Wayne Taylor Getting Chance to Live Out Lifelong F1 Dream

By Mark Robinson

IMSA Wire Service

Wayne Taylor has achieved many of his dreams as a championship-winning sports car driver and team owner. This week, however, the owner of the namesake IMSA team will realize an ambition he’s held as a teenager: driving a true Formula 1 car on a legendary circuit.

Taylor is entered in the Monaco Historic Grand Prix on the famous street course in Monte Carlo where F1 will race in two weeks. And the 67-year-old won’t be cruising around in any old F1 car. He’s piloting the same 1978 Wolf-Cosworth WR4 that his childhood hero and fellow native South African Jody Scheckter once drove.

“I’m very excited,” Taylor admitted before leaving for Europe this week. “It’s been a lifelong dream but the dream started out of being an F1 in the ‘70s and it just didn’t happen. I couldn’t get it to happen and so I chose sports car racing.

“I was an avid fan of these (F1) cars and I was a big fan of Jody Scheckter because he was from East London (South Africa, where Taylor grew up). I followed him when I was at school and stuff. Over the last 10 years or so, I started thinking one day when I retire from this, I’d like to buy a Formula 1 car of that era but I never thought of going to Monte Carlo or anything like that, I really didn’t.

“My whole life, 55 years, and now to go to Monte Carlo … pretty cool.”

It took Taylor three years to locate the Wolf WR4 that Scheckter drove in a few races; the same car later driven by Keke Rosberg and then by Desire Wilson when she became the only woman to win an F1 race, at Brands Hatch in the 1980 British Aurora F1 Championship. Once purchased, Taylor sent the car to Hudson Historics for a complete restoration under the guidance of company owner Gordon Eggleston.

“He took the car, completely restored it,” Taylor said, “and I can tell you there’s not one nut and bolt on the car that’s not new, there’s not one piece of wire that’s not new.”

From that came the decision last fall to apply for entry into the Monaco Historic. While awaiting word of his acceptance, Taylor took the car for a shakedown test at Putnam Park near Indianapolis and followed that with a full-on test in February on the Daytona International Speedway road course. His initial thoughts weren’t, um, positive.

“My first lap out, in truth, I was figuring out how I was going to tell everybody I’m not going,” he admitted, “until the car started handling properly because the tires were cold.”

Taylor received word in March that his entry was accepted, but he also learned that instead of the four practices he thought he’d have to become accustomed to the car and track, he’ll have just a single 30-minute session before qualifying and the race – which will also mark the first standing start of his illustrious career.

“So, I’ve really got 30 minutes to learn the track, find where the limit is, don’t hit anything, don’t make an idiot of yourself and get to the race,” said Taylor, who last drove a car in anger 10 years ago when he teamed with sons Ricky and Jordan and Max Angelelli to finish second in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. “Really, am I racing? No. I’m really going to be part of something very special and I’m going to drive to the speed that I feel comfortable with. I’m not going to take stupid risks at this point in my career, it would be stupid.”

His sons, though, aren’t so sure.

“Our first words to him were, just like our mom taught us, ‘Just be careful, don’t go too fast, don’t take chances,’” Ricky said. “He says he’s just going to go for the fun and the experience, and we know him well enough to say that the first time somebody passes him or he sees somebody pulling away, that moderation is going to go out the window and he’s going to get competitive. He’s super excited, it’s a dream come true for him and we’re all excited for him. But yeah, we’re stressed a little bit.”

Jordan said he and Ricky were too young to remember when Wayne was in his prime as one of the best sports car racers in the world. Jordan looked on when his father put the F1 car through its paces at Daytona and was admittedly impressed.

“I watched him on track and it was so funny thinking that that was him in the car,” Jordan recalled. “Like, it’s hard to picture that he was a driver, and he was a very good driver. Now he’s out in this insane Formula 1 car going around Daytona. I watched him on track and it was like watching any other race car driver. You never would have known it was almost a 70-year-old guy racing around Daytona in a Formula 1 car.”

Wayne’s wife Shelley and a few friends are making the trip to Monte Carlo to share in the experience. It means they’ll have to miss Ricky and Jordan competing for the Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti team in Sunday’s Motul Course de Monterey Powered by Hyundai N at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

“Unfortunately,” Wayne said, “I’m gonna have to miss Laguna, but I can’t give this one up.”

No, he can’t. It’s time for Wayne Taylor to live out another dream.