Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque Look to Extend Acura’s Mid-Ohio Win Streak
By Godwin Kelly
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – One of the best long-game race teams in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is in the process of going into short-game mode.
Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 DPi, which won the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, is now in full prep mode for the 2-hour, 40-minute romp in the Acura Sports Car Challenge Presented by the TLX Type S, scheduled for May 14-16 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Drivers Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque will roll into the Buckeye State leading in Daytona Prototype international (DPi) points, after finishing fourth last month in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts. They are just eight points ahead of No. 55 Mazda Motorsports DPi drivers Oliver Jarvis and Harry Tincknell, a slim margin based on the new points system that awards 350 markers for a race win opposed to 35 in recent years.
“Under the new points format, where everything is multiplied by 10, we are leading by the difference of a qualifying bonus,” Ricky Taylor said. “After qualifying (at Mid-Ohio), we could find ourselves in second place even before the race starts. The pressure is really on. There isn’t a single weakness in the field.”
Taylor could provide that X factor at the 2.258-mile road course. In three outings in as many years, he scored two victories for Acura Team Penske. The Acura brand has won all three DPi events staged at Mid-Ohio to date.
“Mid-Ohio has been really good to us with the Acura program,” Taylor said. “We have a lot of confidence going in. Our history there is strong and the car seems to perform there really well.”
It’s also a “home track” for the team because the Acura NSX passenger car is produced at a nearby Honda/Acura manufacturing plant.
“It’s just around the corner,” Taylor said. “This is like going to Detroit for the Chevy guys.”
Albuquerque said not being an Acura driver in recent years has made his trips to Mid-Ohio “really painful.”
“I never stood a chance there,” he said. “So now I have motivation this year with Acura and driving with Ricky. This will be awesome. (The course has) a flow this car likes. I’m looking forward to Mid-Ohio because everything suits us.”
Wayne Taylor Racing does not plan to test at Mid-Ohio before race weekend, preferring to focus on car preparation rather than physically attacking the course before the green flag waves. Having Ricky Taylor’s bank of knowledge on how the Acura performs there will be an asset.
“I think we will go mostly on our previous experience,” Ricky Taylor said. “These cars have done quite a bit of racing at Mid-Ohio and we got quite a bit of information from Penske. Our approach is more on the preparation side and not rushing out to test.”
Taylor described Mid-Ohio as “very low grip” and the track surface as “very, very old and smooth.”
“The way the corners go, you feel like you can never turn the car,” he added. “But in that environment, the Acura performs very well because of how much downforce the car can make.
“Turn 1 is really great and fast, a fifth-gear corner, and Turn 5 around Thunder Valley there is a really nice rhythm section. It’s easier in our car, but in other classes it is really, really difficult. It’s critical to know who you can trust and who you can’t.”
No matter an endurance race or a quick sprint, Albuquerque said the team is always learning about the car. After driving a Cadillac DPi in recent years, Albuquerque is absorbing more about the Acura each time he steps inside.
“Especially from my side, about how this car works,” he said. “I’m learning more about the little details because at the end of the day, that’s what we are talking about. We are always learning.”
The Acura Sports Car Challenge airs live at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday, May 16 on NBCSN. Tickets for the race weekend are available at midohio.com.