Oh, Atlanta! Taylors, Angelelli Win Petit Le Mans

Konica Minolta Corvette DP Trio Leads 248 of 400 Laps To Close Season in Style
16 Years after Wayne Taylor Co-Drives To Victory in Inaugural Petit Le Mans in 1998

Date: Oct. 4, 2014
Event: 17th Annual Petit Le Mans (Round 11 of 11)
Series: Prototype division of the Tudor United SportsCar Championship
Location: Road Atlanta (2.54-mile, 12-turn road course)
Start/Finish: 2nd          / 1st (Running, completed 400 of 400 laps)
Point Standing: 2nd (330 points, 19 out of first)
Winner: Ricky Taylor, Jordan Taylor and Max Angelelli of Wayne Taylor Racing (Corvette DP)

It’s not the season-ending championship the No. 10 Konica Minolta Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype team for Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) set out to accomplish for the second year in a row, but a thoroughly dominating victory in the inaugural Tudor United SportsCar Championship season-ending Petit Le Mans endurance marathon Saturday at Road Atlanta will certainly do.

This year’s full-time co-drivers, brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor, became the first Americans to bring home an overall win in this 10-hour event 16 years after their father, South African-born Wayne Taylor, co-drove to victory in the very first Petit Le Mans in 1998.

The Taylor brothers shared this dominating victory with veteran Italian Max “The Ax” Angelelli, who they shared the driver’s seat with at the four Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup events this season – the Rolex 24 At Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen being the other three.

Together, they led 248 of the 400 laps completed today around the 2.54-mile, 12-turn road course, including Jordan Taylor’s final 65 laps at the point after getting past Christian Fittipaldi in the season-long championship-winning No. 5 Action Express Corvette DP with one hour and 27 minutes to go before the checkered flag.

It was the team’s third consecutive victory in a season finale, the previous two years at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut in GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series competition. Last year’s clinched the final Rolex Series driver championship for Jordan Taylor and Angelelli.

Tonight’s victory also put an exclamation point on the 100th race since the inception of Wayne Taylor Racing at the outset of the 2007 Rolex Series season, and it was the team’s second victory of the season to go with the Taylor brothers’ triumph on the Belle Isle street circuit in downtown Detroit in June.

“My Dad won the first one (Petit Le Mans), so we have always heard about it,” Jordan Taylor said after his seventh Prototype-class victory in the past two seasons and eighth career sports car win. “He always talks so highly of it and puts it up there with Le Mans and Sebring and Daytona as his overall wins. It was definitely cool to do it. Especially with Max (Angelelli) with us. We had a great Daytona. Finished second there, so it is nice to close the season with a win and kind of doing it in dominant fashion, where we pretty much led the whole race. That was pretty cool. It is definitely momentum going into the offseason. The last two races, we had the car to beat so we are looking forward to next season.”

Once Taylor got past Fittipaldi at the eight-hour, 33-minute mark, he was able to quickly stretch the lead to more than 30 seconds. When Fittipaldi pitted for fuel and to hand the No. 5 Corvette DP over to Joao Barbosa with 39 minutes to go, Taylor drove on by to put him a lap down. Taylor made his final fuel stop with 33 minutes remaining and had a full lap plus six-second lead on Barbosa. He resumed more than 30 seconds ahead and held that gap until the caution flag flew with 17 minutes remaining in the race for an accident in the esses.

The race returned to green with six minutes and 30 seconds remaining with 11 cars on track between Taylor and the second-place Barbosa. Taylor was able to pull away over the final seven laps and crossed the finish line 11 seconds ahead of Barbosa.

“It was a great way to finish the season,” said Ricky Taylor, who qualified second and started the race, and passed the polesitting Barbosa for the lead on lap 10, 12 minutes into the race. “Great finish for Chevrolet for another one-two finish. Congratulations to the No. 5 car for the championship. We wish we were there to fight for the title win this weekend, but we will come back next year even stronger. We went from the lead the first half of the race, to a lap down, and back to the win. It was great.”

Ricky Taylor was in the lead when he pitted under caution to hand the No. 10 Corvette DP over to his brother on lap 68, one hour and 39 minutes into the race. Quick work by the WTR crew put Jordan Taylor back out on track in the lead.

Angelelli’s lone appearance behind the wheel was a lengthy triple stint in the middle stages of the race and, like the Taylor brothers, he was able to avoid numerous opportunities for trouble in a race slowed by 13 caution periods.

“Everyone on the team did a good job, including the drivers,” said Angelelli, who celebrated his 27th career sports car victory. “We definitely delivered. I am really happy for Chevy. Our Corvette DP was the fastest car on track. We won the race and this race for me is special because it is the fourth big race in the championship. I only need to win Sebring and then I have everything. Winter is going to be very short because we will be back soon ready for next year.”

The victory pulled the team within 19 points of Fittipaldi and Barbosa and the No. 5 Corvette DP team in the final standings of this inaugural Tudor series season. A pair of first-lap, first-turn incidents at the previous three events – not of the No. 10 team’s making – along with a broken steering system that led to the team’s only DNF (did not finish) of the season at the other event, knocked the team out of the points lead it held for the middle part of the season.

Angelelli and the Taylor brothers also finished second to the No. 5 Corvette DP in the Endurance Cup championship-within-a-championship. They entered the weekend just six points out of the lead but the No. 5 team was able to stay close enough to the No. 10 Corvette today at the points-paying four- and eight-hour marks to hang onto the lead.

“Winning this race 16 years ago, when Ricky and Jordan were 9 and 7, and now coming here and watching them win it with Max is just unbelievable,” said team owner and three-time sports car racing champion Wayne Taylor. “But winning it could never have been done without the support of Mark Kent and Jim Campbell and Mark Reuss and everybody from Chevrolet. And Konica Minolta, who really saved the day when they came on to sponsor us after Daytona and Sebring, I can’t be thankful enough. The team was flawless today, the drivers were flawless. We’ve had the best drivers all year. They’ve just not had the best luck. I think tonight proved what they can do. I do want to congratulate the No. 5 team on the championship. Those guys ran pretty flawlessly all year. They never put a wheel wrong. They deserved the championship.”

The Tudor United SportsCar Championship kicks off the 2015 season with the traditional Rolex 24 At Daytona at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway Jan. 24-25.