Wayne Taylor Racing has been a fixture on the American racing scene since 2007, winning a pair of IMSA driver championships, the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype team championship and 2020 IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class while contributing to eight manufacturer championships for General Motors’ Pontiac, Corvette and Cadillac brands.
In November, however, the organization concluded its historic relationship with GM when the No. Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi crossed the finish line at the Mobil1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts. Now comes the next chapter in the WTR story: a partnership with Acura Motorsports and Honda Performance Development (HPD) that will see the team (together with Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian) succeed Team Penske in campaigning an Acura ARX-05 in the 2021 WeatherTech Championship.
Usually, simply coming to grips with an unfamiliar race car between seasons is challenge enough. But the pandemic-altered 2020 schedule has made it more difficult. With last season extending deep into November, there are but 11 weeks (including the holidays) between the checkered flag at Sebring and the green flag for the 2021 Rolex 24 at Daytona. Add to the mix the need to become familiar with the HPD/Acura culture and changing from Dallara to ORECA chassis while undergoing a wholesale shake-up in the driver lineup, and you get some sense of the mountains WTR is attempting to climb.
And yet there’s more.
“We received the (Penske ORECA) cars in late November,” Taylor says, “which were not complete and pretty well mileaged out. Acura Motorsports and HPD made the decision along with my group that we’d be better off ordering brand new cars, rather than building up these cars from last year, and go from there.”
The good news is that IMSA pushed back a couple weeks the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test to Jan. 22-24, the weekend immediately before the season-opening Rolex 24. While the revised date figures to reduce travel expenses for most competitors, it also affords Indianapolis-based WTR much-needed breathing room in preparing its new Acuras.
“IMSA have done a good job in moving the Roar to the week before the Rolex 24 because, from a cost standpoint, you don’t have to come all the way down here and then go back to Indianapolis and then come back again,” Taylor explains. “If the Roar had not been rescheduled, we would not have made it, simply because in between the time we got our new cars and now you’ve got Christmas and New Year when nobody wants to do any work.”
While the technical challenges of the changeover in such a compressed time frame may keep Taylor awake some nights, rest assured he has no worries about the “people” side of the new course his team is plotting. He is more than pleased with the synergy between WTR and its new partners, in terms of preparing for the season to come and the longer term.
“There’s some bumps in the road at the moment, but I’m quite sure between HPD and my technical director Brian Pillar, we will resolve this,” Taylor says. “David Salters (HPD president), Mark Crawford (HPD manager/principal engineer) and everybody from Acura Motorsports are extremely passionate about their racing, and there’s not a day goes by that I don’t speak to almost every one of them. I like the communication; I like the direction.”
That includes looking ahead to the LMDh, IMSA’s new Prototype class slated to debut in 2023.
“HPD and Acura Motorsports are clearly focused on LMDh,” Taylor says, “but, in the meantime, we have to finish the two years remaining on DPi.”
While the 2021 WTR driver lineup of Filipe Albuquerque, Ricky Taylor and, for the Rolex 24, Helio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi bears scant resemblance to those in WTR’s immediate past, there is considerably more continuity than meets the eye.
“We are flying a little blind at the moment,” Wayne Taylor concedes, “but the one thing I thought that would provide some continuity was to hire Ricky, who’s driven for us before and, obviously, is my son. Helio and Alexander have driven this car (for Team Penske) the last three years. And Filipe just won the World Endurance Championship. I rate him very highly as a driver, and also personally. He doesn’t have an ego.
“It’s not like we feel like we have to rush to the track so the drivers can do laps. They’re all professional; they all know what the car’s about. We just want to make sure when we get to the Roar, the cars will be presented in the way we’ve done in the past. We are short on time, but I am positive we’ll be together and ready for the Rolex.”
The 59th Rolex 24 At Daytona is set to see the green flag at 3:40 p.m. ET Saturday, Jan. 30. Live coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. on NBC.