‘One of the Best Days I’ve Ever Had,’ the Successful Team Owner Says
By Jeff Olson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It was Wayne Taylor’s third consecutive Rolex 24 At Daytona victory as a team owner – and fourth in the last five years – but this one was the most difficult.
And, perhaps, the most rewarding.
“I could probably tell you that today was one of the best days I’ve ever had,” Taylor said Sunday after his team won the 59th Rolex 24. “It was a very, very special day.”
The difficulty and reward were intertwined. The team’s drivers – Filipe Albuquerque, Helio Castroneves, Alexander Rossi and Ricky Taylor, Wayne’s son – handled the intense pressure applied by the closest competitors, but the real difficulty emerged from the circumstances leading up to the race.
In late September, seven weeks before the end of the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, Taylor confirmed that WTR had signed with Acura for the 2021 season, resuming a relationship that dated to 1992, when Taylor drove for Acura during an IMSA Camel Lights championship season.
During that short time frame, the team had to acquire and assemble the equipment, hire drivers with experience in the Acura ARX-05, and get the car ready to race.
The reward, aside from the victory itself, was sharing it with his sons. While Ricky was helping WTR win the overall and Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class victory, Taylor’s other son, Jordan, helped Corvette Racing win the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class.
In 2017, WTR won the Rolex 24 for the first time, with Ricky and Jordan joining Max Angelelli and Jeff Gordon as co-drivers. The latest victory, Wayne Taylor said, could be even better than the first.
“It’s hard to say I could top what happened in 2017 when I won with both of my kids, but today we won it with Ricky, Jordan won the GT class for Corvette, and Wayne Taylor Racing program won it overall. … It’s given me a new lease on life. Quite honestly, I was getting bored.”
Understandable, given his record of success. As a driver, Wayne Taylor was legendary, winning two Rolex 24s, three IMSA championships and the LMP1 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1998.
As a team owner, Taylor has two championships, a win in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts, three wins in the Motul Petit Le Mans and, after Sunday, four Rolex 24 victories.
The team’s four drivers had been with other teams last year. They didn’t get behind the wheel of the No. 10 WTR Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 until a test session at Sebring International Raceway days before the Roar Before the Rolex 24 began Jan. 22.
Despite the compressed calendar, the four drivers put together a clear, triumphant effort.
“We had fun,” Wayne Taylor said. “It was just fantastic. Everywhere we went, we were so focused on going to win this race, and that’s what we did.”
While Sunday’s victory was the first in the Rolex 24 for Acura, Honda’s luxury brand, it was hardly the first for Acura, Honda or Honda Performance Development, which produces and develops engines for the program.
Known for its successful program in the IndyCar Series, HPD undertook its first top-level program outside IndyCar in 2007 when it debuted an LMP2 entry with Andretti Autosport.
Since then, it has played a part in victories in several major sports car races, including Le Mans, Sebring, Petit and – once again – Daytona. HPD also won the 2016 Rolex 24 with the Tequila Patrón ESM team and drivers Pipo Derani, Johannes van Overbeek, Scott Sharp and Ed Brown.
“I knew (HPD) wanted me because they felt I must have some golden secret about how to win Daytona, which I didn’t,” Wayne Taylor said. “Winning it today after only having these cars for two and a half months is a testament to the people I’ve hired and the people who work for this organization. I’m eternally grateful for all of them.”