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ROAR Before the 24

January 5, 2018
2017 Petit Le Mans Pre Race Report
2017 Petit Le Mans Pre Race Report
A little more than a minute and 10 seconds into Saturday’s 20th running of the Petit Le Mans – the iconic IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-ending 10-hour endurance marathon at Road Atlanta – the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R full-time duo of brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor can clinch both the driver and team championships for the 2017 season.

BRASELTON, Georgia (Oct. 3, 2017) – A little more than a minute and 10 seconds into Saturday’s 20th running of the Petit Le Mans – the iconic IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-ending 10-hour endurance marathon at Road Atlanta – the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R full-time duo of brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor can clinch both the driver and team championships for the 2017 season.

With a whopping 29-point lead in the standings over the second-place No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R of Eric Curran and Dane Cameron, a 30-point lead over the No. 5 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R of Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa, and a 34-point lead over the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca LMP2 of Stephen Simpson and Misha Goikhberg, all the Taylors and the Konica Minolta Cadillac team need is to earn last-place points to secure both driver and team titles. To clinch the team title, they need to simply take the green flag to start the race, and to clinch the driver title, they need to simply complete one lap around the 2.54-mile, 12-turn Road Atlanta circuit – which takes roughly more than 70 seconds in a Prototype-class racecar.

Then it’s fun time for the Taylors and their third driver for the weekend – IndyCar Series and Indy 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay –for the next nine hours and 58 minutes, right? Wrong.

There is plenty more on their wish list, beginning with a Petit Le Mans victory to finish their magical season that started with five consecutive wins at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, and the grand prix-style street races in Long Beach, California and downtown Detroit.

There’s also the prestigious Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup championship-within-a-championship at stake, which is awarded to the highest-scoring drivers, teams and manufacturers in the four iconic marathons at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International and Road Atlanta. The Taylors and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team trail the No. 5 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R. drivers and team by two points in the Endurance Cup race thanks to a first-lap incident in July’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen that led to a sixth-place finish and unceremoniously ended the team’s winning streak at five races.

The Taylor brothers will be vying for their second Petit Le Mans victory this weekend. They made history in 2014 alongside veteran Italian Max “The Ax” Angelelli by becoming the first Americans to win the Petit Le Mans overall, and it came 16 years to the day since their father an team owner, three-time sportscar champion Wayne Taylor, won the inaugural Petit Le Mans in 1998. The Taylor brothers and Angelelli led 248 of the 400 race laps in winning the 2014 event.

Hunter-Reay, meanwhile, returns to the team with which he drove to a runner-up finish in the 2013 Rolex 24 At Daytona alongside Jordan Taylor and Angelelli, who went on to capture that year’s final GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series driver championship. The 36-year-old Hunter-Reay is the most successful active American driver in open-wheel competition. He won the 2012 IndyCar Series championship, the 2014 Indianapolis 500, was the 2008 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, and has 16 career IndyCar victories and six career pole positions. He recently completed his eighth season driving for Andretti Autosport, racing car No. 28 to represent the 28 million people living with cancer worldwide.

With so much on the line this weekend at Road Atlanta, there will be no shortage of motivation in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. camp for the Taylor brothers, Hunter-Reay, and their highly focused cast of engineers, strategists, mechanics and pit crew.

Practice for Saturday’s 20th Petit Le Mans begins Thursday morning with Prototype-class qualifying set for 5:35 p.m. EDT Friday with live video at IMSA.tv beginning at 4:10 p.m. The green flag flies at 11:05 a.m. for Saturday’s 10-hour race with live TV coverage starting on FS1 with a prerace show at 10:30 a.m. FS2 picks up the coverage from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and from 5 to 9:30 p.m. IMSA.tv will stream the entire race live from 10:55 a.m. to 9:05 p.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 the driver and team championships are a formality, what is your and the team’s approach to the weekend as you head to Road Atlanta for the Petit Le Mans finale?

“For me, I would like to clinch the championship and get that out of the way cleanly, then we can race with nothing to lose for the final nine-plus hours. It is a unique position because we can truly take risks and enjoy the race instead of being on eggshells for the championship.”

A 10-hour endurance race is a lot of hard work. How do you get motivated to work really hard with the championships pretty much decided?

“The Petit Le Mans is a classic event and one of the biggest races on our calendar. Although we won the first five races of the season, winning the Petit Le Mans would be the cherry on the cake. Also, we are looking to fight for the NAEC points throughout the race, as well.”

Like it has been everywhere you’ve gone this year, this will be the Cadillac DPi-V.R’s first race at Road Atlanta. Your thoughts about how it will suit Road Atlanta, and vice versa?

“This will be a tough event, with the big teams bringing in the LMP2-spec cars, so we will have our work cut out for us as we have been nailed back a few times since we saw them at Sebring. I think our Cadillac will perform well, though, and we will need to again prove its strength in these longer events.”

Talk briefly through a lap at Road Atlanta. Parts you like, may find challenging, etc.

“Road Atlanta is surprisingly technical with a lot of flowing portions. The most difficult portion of the track starts all the way in turn two and, if the rhythm is not just right through there, you will be catching up with the car all the way to turn five.”

How has this season been for you, personally? A blur? Have you savored any particular moments? What will you remember most when you look back on it someday?

“I have been trying to soak in every second. Drivers rarely have a season like we have had, and to be able to do it with my brother as my teammate and driving for my dad makes it extra special. Obviously, the big wins at Daytona and Sebring will be the most memorable, but the whole season has really been an amazing experience.”

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

Now that the driver and team championships are a formality, what is your and the team’s approach to the weekend as you head to Road Atlanta for the Petit Le Mans finale?

“I think goal number one heading into the race is clinching both championships. Once that is done, we can switch to treating the race like we treated the races early in the year – being aggressive and taking the risks we need to in order to win the race. It’s one of our biggest races of the year, plus it’s an important race for the NAEC (North American Endurance Cup), so we’ll be fighting hard.”

A 10-hour endurance race is a lot of hard work. How do you get motivated to work really hard with the championships pretty much decided?

“I don’t think anyone on the team needs any added motivation. No matter what the race is and at what point it is in the season, we always want to win. These endurance races suit our team well. The added pit stops and potential for different strategies in the race suit our team’s strengths.”

Like it has been everywhere you’ve gone this year, this will be the Cadillac DPi-V.R’s first race at Road Atlanta. Your thoughts about how it will suit Road Atlanta, and vice versa?

“I think Road Atlanta will be a great track for the Cadillac. Compared to last year, we have a big increase in overall downforce, and going to a place that is so high-speed like Road Atlanta, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Talk briefly through a lap at Road Atlanta. Parts you like, may find challenging, etc.

“Road Atlanta is a quick, intense lap with some of the biggest elevation changes we see all year. It’s personally one of my favorite tracks because it still has the feel of an old-school racetrack. It has a lot of high-speed sections with no room for error, so you have to be very committed to putting the lap together.”

How has this season been for you, personally? A blur? Have you savored any particular moments? What will you remember most when you look back on it someday?

“This has been one of the best years of my life. I don’t know how it couldn’t be. Opening the year winning five races in a row, including Daytona and Sebring, it doesn’t get much better than that. There were a lot of question marks coming into the year as everyone was coming in with new cars but, going through the development process from the ground up with Wayne Taylor Racing, Cadillac, Dallara, and ECR (Earnhardt Childress Racing), makes all of that success so much sweeter.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY, driver, No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R:

You have a good bit of experience at Road Atlanta over the years. Your thoughts about coming back and racing there in the Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R, and your feelings about the track, in general?

“There’s no better way to finish the racing season than at Petit Le Mans, especially with this team. I really enjoy Road Atlanta and the challenges it presents. The track is constantly changing throughout the weekend and you have to be ready to adapt behind the wheel each time you get in the car.”

If all goes according to plan, the driver and team championships will be clinched by the time you get in the car on race day. Safe to assume you will feel zero pressure and it’s going to one of those rare fun race weekends?

“The team as a whole and the Taylor brothers have done an outstanding job this season and we need to continue on that form. Obviously, clinching the overall drivers and team championships are priority number one. However we also have to fight for the North American Endurance Cup. It is my job to fit into the team seamlessly and support these efforts. Anytime you are behind the wheel of a car capable of winning the race and the championship, it comes with a certain amount of pressure, which I enjoy.”

Do you have any particularly fond memories to share about racing with Jordan Taylor and Max Angelelli and this team at the Rolex 24 in 2013?

“I was just really impressed with the team overall. We had a great shot at overall victory that year but came up just short, finishing second. On a lighter note, it’s always interesting negotiating driver fit with Max. Jordan and I are at least a foot taller than him, and it took days to adjust the crotch belt length by a half inch (laughs).”

Lastly, your impressions of the Taylor brothers and their accomplishments this year and over the years, as well as their fun-loving exploits off the track?

“It feels like yesterday I saw them competing in the Skip Barber series. It’s amazing how much they have progressed through the years. They’re great guys, hard workers, fierce competitors, and they’re extremely humble. They’re ideal teammates. They’ve far surpassed everyone’s expectations over the years and continue to do so. Through the years of working up the ladder system, it is extremely tough following in their father’s footsteps, who himself a racing legend.”

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

Your weekend at Road Atlanta for the season-ending Petit Le Mans is shaping up to be one of the most special in the history of the team. Your thoughts?

“I’ve always enjoyed going to Road Atlanta for the Petit Le Mans ever since I won the first one back in 1998. The next time we came back, Ricky and Jordan and Max won the race, which was extremely special. This year, we are in position to clinch the driver and team championships early in the race and then we can go on and try to win the race with no huge pressure. We’re also in position to win the North American Endurance Cup, which is something we have never done, so there is plenty of motivation there to do well. I have to say hats off to everyone associated with this organization, from the drivers and the team, our partners Konica Minolta and Cadillac and General Motors, Dallara, ECR and so many others. Every single person involved played an important role in making this championship opportunity happen for us this year. We were on a roll to start the season. We overcame adversity in the middle of the summer with a couple of back-to-back finishes that didn’t go our way. Nobody ever lost his cool. We just did what we do, which is to put our head down and focus on perfection. I am very proud of everyone associated with this organization, and I can’t wait to try and finish the season with a win at the 20th running of the Petit Le Mans. It’s a very special race weekend in many ways, for sure.”