Texas Take-Out for Konica Minolta Corvette DP

Ricky Taylor Gets Punted from Behind on First Turn of First Lap of Lone Star Le Mans,
He and Brother Jordan Unable To Finish Better Than Seventh; Championship Hopes Dashed

Date: Sept. 20, 2014
Event: Lone Star Le Mans (Round 10 of 11)
Series: Prototype division of the Tudor United SportsCar Championship
Location: Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas (3.4-mile, 20-turn road course)
Start/Finish: 2nd          / 7th (Running, completed 77 of 77 laps)
Point Standing: 2nd (293 points, 22 out of first)
Winner: Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (Ford Riley)

They say two out of three ain’t bad, but for brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype team for Wayne Taylor Racing, two out of three is disastrous after getting taken out on the first turn of the first lap of a two-hour, 45-minute Tudor United SportsCar Championship race for the second time in three events. This time, it was seconds after Saturday’s Lone Star Le Mans at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas went green and, this time, it essentially eliminated the Taylor brothers and their team from championship contention with just one race remaining.

Ricky Taylor was behind the wheel, getting a brilliant launch from the No. 2 starting position he earned in qualifying late Friday. He pulled well ahead on the outside of Gustavo Yacaman in the polesitting No. 42 OAK Racing Honda Lijier JS P2 heading into turn one. Meanwhile, Memo Rojas in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Ford Riley that started third was able to pull alongside Yacaman on the inside. Yacaman made an abrupt move to the right as Rojas was slowly closing the door and smacked into the back of Taylor, sending the No. 10 Corvette DP off course and damaging its left-rear tire, which immediately began coming apart.

The race remained green and Taylor was forced to limp slowly around the remainder of the 3.4-mile, 20-turn Formula 1 circuit so as not to inflict serious damage to the racecar’s suspension and bodywork by the tire that was quickly breaking apart. A close inspection by the team in the pits revealed no terminal damage and, after replacing both rear tires, the crew sent Taylor back on track but already one lap behind.

It turned out to be a deficit neither Taylor could overcome, and they were sent home with a hugely disappointing seventh-place finish. Coupled with the third-place finish by the points-leading No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP duo of Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa, the championship is all but decided with just the season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta left on the schedule.

As luck would have it, there was just one caution period the entire race that afforded the team an opportunity to work its way into a wave-around situation that would have put it back on the lead lap. It came at the one-hour mark. Ricky Taylor was in position to take on fuel and tires and get back out ahead of the leaders, but there was trouble on the stop. GT-class cars pitted just in front of the No. 10 Corvette DP left Taylor without enough room to enter his pit properly. The team had to spend precious time repositioning the car safely inside the pit box before it could begin its fuel-and-tire service and Taylor could not rejoin the race on the lead lap. That, as they say, was all she wrote.

“On the start, Yacaman was trying really hard to make up for a mistake he made and unfortunately got into the back of us and ruined our day,” said Taylor, who had to settle for a fourth-place finish with another potentially race-winning car after his brother got taken out on the way to turn one of the first lap of the Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis two races ago. “We had a championship at stake today and, if I didn’t get by Yacaman there, I wouldn’t have gotten by him. After that point, I just had to get the car back to the pits as safely as I could. And then I pushed my absolute hardest for however long my stint was. We got really lucky with the one yellow, but I wasn’t close enough to the wall on our stop and lost that opportunity. So we had to do it all over again, trying to get back on the lead lap again, and we weren’t able to do so until late in the race. It’s just so incredibly disappointing.”

Despite the first-turn mishap, and the pit stop gone bad, Taylor repeatedly turned among the fastest laps of the race during his nearly two-hour stint and worked his way right behind the leaders just prior to pitting, both on his fuel-and-tire stop, and when he pitted just short of the two-hour mark to hand the car over to his brother.

Like his brother, Jordan Taylor also repeatedly turned among the fastest laps of the race despite a concerted effort to save fuel along the way. He eventually worked his way back onto the lead lap with 31 minutes remaining after the leaders made their final fuel-and-tire stops, but he could finish no closer than three-quarters of a lap behind the race-winning No. 01 Ganassi entry of Scott Pruett and Rojas.

“It was an incredibly frustrating day,” Jordan Taylor said. “Getting put off the track at the start and then being as far behind as we were all day was disappointing, especially with how good a car we had and all the Konica Minolta people we had here to support us. The car was good, so we can leave here feeling happy about that. We had a winning car on pace. Things just didn’t go our way today. Everyone did a great job. But it was just kind of out of our hands. I’m not even thinking about the championship anymore. We just want to win the Petit Le Mans and move on to next year on a good note.”

The victory by Pruett and Rojas was their first since the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March and their second of the season. Ricky and Jordan Taylor, meanwhile, fell 22 points behind Fittipaldi and Barbosa in the championship. Unless there are 18 or more entries at the Petit Le Mans, the Action Express duo has essentially clinched the inaugural Tudor series title. The Taylor brothers are in second place in the standings, one point ahead of the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Corvette DP duo of Richard Westbrook and Michael Valiante.

“All I can say is I just can’t stand it when things like this happen,” team owner Wayne Taylor said. “We get taken out again by the same car, got the back of our car wrecked, yet again, and the guy goes on TV and apologizes. He lifted our car off the ground. How do you do that and apologize? Like Jordan said after the race, there is such a thing as a brake pedal. It was also unfortunate what happened on one of the pit stops. The team next to us had its tires out so we couldn’t get into our pit. That cost us a chance to get back on the lead lap. Meanwhile, Ricky passed every single car on the track, and Jordan drove an excellent stint, as well, which means we had such a great car. And we had such a great group of sponsors here this weekend from Konica Minolta and Chevrolet and Velocity Worldwide, it just makes the way the day turned out simply devastating.”

The Tudor United SportsCar Championship concludes Saturday, Oct. 4, with the annual Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. Race time for the 10-hour endurance marathon is 11 a.m. EDT with FOX Sports 2 kicking off its live television broadcast at 3 p.m. Video of the entire race will be streamed live at IMSA.com beginning at 11 a.m. The FOX network will air a two-hour rebroadcast of the race Sunday afternoon, Oct 5.