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When Foe Becomes Friend and Friend Becomes Foe

How Sports Car Drivers Adjust to Team and Driver Pairing Changes


By John Oreovicz


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Most of us have experienced an awkward encounter with an ex, whether at the grocery store, the gas station or the gym. You exchange a few pleasantries, and quickly find an excuse to move along.


Imagine then being told that you are going to be working alongside someone with whom you have prior history that wasn’t always positive. That’s bound to create some apprehension, right?


It’s a situation that professional racing drivers encounter on a surprisingly regular basis – especially in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, where drivers sharing a car are teammates in the truest sense of the word. How difficult is it for a driver to put memories of past transgressions behind? Similarly, how do drivers approach competing against a former team or teammate?


To find out, we started by asking the protagonists from one of the most contentious incidents in recent IMSA history – a clash disputing the lead of the 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona with less than eight minutes remaining in the 24-hour race. Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor happen to be teammates now, sharing the No. 10 Acura ARX-06 LMDh prototype in the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class for Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport.


The passage of time allowed Albuquerque to put Taylor’s bump-and-run pass for the lead behind him. It was a bitter pill to swallow because Taylor and his co-drivers back then – Jordan Taylor, Max Angelelli and Jeff Gordon – took the win for what was then called Wayne Taylor Racing.


It helped that Ricky Taylor almost immediately reached out to Albuquerque, knowing that they would meet again in the heat of battle on track – but obviously not knowing they would be employed as teammates four years down the line.


“Ricky said, ‘Look, I just want to explain myself,’” Albuquerque recalled. “He didn’t apologize. I said, ‘Just because you took the time and came to talk, I respect you a lot.’ That’s the way he is, and I think it meant a lot. Then it was my exercise to think: ‘Maybe if I were in his shoes, I would have done the same.’



“I said ‘Look, I think I’m going to be fighting you for the next five or eight years and maybe we will meet again,’” he continued. “And it’s insane that (six) years later, we are teammates and have a great, great relationship. He’s super hard inside but outside he’s a fair guy. On track, he’s exactly how I am. So maybe that’s why we have a great relationship. He’s one of the best teammates I ever had. We put everything on the table and never go home without saying anything that is bothering us.”


Taylor admits that he isn’t afraid to needle Albuquerque about 2017 when the opportunity presents itself. That’s a product of the mutual respect the pair have developed for each other over the last two years, during which Albuquerque and Taylor won seven races and finished second in the Daytona Prototype international championship (the former top prototype class) in both 2021 and ’22.


“For sure, it comes up a lot,” Taylor said with a chuckle. “We make comments every now and then, but it’s all in fun. The awkwardness was that phone call the day after the 2017 Rolex 24. Once we started working together, it was great. It’s really quite a nice love story coming back to where we are now, having raced together for two years.


“We share everything and are super open with one another, and it’s such a natural relationship that you don’t find between teammates in sports car racing very often,” he added. “And I think that’s somewhat because we had some conflict in the past, that we are able to be that open.”

Breaking up Is Hard to Do … or Is It?


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Porsche factory drivers Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet dominated the GTD PRO class in the 2022 WeatherTech Championship, winning half the races in the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R. They’re both still affiliated with Porsche, but this year they have been assigned to opposing cars in their move up the Porsche Motorsport pyramid to the top GTP class. Jaminet shares the No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 with Nick Tandy, while Campbell is teamed with Felipe Nasr in the team’s No. 7.


“We knew it could be a possibility to not be together this season,” said Jaminet. “From my side it’s fine. Sure, we’re going to race each other, but in the end, we also race for the same brand and the same team. That’s the most important thing, really, to try to win for the team. It’s on one hand a shame to not be racing with Matt anymore, but maybe we’ll do some more GT racing together.”


Adds Campbell: “Obviously we’d love to have been together. We’ve been teammates the last three years or so. But nothing has changed outside the car. We were still on the same flight sitting next to each other on the way here, we still talk to each other every couple of days. We’re still very good friends and I don’t see this having an impact or influence on our working relationship even though we are in different cars. I don’t think anything will change at the track and that’s a really important thing.”


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Another angle to consider: the close relationship that teammates develop can continue to pay dividends after a partnership is broken up.


“It’s a good thing to have, to know someone you’re racing against,” said Nasr, who won IMSA’s top prototype class championship in 2018 and ’21, both at Whelen Engineering Racing and the latter with Pipo Derani.


“This is the first time I’m going against Derani,” Nasr said of the ’23 season. “We were teammates for three years; it’s a guy I know how he races, I know his trends, I know his ups and downs. It’s only beneficial for us drivers to have that experience and know kind of what to expect from them.”


A pair of ex-Penske drivers were part of the Rolex 24 race-winning lineup just over a week ago in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-06.


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Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves, who now race fulltime for Meyer Shank in the IndyCar Series, lent a hand guiding MSR’s fulltime IMSA drivers Tom Blomqvist and Colin Braun to the historic win in the debut for the LMDh prototypes and the GTP class. Friend turned foe, the Penske organization is never far from their thoughts.


“I’ve got a lot of friends there, and I have a lot of respect for the organization,” said Pagenaud, who won the 2016 IndyCar championship and 2019 Indy 500 with Penske before moving to MSR last year. “I know what they can do. They’re always a titan, a Goliath you’re going up against.”


Castroneves enjoyed an unprecedented 21-year run with the Penske organization, winning the Indianapolis 500 three times along with the 2020 WeatherTech Championship DPi title (with co-driver Ricky Taylor). Since joining MSR in 2021, Castroneves captured two Rolex 24 crowns and a historic fourth Indy 500 triumph.


For Helio, those run-ins with his friends from Penske at the grocery store or the local deli aren’t so awkward.


“I love them,” Castroneves said. “Obviously, it’s an incredible organization and I wouldn’t have become who I am today without Team Penske. They molded me to become the driver and the whole that I am.


“But at the end of the day, when you put the helmet on and the belts, you’ve got to do what you do and today I race with a new family. You learn how to separate those. When you have the helmet off and are eating lunch, you go back to being friends.”