Tough Luck Rears its Ugly Head at Road America

Steering Issue Cuts Short Victory Bid by Taylor Brothers in the Konica Minolta Corvette,
Drops Team from Two to 16 Points Back in Championship with Two Events Remaining

Date: Aug. 10, 2014
Event: Continental Tire Road Race Showcase (Round 9 of 11)
Series: Prototype division of the Tudor United SportsCar Championship
Location: Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin (4.048-mile, 14-turn road course)
Start/Finish: 4th / 10th (Steering, completed 47 of 61 laps)
Point Standing: 2nd (269 points, 16 out of first)
Winner: Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa of Action Express Racing (Corvette DP)

The iconic Road America circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin was none too kind to the No. 10 Konica Minolta Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype team for Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) in its first three visits there with the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series.

Even though Sunday’s inaugural visit to the 4.048-mile, 14-turn road course with the first-year Tudor United SportsCar Championship looked so good for so long, it was bad luck that once again reared its ugly head with just 30 minutes to go in the two-hour, 45-minute Continental Tire Road Race Showcase and relegated brothers and full-time co-drivers Ricky and Jordan Taylor to a costly 10th-place result.

Having started fourth on the 52-car grid and maintaining their position in the top-two for the lion’s share of their afternoon – even leading twice for a total of six laps – their day came to an abrupt end when, just having pitted a final time for tires and fuel under caution with just more than a half-hour remaining until the checkered flag, the car’s steering broke while Jordan Taylor was warming his tires for the ensuing restart. The car careened into a tire barrier between turns eight and nine and the damage was unrepairable. Taylor was unhurt.

The result was costly in that, despite still managing to hold onto second place in the Tudor Championship standings, their deficit to the first-place No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP duo of Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa ballooned from two to 16 points with just two races left on the schedule. Fittipaldi and Barbosa scored their second consecutive victory today and third of the season.

“The race was going really well,” said Jordan Taylor, who took over for his brother behind the wheel of the No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP just short of the one-hour mark. “I think it was the first time since Daytona that we actually had a winning car on pace. So I was just kind of cruising behind the 01 (Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates) car (of Memo Rojas) and then, after the restart, we were able to get by him and get into the lead. And then, I think just everything kind of went against us after that, strategy-wise. With the next yellow going way too long and the way the wave-around works with short yellows and long yellows, it just kind of caught us out. We lost some track position. We were still in a position to fight. We were still only sixth, not that far back, still lots of time in the race. We still had time to fight back to maybe get a podium. And then something broke with the steering under yellow and that put us in the wall. It was really unfortunate, especially since we had such a fast car. You usually want to make the most of those kinds of weekends when you have such a strong car. But, hopefully we can take that car to COTA (Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas) and have a strong run there.”

The competitiveness of the No. 10 Corvette was clear from the start of today’s race, when Ricky Taylor, from his fourth position on the grid, outraced the No. 42 OAK Racing LMP2 car of Gustavo Yacaman starting inside him on the second row and the polesitting Scott Sharp in the No. 1 Extreme Speed Motorsports LMP2 car down the long front straight and into the sharp, right-hand turn one. Taylor settled into second place behind the race-leading Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Action Express Corvette DP, which started on the outside of row one. Taylor stayed in close pursuit of Fittipaldi until he got a solid run on Fittipaldi on lap 19, 50 minutes into the race, and got by him to take the lead. Taylor held the point until pitting for tires, fuel and driver change under caution at the 59-minute mark.

Jordan Taylor restarted third, when the race went back to green six laps and 13 minutes later and promptly outraced Sharp in the No. 1 LMP2 car to once again grab second place, this time behind Rojas in the Ganassi car with less than an hour and 20 minutes remaining. The yellow flag waved once again with one hour, nine minutes remaining and it turned out to be another rather lengthy caution period. Rojas, Taylor and four other Prototype-class cars on the lead lap elected not to pit while several other Prototypes, including the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP, gambled by making their final scheduled stops early.

When the race went back to green with 47 minutes remaining, Taylor made a stellar move to get past Rojas for the lead in turn six. He stayed there for two laps before the caution flag appeared yet again with 44 minutes remaining. The WTR crew promptly called Taylor into the pits for fuel and tires to get him to the finish, and he resumed in sixth place. But shortly after exiting the pits, he radioed that the car was buried in the turn-nine tire barrier, that something in the steering apparently failed.

“Something in the steering broke,” Ricky Taylor said. “We had such a good car all day. We could not predict the future with the strategy, so we were a little unlucky there. But we had a winning car today and that is hopeful for the rest of the year. Unfortunately, this is terrible for the championship. All we can do is come back the last two races and win both and hope for the best.”

Today’s turn of events was somewhat similar to when the WTR Corvette last failed to finish a race – last year’s Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis, where a late-race accident relegated the team to a 15th-place finish that dropped it from the points lead to 19 points back in the Rolex Series championship with four events remaining. Jordan Taylor and his co-driver Max “The Ax” Angelelli cut that deficit to 12 points at Road America in the very next race. They then swept the race wins at the season’s final three events at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California and Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut to win the final Rolex Series driver championship going away.

With just two races remaining this season, the 16-point deficit poses a considerably greater challenge. Fittipaldi and Barbosa can clinch the inaugural Tudor series title with an average finish of fourth at the final two events at the Circuit of the Americas and the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.

“You know, this weekend the guys put together a really strong car,” team owner Wayne Taylor said. “We have not had such a strong car for quite a while and both Ricky and Jordan put the car in the lead two separate times. We were in control and then, unfortunately under caution, something happened. The saving grace is that the steering problem didn’t happen under green because we could have had a catastrophic accident. So, I am thankful that it happened under yellow. Obviously, we are disappointed to have lost so many points. That’s racing, though. Anything can happen. We’ll just have to gather ourselves together and come back strong for the final two events.”

The Tudor United SportsCar Championship now takes a five-week hiatus before resuming with round 10 of 11 on the 2014 schedule six weeks hence at Austin. Race time for the two-hour, 45-minute Lone Star Le Mans on Saturday, Sept. 20 is 12:35 p.m. EDT. It was announced Friday that Ricky and Jordan Taylor will also co-drive the No. 4 Corvette Racing C7.R GTE-Pro-class entry with fellow American Tommy Milner in that evening’s six-hour World Endurance Championship race at the track. The FOX network will air a two-hour next-day-delayed broadcast of the Tudor SportsCar Championship race Sunday, Sept. 21.