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2018 Laguna Seca Pre Race Report
2018 Laguna Seca Pre Race Report
It should come as no surprise that co-drivers Jordan Taylor and Renger van der Zande and their No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team have had Sunday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship America’s Tire 250 circled on their calendar for quite some time.

MONTEREY, California (Sept. 2, 2018) – It should come as no surprise that co-drivers Jordan Taylor and Renger van der Zande and their No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team have had Sunday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship America’s Tire 250 circled on their calendar for quite some time.

This weekend’s penultimate stop on their 2018 tour of some of the most iconic road courses in the world brings them to newly named WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on the outskirts of Monterey, California where, a year ago, van der Zande successfully executed one of the most brilliant passes to win a race since Alex Zanardi executed what came to be known simply as “The Pass” to win the 1996 IndyCar season finale through Laguna Seca’s very same “Corkscrew” series of turns.

For Taylor, Laguna Seca is also the scene of one of his most memorable victories – a dominating effort alongside co-driver Max “The Ax” Angelelli in a must-win situation in 2013 that helped vault the duo to that year’s Grand-Am Rolex SportsCar Series championship.
The 32-year-old van der Zande co-drove the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona entry with Belgian Marc Goosens to last year’s Laguna Seca victory for his first career IMSA Prototype-class win to go with nine in the LMPC class the previous three seasons, and his race-winning pass immediately elevated the Dutch driver to rock star status in sportscar racing circles, drawing huge praises from Zanardi, himself.

It also was the proverbial icing on the cake when it came time to choose a new co-driver for Taylor, who’s older brother Ricky left after a four-year run with the team to join the new, two-car Team Penske Prototype-class effort.

Taylor and van der Zande have been virtually flawless as a driver duo over the first eight events of 2018, overcoming numerous challenges, including a disastrous 15th-place result at the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, to position themselves within 12 points of the championship lead with two races remaining.

Adding to the heightened anticipation for this weekend’s two-hour, 40-minute race on the 2.238-mile, 11-turn hillside road course thanks to van der Zande’s pass of a year ago will be the presence of his dad – noted Dutch psychologist and 1978 national rallycross champion Ronald van der Zande – for the first time at a North American racing event.

As if that wasn’t enough, the team is flip-flopping its driving order for the first time this season, giving Taylor the role of qualifier and race starter and van der Zande the role of closer. Taylor earned his most recent pole qualifying effort at Laguna Seca in 2015 and has been the team’s qualifying driver just one time since, also in 2015, but he welcomes his new role and the chance to hand the car off to van der Zande for Sunday’s finish. Both drivers say they feel more comfortable and confident at Laguna Seca than most every other track on the schedule, and their Cadillac DPi-V.R package performed remarkably well en route to the team’s solid third-place finish there last year after qualifying on the pole and leading a race-high 58 of 114 laps.

This weekend, they’ll be looking to build on that solid foundation from a year ago and hope to recreate the little magic in the process.

Practice for Sunday’s America’s Tire 250 begins Friday morning with Prototype-class qualifying set for 4:35 p.m. EDT Saturday. The green flag for the two-hour, 40-minute race flies at 5:05 p.m. Sunday with FS1’s live television broadcast set for 5 p.m. Live timing and scoring during all on-track sessions is available at IMSA.com and the IMSA smartphone app.

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

Your overall thoughts about racing at Laguna Seca facing a 12-point deficit in the championship with two races to go?

“We have had a strong second half of the season, battling for wins in the past few races, so I’m looking forward to Laguna. We had a really strong car there last year and have learned some new things about the car over the course of this season that we can put to good use when we get there. We definitely still have a shot to win the championship. Since Daytona, we’ve been in the top-five every race. With how many prototypes we have in the class this year, it just takes one bad race for someone to lose a large amount of points. If we just keep doing what we’re doing, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be going to Petit (Le Mans) with a shot.”

Talk about your race there with Max “The Ax” Angelelli in 2013, when you were in pretty much a must-win situation to have a shot at the championship that year and the fact that you guys pulled it off.

“The end of 2013 was a dream. We had to win all of the last three races to have a shot at the championship and we did. We had an incredibly strong car for all of those races and were able to control the races from the front. We had perfect stops and strategy, so everyone executed perfectly to get those wins. We plan on doing the same this year.”

You had a ringside seat behind your now-teammate Renger van der Zande’s remarkable pass of Dane Cameron to win last year’s race at Laguna Seca. Your memories of that, your thoughts of Renger’s seemingly “rock star” status at Laguna since then, and whether that pass was involved in the team’s decision to invite him to be your co-driver this year?

“I thought it was awesome. There aren’t many passes done in that corner, so when it tends to happen, it’s usually pretty spectacular. I think when we saw that kind of commitment from a driver going for a win, we knew he was someone we wanted in our car. I think he’s the perfect guy to have as a teammate at Laguna. Obviously going back, everyone is talking about that move from last year. I guess the only negative part about it is that people will be a little more aware of him being behind them going in there this year. The pass itself last year played a small part in the team’s decision. We knew what he was like as a driver and as a person. We had watched him for years in LMPC, and then coming into Prototype last year. He had always been at the front of the field in any car and class that he raced, so last year’s pass was just icing on the cake.”

On another fun note, Renger’s dad is coming to see him race at Road America, the first time he will have seen him race in the States. Do you have any advice for him as far as how to survive a race weekend with your dad around, considering you’ve had your dad at just about every race you’ve ever raced?

“I think it’ll be awesome for Renger to have his dad at the track. I don’t think he’s ever seen Renger race in person in America. It’s even better that we’re coming into the weekend with some good momentum after the last few races. Hopefully, we can get our first win of the year with him there and, if we do, he’ll have to come to a lot more races.”

Finally, Renger gets the chance to be the finishing driver for the first time this season. Your thoughts on that and the chance for you to qualify for the first time as his teammate?

“Renger’s wanted to finish a race all year and now, getting back to a track where he obviously had his spectacular pass and win at last year’s race, there’s no better place for him to do that than Laguna Seca. He’s going back there with a lot of confidence after making that move and he’s always excited to get back there. He really enjoys that track, as do a lot of us. It’s always been one of his favorite races of the year. From a mental point of view, he’s probably more confident there than any race all year, so we’re going to exploit that confidence and hopefully it works to our advantage. I haven’t qualified a car in three years, so it’ll be a bit different for me but I’m excited for it. It’ll be a different challenge. We’re still in championship contention, so our main goal is to still focus on the championship. If we win the race, great, but we most importantly have to finish better than the teams we’re racing for the championship. I won the pole at Laguna in 2015, so that was a big moment for me. We won there in 2013. Each year go back, I’ve liked that track more and more because it really suits my driving style and how I like the car to behave. We’ve won there and we’ve been on the pole there. It’s time to get one more of each.”

RENGER VAN DER ZANDE, driver, No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R:

Well, the obvious question is about your pass for the win in last year’s race. What are your thoughts, your recollections, etc.?

“Last year, that pass was pretty cool. There was a lot of adrenaline going through all of us because we had a really hard season and it was the first time we were really competing for a good result. I was lying second in that race when I asked over the radio, ‘Guys, I think we might have a chance to win, do you want me to go for it because second is already a good result?’ When they said I should go for it, I committed to it and I made that pass. Drivers behind me thought it was going to end up with a big blow into the fence, but somehow we made it and taking that lead and winning that race was incredible. That was the highlight of the season. People have been talking about ever since, at every autograph session, and I appreciate it. It’s all very nice. Even the Dutch ambassador to the U.S., who’s based in San Francisco, has invited me to pose for a picture with him in front of the Golden Gate Bridge this week. That’s pretty incredible.”

Any chance you had Alex Zanardi’s move to win there in the 1996 Champ Car finale in the back of your mind?

“I wasn’t really thinking about Zanardi’s move there. Winning the race was my only thought at the time. Zanardi was a phenomenal driver and he still is. The way he reacted to my pass was a week later on Twitter. He’s such a humble guy who never took any credit for anything. He just said something like, ‘I don’t know if and/or how I moved you to make this pass, I’m very happy you did it and you did it better.’ That was very kind of him. His move was in an open-wheel car, so his risk was 10 times higher and a little bit cooler. But at the end of the day, they looked kind of the same and people have compared my move to his and that is very nice and very cool for me.”

You’re bringing your dad to the race this weekend, which will be the first time he’ll see you racing in the United States. Talk about that.

“It’s cool to bring my dad. For me, since I’ve been racing in the States, even before last year, going to Laguna Seca and San Francisco and the whole Highway 1 deal has always been the highlight of the year. If I could choose somewhere else to live in the world, it would be there. Bringing my dad there is really even more special after what happened last year. It’s the first time I’m bringing him over to watch one of my races in the States. For sure, I’ve been telling him so much about the American racing and how we do it over there. For me, it feels like my racing home right now and it’s just cool that I can show him in-person. I’m 100 percent sure he’s going to like it a lot. At the same time, he will tell me what to do better because he’s my dad. He still follows a lot of racing and he loves the endurance racing and I’m sure he will come back from Laguna Seca saying this is racing in a cool way on a very high, professional level.”

The third “cool factor” for you this weekend will be the opportunity to be the closing driver for the first time this season with the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team. How special is that for you?

“I will finish the race this year after qualifying and starting all the other races this year. That’s kind of a cool deal for me because I really like doing that and I think it’s really cool that they believe I should do it this time. With Jordan, he’s on pace everywhere we’ve gone so far and Laguna Seca will be no different and he’s just a really cool teammate to work with. The Cadillacs were strong at Laguna last year, winning the pole and leading until the final minutes, so it’s a really good car for that track, I guess. I’m very happy with the team I’m on this year and the position I’m in with the team and I’m really looking forward to Laguna Seca for a lot of reasons.”

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

Your overall thoughts as we head to Laguna Seca for Sunday’s America’s Tire 250?

“Winning the championship is always the priority, but winning races and collecting podium finishes is always the focus and the way to win a championship. So we will go about our business like we do every weekend at Laguna, which has always been a fairly good track for us, and see where that puts us in the championship heading to the Petit Le Mans. We’re going to flip the driver rotation for the first time this year and have Jordan qualify and start the race and Renger finish. It’s the perfect track for us to do that and I think maybe it could bring us a little bit of magic. We all love going out to Laguna Seca to race and to spend some time. It’s a big Konica Minolta-supported event and I think we have a good car in our Cadillac DPi-V.R that should give them something to feel good about. I’m not sure whether we’ll have an outright winning car for that track this weekend, but we certainly have the team and the drivers to hopefully put us in position at the end. The guys have had plenty of time to prepare for what we need to do this weekend, so we’ll see. Again, we may not be fastest car there, but we know we have a car and a team and drivers who can win, but we still have to finish. We’ll go to the race on the basis of trying to win the race, like we do each and every weekend.”