A Welcome but Most Improbable Runner-Up Finish

Konica Minolta Corvette DP Trio Overcomes Bizarre Brake Issues, Early Race Incident
To Bring Home Second-Place Trophy from 63rd Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring

Date: March 21, 2015
Event: 63rd Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring (Round 2 of 10)
Series: Prototype division of the Tudor United SportsCar Championship
Location: Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway (3.74-mile, 17-turn road course)
Start/Finish: 7th / 2nd (Running, completed 339 of 340 laps)
Point Standing: 5th (49 points, 20 out of first)
Winner: Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais of Action Express Racing (Corvette DP)

If someone told co-drivers Ricky Taylor, Jordan Taylor and Max “The Ax” Angelelli early Saturday that they would be hoisting a second-place trophy at the conclusion of the 63rd annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring shortly before midnight, they would have found it incredibly difficult to believe.

But the No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP for Wayne Taylor Racing co-driving trio was able to overcome a bizarre braking issue that plagued the team all through practice, qualifying and the opening third of Saturday’s 12-hour TUDOR United SportsCar Championship endurance classic thanks to the relentless efforts of its team engineers and crewmen, and took the checkered flag with a very welcome but most improbable second-place finish.

The runner-up finish by the Taylor brothers and Angelelli contributed to a highly celebrated 1-2-3 finish by Corvette DPs, led by the race-winning No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP of defending series champions Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi and IndyCar Series regular Sebastien Bourdais, who managed to lap the entire 46-car field in the process. The No. 90 Action Express Racing Corvette DP of Richard Westbrook, Michael Valiante and Mike Rockenfeller earned the third spot on the podium.

“This is the best recovery I have ever seen,” said Ricky Taylor, who started and finished the race in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP and, in addition to fighting the early race braking issues, also contacted heavily by an LMPC competitor who was slammed into by a wayward GT-class car under caution less than two hours into the race. “I mean, going from those braking issues on lap four, thinking that our race was pretty much done because it was such an odd problem. Then, and hour and a half later getting absolutely smashed by a PC car, and then fixing the brakes; fixing the car and finishing second, which was kind of the best of the rest, was pretty special.  We finally got some points in a race where I thought we were going to be out of it. We got good points. It was a good day. I still can’t believe we solved that brake issue. That was incredible.”

The issue that perplexed the team’s braintrust all weekend long involved strange and unpredictable fluctuations in brake temperatures and pressures on all four corners of the car. After attempts to remedy the situation in real-time during the early stages of Saturday’s race did not produce satisfactory results, engineers decided to replace the front brake rotors with the ones used at the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona. That led to an extended pit stop just short of the four-hour mark and dropped the No. 10 Corvette off the lead lap. With eight hours to go, it was expected that the lap could be made up by being in position for a wave-around during a subsequent yellow.

As it turned out, the No. 10 never was in position to be waved around the pace car and back onto the lead lap during several caution periods that followed. But with the braking issue finally resolved and thanks to heads-up driving by Angelelli and the Taylor brothers, forward progress was made. Ricky Taylor even was able to race his way back to the lead lap during the race’s final round of regularly scheduled pit stops when he was able to drive past Barbosa in the No. 5 Action Express Corvette. Barbosa got back by when Taylor was asked to save fuel for a short time during the closing laps.

“It’s kind of the same story as Daytona, where we went into the race on our back foot with problems and having to solve them in the race,” Jordan Taylor said. “At Daytona, we fixed the problem we had there on the first pit stop. And then this race, it took us a few hours, but after six hours of trying every pit stop, the guys actually figured it out, which is unbelievable that after four practice sessions, qualifying, six hours of racing, we got it sorted out. We look back with a second-place finish, we could be a little bit disappointed, but if you would have told us four or five hours into the race we would have been on the podium, we wouldn’t have believed you.  So, I think we can all be pretty proud of the effort.”

“This is very amazing because six, seven hours ago, we had absolutely no faith in finishing in the top-five,” said Angelelli, who for the second year in a row is competing in only the four events that make up the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup – the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the Sebring 12-hour, the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, and the Petit Le Mans season finale at Road Atlanta. “But the Konica Minolta racing team just pulled out this magic and the guys in the timing stand with the strategy, they made it happen. Once we got the brake issue under control, I guess we were just waiting for that yellow that would have put us back on the lead lap. We were all waiting and hoping for that yellow. But that is racing and we were happy with our Konica Minolta Corvette. It performed really well, especially at the end of the race. Ricky and Jordan did great supporting me and we will take second.”

The runner-up finish vaulted the No. 10 team from 16th to fifth in the TUDOR Series standings, 20 points behind the championship-leading No. 5 Corvette DP team. The No. 10 team finished third on the racetrack at the Daytona season-opener but was placed 16th four days later for violating a maximum drive-time penalty during the latter stages of the race.

“It was an unbelievably difficult weekend with really an outstanding result,” said team owner Wayne Taylor. “I can’t say enough about our drivers and our team because, really, we had drama from the day we got here with braking issues. The car could only do five or six laps at a time before the brake pressures got so high that, eventually, the wheel bearings would have exploded. So we were taking all sorts of risks during practice and the race, cutting air intakes, we were blanking stuff off. The temperature sometimes was in the right front, then it would change to the left front, then the rears, and the guys just kept working, kept soldiering on. Finally, during the race, the guys just decided to take the discs we ran at the (Rolex) 24-hour and put them on the car and we did, and the problem went away. But, by then, we also had the incident involving Ricky during the caution when the GT car hit the LMP2 car that then launched itself into the side of our car with Ricky preparing to come in for a driver change. That destroyed the floor and our diffuser was hanging out, so we didn’t have a very good car. To finish where we did with our Konica Minolta Corvette was simply amazing. I have to thank Konica Minolta and Team Chevy and everybody who supports us. We couldn’t do this without them. It was a 1-2-3 finish for Corvette, for Chevy, and we’re very proud to be a part of that family.”

Round three of the 2015 Tudor Championship schedule is the Tequila Patron Sports Car Showcase as part of IndyCar’s Grand Prix of Long Beach on Saturday, April 18. FOX Sports 1 will provide a next-day-delayed television broadcast at 4 p.m EDT Sunday, April 19.