Taylors make 24 Hours at Daytona a family affair
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Wayne Taylor had no intention of racing again when he climbed out of the cockpit following his last start in the Rolex 24 at Daytona four years ago.
Then he was given a rare opportunity to race with sons Ricky and Jordan.
The 58-year-old Taylor will briefly end his retirement Saturday to drive one stint in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette in the twice-around-the-clock endurance race at Daytona International Speedway. He’s part of a four-driver lineup that includes his sons and team co-owner Max Angelelli.
“I’m doing this because I’m able to be with my kids, and with Max, and I’d probably never have this opportunity again,” Taylor said. “How many people get this chance? It’s amazing. For the family, it is truly an amazing thing and something later in life we will be able to talk about and it will never be able to be taken from me, irrespective of the result.”
The chance came about late last season when Angelelli saw Ricky Taylor struggling in his first season driving for Spirit of Daytona. Ricky and Angelelli had been teammates for three seasons before Ricky moved on, and younger brother, Jordan, filled the seat.
While Jordan and Angelelli were on their way to the Grand-AM drivers’ championship, Ricky wasn’t having much success.
So Angelelli offered to step aside this year — he’ll drive only in the four endurance races — to give his seat to Ricky and allow the brothers a chance to race as teammates.
“Max was the one who brought it up midyear last year when Ricky was having a rough year,” Jordan said. “We were having such a good year, and it was hard to see Ricky having such a bad year and Max said ‘You know, I’m OK to step out of the car next year if you want to have him join Jordan.’ Once that kind of started it, everyone got excited about the idea.”
It was a selfless gesture by Angelelli, who was a co-driver with Wayne Taylor for their 2005 Rolex victory. Wayne Taylor also won the race in 1996, and his boys — who are now 24 and 22 — celebrated wildly in Victory Lane.
“Max and I have been together for a long time, we won championships and races together and the 24 Hours together, and he’s like a big brother to the boys,” Wayne said. “When there was a possibility that Ricky could come back, and prior to that the boys never ever wanted to drive together but they do now, Max came to me and said ‘Wayne, I know this is difficult for you, but let me make this easy for you: I am going to step aside to put Ricky in the car.’
“It was amazing. I don’t think I’d have ever gone to him and asked him. I may have, but he brought it up. It made it a lot easier.”
For Ricky, there’s a lot of pressure in returning to the team that not only won the driver championship in Grand-AM last season — the series merged with American Le Mans this year to create the unified Tudor United SportsCar Championship — but the team also finished second in the 24 Hours last season.
Angelelli and Wayne Taylor were vocal last year in that Chevrolet was at a disadvantage to BMW, and the Corvettes seem to have the speed edge this year. It’s got some believing the Wayne Taylor entry could be a race favorite should they go the distance.
“We’ve all been answering lots of questions about what it’s like driving together — past that, it’s probably the biggest 24-hour I’ve ever done,” Ricky Taylor said. “I’m driving with Jordan, really, for the first time but, after three test sessions, it already seems like we’ve been teammates for a whole year. It’s a cool feeling for us to hand the car off to each other.”
The verdict is still out on how it feels for Wayne Taylor. He’s not used to being the slowest driver on the team, and while having both his boys in his car seems ideal, he’s not certain his blood pressure can take it over the course of an entire season.
“It is so stressful,” he admitted. “It is so incredibly stressful when it is your kids. When it is one, you are so stressed and then they get out of the car and turn it over to another driver and you get time to relax. Now I have both of them and there will be no time to relax. But to have them both together, wanting to race as teammates, I guess it’s living a dream, you know?”