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ROAR Before the 24

January 5, 2018
2017 12 Hours of Sebring Pre Race Report
2017 12 Hours of Sebring Pre Race Report
It’s back to the business of racing for the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team after finally taking care of some seriously unfinished business seven weeks ago when it scored a resounding victory in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona.

SEBRING, Florida (March 14, 2017) – It’s back to the business of racing for the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team after finally taking care of some seriously unfinished business seven weeks ago when it scored a resounding victory in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Oh, it’s been quite the seven weeks for brothers and full-time co-drivers Ricky and Jordan Taylor, who broke through to win one of worldwide sportscar racing’s crown jewels for the first time in their respective careers, helped send their family friend and longtime co-driver Max “The Ax” Angelelli on to retirement on a high note with his second career Rolex watch, and helped four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon achieve yet another career milestone.

This weekend, the Taylors set their sights on another of racing’s crown jewels – Saturday’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring – after a hugely eventful last seven weeks that included a celebratory visit on the outskirts of Charlotte, North Carolina with Gordon, who treated them to a five-hour tour of the Hendrick Motorsports campus followed by an nice dinner.

Four weeks ago, Cadillac V-Performance Racing announced both Taylor brothers will drive Cadillac ATS-V.R Coupes in the five SprintX races of the 2017 Pirelli World Challenge series beginning in late April. And Ricky Taylor received the treat of his young racing lifetime two weeks ago when he was invited to test defending IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud’s No. 1 racecar for Team Penske on the road course at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Amidst all the hoopla, the Taylors and the Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team got serious on the racetrack, as well, with Jordan Taylor laying down the fastest lap of all 36 teams that turned up for the recent two-day open test at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway, site of Saturday’s 65th renewal of America’s oldest endurance marathon.

In addition to preparing the Rolex 24-winning Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R for just its second-ever race, the Taylor brothers and the team officially welcomed new third driver Alex Lynn, the 23-year-old British hot shoe who has competed the past two seasons in the GP2 series – the official steppingstone to Formula One – in addition to his duties as test driver for the Williams Martini F1 team.

All reports indicated Lynn to be a perfect fit with the Taylor brothers and the rest of the Konica Minolta Cadillac team as they look to achieve their second consecutive breakthrough win after a best finish of second at the grueling 3.74-mile, 17-turn Sebring circuit the last three seasons.

With the lengthy layoff since its emotional season-opening win at Daytona behind it, the team hopes its extreme desire to get back to business helps put it over the top once again this weekend on one of only two tracks on the current tour it has yet to conquer.

Practice for Saturday’s 65th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring begins Thursday morning with Prototype-class qualifying set for 2:15 p.m. EDT Friday with live video provided by IMSA.tv beginning at 1 p.m. The green flag flies at 10:40 a.m. Saturday for the 12-hour marathon with FS1 television coverage joining the race in progress beginning at 12:30 p.m. through its conclusion at 11 p.m. A live video stream of the entire race begins on the FOXSportsGO app beginning at 10:30 a.m. Live timing and scoring during all on-track sessions is available at IMSA.com and the IMSA smartphone app.

RICKY TAYLOR, driver, No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R:

Now that you’ve had plenty of time to digest the team’s great accomplishment at Daytona, how long did it take for it to sink in that you finally broke through with a win there after coming so close, so many times? And your overall thoughts on the accomplishment for you and the team?

“The win took a long time to really sink in. The great thing is that we had such a long time to enjoy the victory between races until we had to reset and get ready for Sebring. I think a big part of the excitement was that we had been so close so many times, combined with all of the other great storylines from the race that made it such a special win. For the team, Daytona was a giant monkey on our back after executing so well for so many consecutive years without the win. It was a huge relief and now we can go attack the rest of the season with the same intensity we took to Daytona.”

You seemed to have a solid test at Sebring last month and had the fastest lap overall. Is that indicative of anything at all as you go back for real next week?

“It’s very hard to tell, I think the competition will be much closer than in Daytona. I am confident we have a fast racecar but the unknown is whether or not everyone else was showing their full potential as we never know what their test plan may have been. Regardless of pace, we know our car has great reliability and the team can execute a faultless race, which oftentimes is what wins races over a simply fast racecar.

How does the Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R rate as far as its ability to get around Sebring quickly, as well as its durability when it comes to withstanding the punishment Sebring can dish out over a 12-hour race?

“Being so stiff, we definitely feel the bumps more in the new Cadillac DPi-V.R, but the car reacts to the bumps in a very controlled manner, which allows us to carry great speed through the very bumpy turns one and 17. I believe Sebring is the ultimate test of the car’s durability, more so than Daytona. But we did see great reliability for our first time out in Daytona. In my opinion, I feel we have as good or better reliability than anyone in the field. We have by far the most testing miles and proved it with the solid performance in Daytona.”

Tell us about your experience at the test with Alex Lynn and what he brings to the table.

“Alex has been such an exciting young driver to watch come up through the ranks in Europe. I’m so excited we were able to get him before anyone else because I think his performances in Europe are easily overlooked in the U.S. But we know what he can do and so far he has been fantastic to work with. He brings great technical experience from his time in GP2 and the WEC, where he raced a very similar prototype. He will bring a new perspective and will continue to push our team forward.”

And, your thoughts about not having Max as a co-driver with the team for the first time in your career?

“This is going to be so strange without Max, but still having him around the track will be nice. He was always there in case we needed advice or direction and I’m glad he will still be available for that. I will definitely miss driving together, though. The one positive is that he ended his driving career on the highest of highs and that is something that very few drivers can say.”

JORDAN TAYLOR, driver, No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R:

Now that you’ve had plenty of time to digest the team’s great accomplishment at Daytona, how long did it take for it to sink in that you finally broke through with a win there after coming so close, so many times? And your overall thoughts on the accomplishment for you and the team?

“I don’t think it’ll ever completely sink in. I still get goosebumps when I happen to come across footage of the end of the race or pictures of all the guys in victory lane. It’s still kind of hard to believe. It’s been great, though, having this long break between races to enjoy it. It’s obviously the race that we have been missing by the slightest of margins, so to finally win it was great. I think, more than anything, it was a relief that we finally won it and can now focus on the rest of the championship.”

You seemed to have a solid test at Sebring last month and had the fastest lap overall. Is that indicative of anything at all as we come back for real this week?

“Yeah, we had a great test at Sebring. All throughout the offseason, our testing was mainly for durability and reliability. We never really did any car performance tuning. So it was great to finally get to a test to make setup changes and work on the car itself. We made big progress over the two days. I think we left the test happy with where we were and comfortable heading into race week.”

How does the Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R rate as far as its ability to get around Sebring quickly, as well as its durability when it comes to withstanding the punishment Sebring can dish out over a 12-hour race?

“It’s a much different experience driving around Sebring in the Cadillac. The car has more aero but is stiffer overall, so you can carry some more speed through the high-speed sections, but then you’re feeling every little bump that much more. The car performed flawlessly over the 24 hours at Daytona, so I have no worries heading into Sebring.”

Tell us about your experience at the test with Alex Lynn and what he brings to the table.

“It’s been great working with Alex. He fit in perfectly and was right up to speed. It’s always nice having someone new to work with, especially when they have such a strong background like he has. He has a lot of experience in high-downforce cars and has had a lot of success in everything he’s done, so it’s good to have him with us to give his feedback on the car, as well. Ricky and I have been together for years, now, so it’s always good to have a fresh opinion from someone new.”

And, your thoughts about not having Max as a co-driver with this team for the first time in your career?

“It’s weird not having Max with us. My whole prototype career has been with Max, starting in 2013, so it’s a bit sad not having him with us in the car. He’s not driving, but he’s still at the track every weekend, so we still have to stock up on espresso.”

ALEX LYNN, driver, No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R:

Things seemed to go very well at last month’s Sebring test. Now that you’ve had a chance to spend some time with the team, your overall thoughts about coming back for race weekend and your general expectations?

“Obviously, coming back for race week is the most exciting part. We were quickest overall in the test last month but, of course, the only thing that matters now is when the green flag drops on Saturday. But I would say that confidence is generally quite high. The Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R was a fantastic car straight away. Like with most good cars, it gives you a lot of confidence immediately and I felt comfortable within the first few laps. The team did a great job in preparing me for what to expect from both the car and the track. So I feel ready for race week.”

What are your overall impressions of the Sebring race circuit after your first time driving on it, and what you expect it might be like to run hard for 12 solid hours on such a punishing track?

“Yes, it was my first time there. Everyone always goes on about the bumps. It was bumpy, but the main difficulty is with the surface changes in the middle of the corners, which affects the behavior of the car. I expect it’s going to be tough – on the drivers as well as the car. But I have faith in the team and in my teammates that we will be there at the end and where we deserve to finish – in a nice position.”

How have you gotten along with Ricky and Jordan so far, and how do you see your relationship evolving from this point forward?

“Honestly it’s been one of the most enjoyable teammate relationships I have had so far. Both Ricky and Jordan are great drivers in their own right, as well as really cool guys to be with. So, hopefully, when it comes down to the real business, having a good relationship between the three of us will help when the pressure is on.”

WAYNE TAYLOR, owner, No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R:

The team enjoyed a long-awaited, hard-earned breakthrough win at the Rolex 24. How has it been for you in the time since?

“It’s been really amazing. There were so many things that made it all the more special. Jeff Gordon invited the boys to spend a day with him in Charlotte. He gave them a five-hour tour of Hendrick Motorsports, then he took them to dinner and they drank a very special bottle of wine that Jeff brought. Then, Ricky had the (IndyCar) test with Penske, which was great. And it was announced Ricky and Jordan will be driving for Cadillac in the five SprintX races of the PWC series, so that’s all good. We could never have scripted a better race with all the factors going on – Max’s last race, Jeff on board with us, Ricky starting and finishing, Jordan as solid as he always is, being the first Cadillac to win in a prototype. And I don’t think anybody outside the team realized that, in all our testing and development, and even practice during Rolex race weekend, there was not one session where something didn’t go wrong, it seemed. So, naturally, to go out and see the car do the perfect job it did in the race, it was simply unbelievable.”

And then you went out and laid down the fastest lap at last month’s open test at Sebring. Does that make you feel confident heading into this weekend?

“We had what looked to be a really good test at Sebring despite some restrictions placed on us since Daytona, and even more since the Sebring test. We showed we have the best car, the best team, and that Cadillac is here to win races. Our new third driver Alex Lynn proved to be very fast and, at the test, Brian (Pillar) our engineer said he’s probably the fastest third driver we’ve had at Sebring. I think that speed comes from a lot of F1 testing for Williams, and driving WEC cars and GP2 cars. He gets on really well with the boys – they’re the same height, which is a great thing to begin with – so I think we’ve got a great combination. I’m really looking forward to going out there and finally getting the job done at Sebring. We had issues two of the three times we’ve raced there. And the time we finished second we still finished a lap down. We’ll have our major partners Konica Minolta and big support from Cadillac and GM going there. I love this race. It was one of my best races (as a driver) and I hope we can win it. Among other things, it would give Jordan wins at all the major races I’ve won. The guys are all focused. They’ve done a lot of work on the car since the Daytona race and the Sebring test.”