2018 Petit Le Mans Pre Race Report
2018 Petit Le Mans Pre Race Report
The late Al Davis had a simple but extremely popular motto when he was owner of the National Football League’s Oakland Raiders: “Just win, baby!”

BRASELTON, Georgia (Oct. 9, 2018) – The late Al Davis had a simple but extremely popular motto when he was owner of the National Football League’s Oakland Raiders: “Just win, baby!”

Fittingly, that also happens to be theme this weekend for the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R and its drivers Jordan Taylor, Renger van der Zande and Ryan Hunter-Reay as they close out the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season at the 21st annual Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.

They arrive at the picturesque, 2.54-mile, 12-turn natural road circuit northeast of downtown Atlanta third in the championship with an insurmountable 19-point deficit to the first-place No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R and 15 points behind the second-place No. 54 Core Autosport Oreca LMP2 entry.

With zero pressure to race for maximum points in Saturday’s 10-hour endurance marathon, the Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team will be pulling out all the stops in its quest for the race win, like it did in winning the 2014 Petit Le Mans, the last time it arrived at a season finale with no hopes of winning the season-long championship.

A secondary theme for the team might also be, “My what a difference a year makes.” After five consecutive victories to open the 2017 season and another pair of podium finishes in the next four events, the team arrived at Road Atlanta with a 29-point lead in the standings. It clinched the championship – the team’s first title since 2013 – simply by taking the green flag to start the race.

With their sights set on a successful defense of the 2017 championship, Taylor, van der Zande, Hunter-Reay and the team got off to a highly inauspicious start with an early retirement and 15th-place result at the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona. They rebounded with a solid second-place finish at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, another podium on the streets of Long Beach, California, and a string of five top-five finishes that got the team within 12 points of the championship lead heading to the penultimate race last month at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. A pole qualifying effort at Laguna Seca left the team hopeful it could take another chunk out of the points deficit, but a mechanical issue just 39 minutes into the race forced another early retirement and ended the team’s championship hopes.

A win Saturday would be the team’s first this season and would make it 15 consecutive seasons with at least one victory since team owner Wayne Taylor and his longtime co-driver and business partner Max “The Ax” Angelelli first started racing the No. 10 prototype in what was formerly known as the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series in 2004.

It has been quite the humbling season for the 2017 champions, but capping it off with a Petit Le Mans victory like the one they earned in 2014 would go a long way toward making the offseason a much more pleasant one, and certainly would provide some positive momentum as it prepares for the 2019 campaign.

Practice for Saturday’s Petit Le Mans begins Thursday morning with Prototype-class qualifying set for 4:45 p.m. EDT Friday. The green flag for the 10-hour, 40-minute race flies at 11:05 a.m. Saturday with live television beginning on FS1 at 10:30 a.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:

What a difference a year makes, right? A year ago you show up at Road Atlanta and the championship is a mere formality and this year it is out of reach. What’s your and the team’s mindset this time around?

“We have nothing to lose this year heading into Petit, so we are just going for the win. Unfortunately, our championship fight ended at Laguna but we have been battling for the win at every race in the second half of the season, which gives us confidence heading into Atlanta. We don’t have to focus on racing for the NAEC (North American Endurance Cup) points or anything else, it’s just about the overall win.”

Looking back on the season, how would you sum up how the team got to where it is today and if there’s anything anybody could have done differently. Your feelings about how the season went and maybe a brief thought ahead to next year, if that’s even on your mind at all?

“I think as a team we performed better than what the results show. Especially in the second half of the year, we have been extremely strong at every event. We’ve had some bad luck along the way, but that happens. Last year was a dream season and this season has grounded us again. That made us better, because we started looking at more areas that we can improve as a team, which will take us into 2019 that much stronger.”

With no pressure of a championship at stake, how does that change the way the team approaches this race and what kind of freedoms you have to do things differently than normal?

“It allows us to take as much risk as we want to. We don’t have to worry about any of the NAEC stages or anything like that, so we can put all our focus on the end of the race.”

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

What a difference a year makes, right? A year ago you show up at Road Atlanta and the championship is a mere formality and this year it is out of reach. What’s your and the team’s mindset this time around?

“Last year, my season was ending in a different way than WTR’s, so already for me it’s an improvement in that we’re fighting for third in the overall championship. Especially after what happened at Laguna Seca, I think we possibly could have been leading the championship going into this weekend. I think that’s a bit of a small disaster what happened there, but it’s the world of racing and things happen like that and we’re going to make the best out of it. For us, that means to qualify on the pole and win the race this weekend.”

Looking back on the season, how would you sum up how the team got to where it is today and if there’s anything anybody could have done differently. Your feelings about how the season went and maybe a brief thought ahead to next year, if that’s even on your mind at all?

“Looking at the season, I think we actually performed very well. Daytona was out of our hands, but at Sebring we did well, and we did well at some other races even though we weren’t going to have a winning car no matter what we did. And we had other races where we got good performance out of the car. We were lightning quick at our last race at Laguna Seca until we had our issue. Altogether, it’s been a big mix of emotions where you go in feeling like there’s no way you’re going to win and then you end up being there at the end, and other races where you think we are going to win the race and we didn’t. In Holland, we have a saying, ‘The coin always falls on the wrong side,’ and this season seems like it’s been that way a lot. But we also have a saying, ‘What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.’ That’s what we’re banking on going forward.”

With no pressure of a championship at stake, how does that change the way the team approaches this race and what kind of freedoms you have to do things differently than normal?

“I think every race we go we want to win. Maybe the others will feel the pressure fighting for the championship. We’re going to Road Atlanta with one goal, and that’s to win that damn race.”

Your overall thoughts about the Petit Le Mans and racing at Road Atlanta?

“Everything with corners this year has been our strong suit. Everything with long straights has been our weakness as our top speed has not been great. Looking at Road Atlanta, we’ll have a 50 percent super-competitive car and the other 50 percent a not-so-competitive car where people might be flying by us on the straight. But we know as a team and with the car that we have and the whole package that we’ll be super strong in the corners. Hopefully we can keep everybody behind on the straights, but that’s not going to be easy. If you look at Road Atlanta, I have won there in the past in LMPC and have been second there in LMPC. It’s one of those classic races and tracks I’m proud to be a part of. It’s a real classic, it’s day and night. We’ve had rain, we’ve had full dry, there’s always something going on and it’s always last-minute and it’s always exciting. Hopefully it goes our way this time and that’s what we’re aiming for.”

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

What a difference a year makes, right? A year ago the team showed up at Road Atlanta and the championship was a mere formality and this year it is out of reach. What’s your and the team’s mindset this time around?

“The mindset is just to send it – go for the win, whatever it takes. We’d really like to end this season on a high note.”

With no pressure of a championship at stake, how does that change the way the team approaches this race and what kind of freedoms you have to do things differently than normal?

“With no points scenarios at stake it allows the drivers and the team to be more aggressive both on track and with strategy. Obviously, we’d much rather be in the position of securing a championship, but we can still end the season on a major high with momentum rolling into 2019.”

Your thoughts about driving at Road Atlanta … fun parts, challenging parts, etc.?

“Road Atlanta is certainly one of the trickier tracks to get your head around because of all the blind crests and curbs. I find that you have to be very precise with car placement here and that can be difficult at times depending on tire life and track temp.”

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

Your overall thoughts as you head to Road Atlanta with nothing to lose by going all-out for the win?

“It’s always been one of my favorite races. We won it the first time we went back there in 2014, and I’m proud to have won the very first Petit Le Mans back in 1998. Given the fact we haven’t won a race this year – which would be the first time for this team as we know it, and that’s going back 15 years – we are going there to win this race and that’s all. Everything we’re doing is focused on winning the race. We don’t care where we finish in the championship, so there’s no pressure. That was also the case when we won in 2014, so let’s see if we can do it again.”