out 24 hours I have ever been a part of.” 

Ironically, Ricky Taylor cost Albuquerque a shot at a Rolex victory in 2017. With the clock approaching the seven-minute mark, Taylor dove under leader Albuquerque as they entered turn one. The two bumped. Albuquerque spun and Taylor took the lead and the victory.

 “Life is funny,” Albuquerque said after Sunday’s win. “Three years ago we crashed, three years later we win together. The world spins a lot. If we are happy and fair to each other it’s karma; it will give you back.” 

Sunday’s Rolex 24 victory was the first for Rossi and Castroneves and the second for Ricky Taylor and Albuquerque. WTR’s victory snapped Cadillac’s four-year winning streak. 

Wayne Taylor admitted the switch to Acura had given him a “new lease on life because quite honestly I was getting bored.”

“That happens sometimes when you have been around with an organization for so long you’re not sure whether they take you seriously anymore or take you for granted,” the elder Taylor continued. “The best thing is I have now won four Daytona 24-hours in five years. I’m very proud and very humbled by all of this.”

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, February 1 2021
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