|Storylines abound in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R camp for this weekend’s 55th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, during which the full-time driver duo of Ricky and Jordan Taylor hope to send off retiring veteran Max “The Ax” Angelelli with a win while being joined by four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon and, in the process, embarking on the historic introduction of a stunning new race car.
If it all came down to one headline, it would be “Unfinished Business.”
This year’s traditional IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener welcomes the highly anticipated Daytona Prototype international formula to its top-tier Prototype class, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team hopes to be the first victor among the myriad manufacturer representatives who are debuting all-new race cars at America’s most iconic sports car race.
For team owner Wayne Taylor and his 2005 Rolex 24 and series championship co-driver Angelelli, it represents a chance to take care of unfinished business as they collaborated on Cadillac’s previous prototype-class effort from 2000 through 2002.
For Gordon, it’s the highly anticipated chance to improve on the third-place finish he logged with Taylor, Angelelli and Jan Magnussen in his only other Rolex 24 effort in 2007.
And for brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor, it’s a chance to finally get that breakthrough Rolex 24 win after having come so close to victory each of the last three seasons, crossing the Rolex 24 finish line in second, third and second, respectively.
Angelelli, the two-time champion and third-winningest driver in North American sports car history, played an integral role in bringing the new racecar to life as Cadillac DPi-V.R program manager the last two years. He was the liaison between manufacturer Cadillac, chassis maker Dallara and engine builder Earnhardt Childress Racing and will continue in his role after completing his final race as a driver this weekend. He co-drove with Taylor and Frenchman Emmanuel Collard to the 2005 Rolex 24 win by more than 11 laps en route to that year’s series title.
Gordon’s third-place finish in the 2007 Rolex 24 had weighed on his mind ever since, but he decided his next attempt would not occur until his NASCAR Cup Series driving days were behind him. He has immersed himself in the testing effort for this year’s race beginning with last October’s private team test at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway and continuing with the December and early January open tests at Daytona in preparation for this week’s full-scale assault on a Rolex 24 win.
The Taylor brothers are also fully acclimated to their new race car and look to ride it to the top step of the podium after their team has led a series-high 29.6 percent of all Rolex 24 race laps the last three seasons (644 of 2,171).
Practice for this weekend’s 55th Rolex 24 At Daytona begins Thursday morning with Prototype-class qualifying set for 4:25 p.m. EST with live video provided by IMSA.tv beginning at 3 p.m. The green flag flies at 2:30 p.m. Saturday for the 24-hour marathon with live television coverage on the FOX network from 2 to 5 p.m. FS2 will carry all but one hour of the segment from 5 p.m. Saturday to 1 p.m. Sunday, while FS1 will televise the race’s conclusion from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday. Live timing and scoring during all on-track sessions is available at IMSA.com and the IMSA smartphone app.
|RICKY TAYLOR, driver, No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R:|
How has your experience been to bring this all-new Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R to its very first race?
“It’s been a great experience to be involved with the program from a brand new car to the racetrack. My dad and Max and a lot of other people have been through that experience of developing a racecar but, for me, it was my first time. What’s amazing is how ready-to-go it was, how great of a job Dallara and Cadillac did to build us a beautiful racecar. Our engineer says there’s an Italian saying Dallara always uses that translates to, ‘Fortune favors the bold.’ And Cadillac has a saying, ‘Dare greatly.’ I feel those two ideas go together very well. To come to Daytona with our brand new Cadillac, just to take on the world with all the European teams coming, it couldn’t be more fitting.”
How has your experience been working with Jeff Gordon in preparation for his second career sportscar race and second career Rolex 24?
“It’s amazing. Even coming from last year’s prototype, this has been a learning curve for me. So, I can imagine coming from stock car racing your whole career – this has got to be such a difference – it’s amazing how quickly he’s picked it up. As a young driver, looking at someone as accomplished as he is, the approach he takes coming over here, asking tons of questions and really open to advice and everything, it’s a great lesson for me if I ever get an opportunity as a new experience and knowing this is the way to approach it. He goes about it in such a professional and such a mature way, it’s not surprising that he’s been so successful.”
|JORDAN TAYLOR, driver, No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R:|
You’ve come so close to winning the Rolex 24 the last four years. Your thoughts as you come back for this year’s edition?
“It has been tough the past four years, finishing second three times and third the other year. We’ve never been behind the wall, we’ve always finished on the lead lap. One year we lost a lap but we got it back. The team’s worked flawlessly and performed flawlessly, so we think we’re coming in this year very well-prepared. It is a new car with a lot of unknowns, but we have a lot of trust in the people who designed and built the car that it will run 24 hours. We’ve been through lots of testing, endurance testing, simulations, so we have a lot of confidence in the manufacturer, the team, and that gives the drivers the confidence we’ll have a good race.”
How has it been working with Jeff Gordon in preparation for this year’s Rolex 24?
“It’s been everything you’d expect and more. Obviously, we grew up watching him on TV, and he drove with the team in 2007 when Ricky and I were just kids and just hanging around. I met him briefly, but I think Ricky and I basically were just trying to stay out of the way back then. Now, having watched his career and after driving, myself, it’s a lot more of a big deal and it’s been kind of incredible going through the whole process of when he came to Charlotte for the seat fit, seeing his attention to detail, everything – leg room, how his feet worked the pedals, everything he talks about. You can see how he found so much success in his career because he focuses on every aspect of what goes on in the race and the racecar. He’s extremely humble. He came in with questions. We were expecting to ask him questions for ideas of his, which we do, but he was asking us straightaway in our world of sportscar racing, how to work traffic, how to work cold tires, cold brakes, restarts, different cars and what to expect. It’s been an amazing process, getting to know him, and I think we’ve made a great friend in him, as well.”
|MAX ANGELELLI, driver, No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R:|
The buildup for your final Rolex 24 and final race of your driving career looks like it’s going to be the most exciting one. What are your overall thoughts?
“Well, my North American racing career started with Wayne and it started with the Daytona 24-hour in 1999. It continued with the Cadillac program from 2000 to 2003. So it’s fitting that this will be my final race as a driver for all of those reasons. It looks like it’s going to be a very exciting race with the new Cadillac, with Wayne, with Ricky and Jordan, with Jeff Gordon joining us. It would be so great to finish with a win. Our Cadillac is the nicest looking car in the field, even though my opinion is not neutral, but it looks really smart. Our performance, we’ve got it all together. This (Roar Before the 24) test weekend was proof that the WEC cars are fast and will be our biggest opponents. But it’s also an exciting time for the series because we have a lot of nice cars – many, many high-level, high-performance prototypes. We have a big grid in all of the classes. I think it’s going to be one of the greatest shows in recent years. For sure, the competition level is incredibly high – higher than ever before. We’re going to see record lap times and top speeds and everything. That is going to be something to really be looking for, a new chapter of racing sports cars in America.”
You have been instrumental in bringing the Cadillac DPi-V.R to life, working behind the scenes the last two years with manufacturer Cadillac, chassis maker Dallara, and engine builder Earnhardt Childress Racing. What was that like for you?
“It was very challenging and I think we ended up with a very nice-looking car, in my opinion. All these different parties sharing the same table – Americans, Italians and other Europeans involved – was kind of interesting and that was a long project that we started in 2015 as an idea. Ultimately, everybody worked very well together. All the little issues were addressed right away, and look at what we have now – it’s not only gorgeous, but looks like it’s going to be fast.”
|JEFF GORDON, driver, No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R:|
You’re back for your second Rolex 24 after your first experience with the team in 2007. How is this experience different than it was for you 10 year ago?
“Obviously the biggest change is this car and the prototypes and how they’ve evolved. I am having a blast. It’s been a dream of mine to be able to not just drive a car like this, but compete out on a track with a team and a car like this. This is a lot of fun for me. I treat this as if I’m a rookie. I’ve done this race only one other time, so just tap into this team and our teammate’s and Max’s efforts. I’ve been part of this process for the last year or two listening and talking with Wayne and Max and then, of course, for the last few months getting to know Ricky and Jordan by testing with them. It’s been an amazing experience. I must say that getting behind the wheel of a car that brakes and corners like that is kind of eye-opening to me but, at the same time, is so much fun. I can’t wait to get out there. Nothing would make me more proud and honored than to be able to be part of that effort that gives Wayne that win as a team owner and Max and all these guys. They’ve put their heart and soul into it and they have a fantastic team and I think we have a fantastic car and, hopefully, driver lineup, too, to go along with it.”
What kinds of things have you been doing to prepare for this year’s return to the Rolex 24?
“I can tell you the first lap I made when we tested at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which was, of course, the first time I drove the car and I got fitted into the seat, that got my attention, definitely. The G-forces, when you’re not used to pulling those types of G-forces, whether it be cornering, accelerating, braking, it kind of makes your head spin a little bit and so, that first time, I actually got a little bit light-headed and I was like, “Whoa.” Then you get used to it and you start really being able to focus on the details. I’ve definitely had to step up my training. There’s a friend of mine who is involved with Equinox, so I’ve been working with one of their trainers remotely through the internet where they go everywhere I go. I’m doing that two or three times a week. I was skiing over the offseason. I really ran a lot of runs trying to build my legs up for this brake pedal. I’ve got to push so hard for however many stints I end up being in the car. Physically, yeah, I definitely have had to do a lot of cardio. This car pulls a lot of Gs and makes you work a lot harder. It’s not as hot inside the car as a stock car but it definitely puts a lot more load on your body. Yeah, I’ve been getting myself in as good of shape as the young kids on the team. Chasing their lap times, and physically.”
|WAYNE TAYLOR, owner, No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R:|
You’re introducing an exciting new racecar in the Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R at this weekend’s Rolex 24 after having been a perennial contender for the race win at Daytona the last several years. What are your thoughts heading to Daytona?
“The truth is that it is unfinished business for me and for Max, especially, as we ran the Cadillac program from 2000 to 2003. And just when we felt we were getting to a position where we thought we were going to be competitive, the program ended. As the series evolved and the new DPi formula was introduced this year, it made sense for Cadillac to come back and show its technology here. We’re obviously very excited to kick off this exciting new Cadillac effort with Konica Minolta, which has been a very loyal supporter of our program, and at Daytona, which is essentially our home track and the biggest race on our schedule. Our team has had a very successful last several years at the 24-hour even though we’ve come so close so many times but couldn’t quite finish with a win. Our drivers and team just need to continue on that path with our exciting new Cadillac racecar and hopefully we’ll be there at the end once again, racing for the win.”
How has it been to have Jeff back racing with your team after he first raced with you 10 year ago at this very race?
“Having Jeff back with us is great. We’ve remained in touch over the years. At the end of the 24-hour in 2007, he said he still had another championship in him but, when he was done with NASCAR, he wanted to come back and do it again. So, as soon as he retired, I called him. He checked with his family and, within a few minutes, he called back and said, ‘I’m in.’ Watching him, I think he’s having the time of his life. He’s really enjoying driving this new Cadillac. And it’s great for my sons to be able to drive with him and learn from all the things he’s achieved over the years.”
|Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R Team Report
Round 1 of 10 – Rolex 24 At Daytona
At-Track PR Contact: Laz Denes with True Speed Communication (256-717-8014 or Laz.Denes@
Event: 24-hour IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway (3.56-mile, 12-turn road course).
Broadcast (Race time 2:30 p.m. EST Saturday): FOX: 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday. FS2: 5 to 10 p.m.and 11 to 11:55 p.m. Saturday, 12 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. FS1: 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday. Thursday qualifying: 3 to 4:40 p.m. via IMSA TV at IMSA.com, IMSA mobile app (Prototype class at 4:25 p.m.).
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!