2016 Petit Le Mans Race Report
2016 Petit Le Mans Race Report
Taylor Brothers, Angelelli Score Hard-Earned Podium Behind Pair of P2 Cars At Road Atlanta’s Petit Le Mans in Iconic Daytona Prototype’s Final Race

Date: Oct. 1, 2016
Event: 19th Annual Petit Le Mans (Round 10 of 10)
Series: Prototype division of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship
Location: Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia (2.54-mile, 12-turn road course)
Start/Finish: 9th /3rd (Running, completed 412 of 412 laps)
Winner: Oswaldo Negri, Olivier Pla and John Pew of Michael Shank Racing (Honda HPD Ligier JS P2)
Point Standing: 3rd (309 points, five out of first)

The end of the Daytona Prototype era came to a close during Saturday’s 19th annual Petit Le Mans IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Road Atlanta, and the best-finishing Daytona Prototype of them all was the No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP of Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) and drivers Ricky Taylor, Jordan Taylor and Max “The Ax” Angelelli, who soldiered home with the team’s seventh podium finish in 10 races in 2016.

There were season-long Prototype-class driver and team championships within reach for the No. 10 Corvette DP team, but it would’ve taken a perfect storm to enable the Taylor brothers and Angelelli to overcome their seven-point deficit to the championship-leading No. 31 Action Express Corvette DP and their six-point deficit to the second-place No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP heading into the weekend. But that storm never even appeared on the horizon on a picture-postcard fall day and night as competitors navigated the scenic 2.54-mile, 12-turn Road Atlanta layout for 10 hours, covering some 1,046 miles of racing in the process.

In the end, it was Jordan Taylor’s nifty pass of Dane Cameron in the No. 31 Corvette on a restart with just five laps to go that put the Konica Minolta Corvette on the podium behind a pair of LMP2 Prototypes – the race-winning No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Honda HPD Ligier JS P2 car of Oz Negri, Olivier Pla and John Pew, and the second-place No. 2 Extreme Speed Motorsports Honda HPD Ligier JS P2 car of Scott Sharp, Luis Derani and Johannes von Overbeek.

The third-place finish, combined with the fourth- and fifth-place finishes, respectively, by the Nos. 31 and 5 Action Express Corvette DPs, enabled the No. 31 team of drivers Cameron, Eric Curran and Sebastien Bourdais to clinch the championship. The No. 5 team featuring drivers Christian Fittipaldi, Joao Barbosa and Filipe Albuquerque, finished second, three points behind in the championship. The No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette team and drivers finished third, five points out of first.

“We would’ve been ecstatic if we knew we were going to end up on the podium before the race began,” said Taylor, who co-drove with his older brother Ricky to the team’s series-high third victory of the season two weekends ago at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. “We were fifth or sixth, at best, on pace. We knew from the green flag we didn’t have a chance to get it done with outright speed and we were just going to have to get it done with no mistakes and executing. I wouldn’t say we had a flawless race – our telemetry went down for a little while, Ricky had a little issue in traffic – but we never really gave up. When we made it to fourth late in the race when the Mazda blew up, that restart was a little blessing because we had a strong car on restarts and we knew Dane wasn’t going to take too many risks with the championship on the line. I kind of put him in a precarious position and he didn’t fight back too hard, so we ended up with third and that made us best of the rest. Being the top DP in its last race isn’t too bad.”

Earlier in the race, Taylor spent the lion’s share of his stint – the final 26 laps – in the lead after another nifty pass of the No. 31 Corvette, this time with Curran behind the wheel, at the three-hour, 31-minute mark. He stayed in the lead until pitting under yellow at the four-hour, six-minute mark to hand the Konica Minolta Corvette over to Angelelli, who resumed in third place.

That yellow turned out to be a one-hour, four-minute ordeal while track workers repaired damaged pavement in turn three. Angelelli stayed on track in third place throughout the extended caution period and, after racing another 32 minutes once the race went back to green, pitted at the five-hour, 38-minute mark to hand the car back over to Ricky Taylor.

“It’s happened to me several times, at Daytona and other places. It’s just part of the deal, no problem,” Angelelli said about circulating the track behind the pace car for more than an hour of his 96-minute stint. “We got a good result. I’m very happy for the team. We ended up third. We were hoping to win, but P3 with those P2 cars out there is quite good. We qualified ninth yesterday but it was never a reason to worry. Our engineers, as always, found a way to give us a very good racecar on race day. Now it’s time to get ready for next year.”

Ricky Taylor’s second stint of the race turned out to be an unexpectedly long one – three hours and 10 minutes, to be exact – after a slight mishap after he was approaching the end of his third fuel-and-tire run led to an unscheduled pit stop to replace the nose of the racecar and required the strategists to send him out for a fourth stint.

He settled into fourth place after taking over for Angelelli and gradually made his way up to second place when, at the eight-hour, five-minute mark, he happened upon Derani in the No. 2 Honda LMP2 car, who had just exited the pits on cold tires ahead of him. Taylor was forced to check up while navigating turn three, made a move to the left and made contact with the trackside curbing just enough to loosen the nose of the car. The team called him into the pits for what turned out to be a quick stop for repairs. He resumed in fifth place.

Taylor also started the race and drove the opening three fuel-and-tire stints, moving from his starting position of ninth all the way up to the top-three by the time he pitted at the two-hour, 20-minute mark to hand the car over to his brother.

“I don’t think we had a shot at the win with the pace of the P2s, but we’re very happy to be on the podium in the final race for the Daytona Prototypes,” Taylor said. “Obviously, we wanted to win but, for us, this is like a win to beat all the other DPs and be the only one on the podium as they’re going out. On that incident with Derani, I made a little bit of a misjudgement and he was on cold tires, kind of pushed me wide, and a little contact with the curb was just enough to pop the nose off. Nine times out of 10 nothing would’ve happened, I would’ve just kept going. It was a shame it just popped the nose loose. But, at the end of the day, I think we finished right where we deserved to.”

With the season concluded, the team turns its attention to preparations for competition in 2017 in a newly named DPi class. Chassis and engine manufacturer announcements are expected to be made in the coming weeks.

“I’m really proud of the team,” said team owner and three-time sports car racing champion Wayne Taylor, who won the inaugural Petit Le Mans in 1998. “I’m proud of our partnership with Konica Minolta, with Chevy, ECR (Earnhardt Childress Racing), everybody who’s worked hard. Ricky and Jordan have been just stunning all year. We’ve just had a few bad-luck moves. It’s nice to have won the most races in the class this year, and to do that for Corvette. It’s nice to have been on the podium every race but three. It’s nice to finish the last race at Petit Le Mans being the first Corvette home and the first DP home. Clearly the P2 cars were in a league of their own. But, it’s the end of an era and I’m looking forward to the future.”

The 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season begins with the traditional Rolex 24 At Daytona twice-around-the-clock endurance marathon Jan. 28 to 29 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. It will be preceded at Daytona Jan. 6 to 8 by the three-day Roar Before the 24 Test Days.