Date: Feb. 3, 2016
Event: 54th Rolex 24 At Daytona (Round 1 of 10)
Series: Prototype division of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship
Location: Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway (3.56-mile, 12-turn road course)
Start/Finish: 4th / 2nd (Running, completed 736 of 736 laps)
Point Standing: 2nd (33 points, three out of first)
Winner: Luis Felipe Derani, Scott Sharp, Johannes van Overbeek and Ed Brown of Extreme Speed Motorsports (Honda)
For the fourth consecutive Rolex 24 At Daytona, the No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP for Wayne Taylor Racing put nary a wheel off the racetrack during this weekend’s 54th Rolex 24 At Daytona, and the team’s full-time driver duo of brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor, joined by veteran Italian Max “The Ax” Angelelli and former longtime Formula 1 regular Rubens Barrichello, methodically brought home the team’s third runner-up finish Sunday in the last four editions of America’s most iconic sports car race on the Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway circuit.
Despite completing an incredible 2,880 consecutive race laps – that’s 10,253 miles – during the last four Rolex 24s, including another perfect run of all 736 tours of the 3.56-mile superspeedway road course layout between 2:40 p.m. Saturday and 2:40 p.m. Sunday, this weekend’s Konica Minolta Corvette DP driving quartet and its stellar pit crew were once again left without the highly coveted but so elusive victory at the traditional IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener.
A total of 54 car-and-driver combinations took the green flag Saturday, but just three were able to avoid major issues and finish on the lead lap, including the No. 10 Corvette DP, which was the top-finishing Daytona Prototype in the final Rolex 24 for the formula that will be retired at season’s end.
And there was just one competitor that proved to be uncatchable down the stretch – the No. 2 Tequila Patron Extreme Speed Motorsports Honda HPD Ligier JS P2 of Scott Sharp, Johannes van Overbeek, Ed Brown and Luis Felipe Derani that led the final 46 laps of the race and crossed the finish line 26.166 seconds ahead of Angelelli in the Konica Minolta Corvette DP. The latter Patron driver, a 22-year-old Brazilian phenom, benefitted from a lightning-fast LMP2 prototype that consistently turned laps between one and two seconds faster than the Daytona Prototypes to help the team overcome multiple setbacks during the race. The decisive moment came with less than two hours to go when Derani took just 10 laps to erase a 15-second deficit to the race-leading Ricky Taylor, slipped past the No. 10 Corvette DP with relative ease, and took charge the rest of the way.
Angelelli did his best to try and close the gap when he took the wheel for the final 42 minutes of the race, but the No. 2 Patron car was not to be caught. Angelelli did cross the finish line 61 seconds ahead of the third-place-finishing No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP of Ryan Dalziel, Marc Goosens and Ryan Hunter-Reay, the only other team to complete all 736 race laps.
During Angelelli’s final stint, the engine sustained a broken header which directed fumes into the cockpit. Angelelli soldiered on, nonetheless, all the way to the checkered flag. But, dehydrated and thoroughly exhausted, he was taken to a local hospital overnight for observation. Doctors released him early Monday feeling 100 percent and he has since returned home to Italy.
“I’m not happy that we did not win, but I’m happy that we had such a solid race,” Angelelli said. “The car was great, it was easy to drive, so that’s the reason we could do triple stints without extending ourselves. It was fast. We seemed to have everything in place. Now, a little bit of luck would have helped us come out on top, but there was nothing we could do about the Patron car. It was excellent work by everybody and it was amazing.”
Even though the Konica Minolta Corvette DP could not catch the Patron car in the closing stretch, it did spend a race-high 152 laps in the lead. It was the second consecutive year the No. 10 team recorded the race-high number of laps led to up its total to an even 700 laps led in the last four Rolex 24s.
“Overall, I think we are pretty happy with the results,” said Jordan Taylor, who was undaunted by the effects of illness the previous two weeks and drove a stellar three stints during the race, leading twice for 21 laps. “We came in knowing how competitive we would be and we knew we had to run our own race, and we did. It was another pretty much flawless race for us. We lapped the whole race and ended up second, but we are leaving here with first-place points since that (No. 2) team isn’t running a full season, so we are happy about that. But four years in a row of not having to go the garage and be able to lead laps is pretty incredible. At the same time, to be second three times is pretty heartbreaking. So we will just have to regroup and come back next year a little stronger. The lap times were the lap times here this weekend. We knew what they were. You can’t really compete with someone who is a second and a half faster than you lap after lap. We did the best we could and made no mistakes. They had penalties, they went off, they had all sorts of stuff happen and they still could get it done. Still, I think we should be happy with the result.”
Ricky Taylor, who qualified the No. 10 Corvette DP fourth and led 77 laps over his four driving stints, tops on the team, took things easy during his first stint Saturday afternoon, as did his brother and Angelelli in their opening stints behind the wheel. The three regular Konica Minolta drivers kept the No. 10 Corvette DP in the top-five while attrition began to set in relatively early among other competitors fighting aggressively for track position, as well as others who suffered mechanical or other issues. The No. 10 Corvette DP didn’t lead a lap until the four-hour mark during a round of green-flag pit stops, and it didn’t lead its second lap until more than eight hours into the race.
But Ricky Taylor then began making the Konica Minolta car a relative fixture at the top of the leaderboard during a solid triple stint late Saturday night, four times for 17 laps over a two-hour period. Angelelli followed suit shortly after midnight and had the No. 10 car in front for 29 laps during his triple stint.
I feel like it was one of the more treacherous 24-hour races in the night,” Taylor said. “(LM)PC (customer) cars were especially all over the place. I think you can see in the results that they were very separated in laps. So it was just about survival and very intense this year, pushing all night to stay in touch with the leaders. It was a very fun DP battle for about six or seven hours left when the 2 car was kind of behind and that was quite a bit of fun. In the end, I think the most important thing for us is that the team had a winning performance. Once again, we never went back to the garage, the guys had awesome pit stops and strategy. I think we spent four fewer minutes in the pits than the other cars. The 2 car was fast compared to the DPs and, like Jordan said, they could flip the switch and go by when they wanted, so we weren’t really racing them but, for us, we were very disappointed to have another great run without a (Rolex) watch (for winning the race).”
Barrichello, the Brazilian who is the all-time leader in career Formula 1 race starts, was a late addition to the Konica Minolta lineup and made the most of the little opportunity he had to drive the No. 10 Corvette DP before the race Thursday and Friday. He struggled through his first stint early Saturday evening due to issues fitting into the driver seat that was form-fitted to accommodate his taller teammates. A seat insert was crafted in time for his second stint during the overnight hours and his results were much more competitive.
“It was an amazing week,” Barrichello said. “Obviously, it was a late deal when I talked to Wayne, but it was so nice to meet the boys, meet Max, and I had 20 minutes before I entered the race (practicing) in the drying conditions. Of course I couldn’t do what I wanted to do that first stint because their seat was already set. They'd been driving, all three, in a pretty good seat position, so I put inserts on my back, but as soon as it got hot, the foam just let go. So my first time that I was in the car, I was not really comfortable in the car, and I drove for an hour and a half, and it looked like I was driving a Formula 1 for like 24 hours. So I was pretty tired. We had to do something, and that something was the idea of running Wayne’s old seat, which was fantastic because, although it wasn’t perfect, it put me back to the position where I was a little bit more competitive so I could do a stint of two hours and a bit – two hours and a half – and then I was able to set some good times. I’m pleased that we finished up here for such a late thing, and I hope to be back. I mean, the team is wonderful. The team is well together – the mechanics, the engineers, all the guys that put the strategy up. I really enjoyed it. The team did a fantastic job. We had the fastest DP on the track, and it was nice just to be able to be with all of them and, like I said, I hope to be back. I love the series and I did enjoy my time with the team.”
When the sun came up Sunday morning, the No. 10 Corvette DP was at its best. Consecutive stints by Ricky and Jordan Taylor and then Angelelli yielded 104 laps led over a six-hour stretch that ended with that fateful pass for the lead by Derani with an hour and 44 minutes remaining.
“Well, it wasn’t the result we wanted, or felt we deserved with all the hard work in preparation and race execution that went into this year’s race for us, but I am incredibly proud of our drivers and our team, once again,” team owner Wayne Taylor said. “I want to thank everyone at Konica Minolta for just being there for us all the time. I want to thank Team Chevy for being such an important partner all through the years. And I want to thank all of our partners for everything they do. It was just a really outstanding job by everybody on this team in the way they prepped the car to the execution during the race. I understand we spent four minutes less than any other team on pit road. And Ricky, Jordan, Max and Rubens were absolutely the best drivers out there, in my mind at least. I especially want to thank Rubens for coming in on such short notice. We were pleased to work with him and intend to talk to him about future races. We didn’t win, but at least it’s a better result than last year. I want to congratulate Ed Brown’s team on winning. For us, it’s all about the championship, and with that we will move on to Sebring and try to win that one.”
Next up on the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship calendar is the 64th annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Saturday, March 19, at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway. Live television begins at 10:30 a.m. EST on FS1.
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