Date: July 2, 2017
Event: Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen (Round 6 of 10)
Series: Prototype division of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship
Location: Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International (3.4-mile, 11-turn road course)
Start/Finish: 4th / 6th (Running, completed 197 of 200 laps)
Winner: Christian Fittipaldi, Joao Barbosa and Felipe Albuquerque of Action Express Racing (Cadillac DPi-V.R)
Point Standing: 1st (202 points, 20 ahead of second)
The good news Sunday for brothers and co-drivers Ricky Taylor and Jordan Taylor and their No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R race team is they leave this year’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship endurance marathon at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International with a sizeable 20-point lead in the standings with just four events remaining.
But with that big-picture positive comes today’s rather stunning end to the team’s landmark five-race winning streak to start the 2017 campaign – stunning in that the streak was essentially over less than 30 seconds into today’s six-hour race.
Ricky Taylor, who qualified fourth Saturday, got a good start as the green flag waved today and slipped past No. 3 qualifier Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R heading into the high-speed, right-hand turn one of the 3.4-mile, 11-turn road course. That put Taylor on the outside of No. 2 qualifier Jose Gutierrez in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier LMP2. Gutierrez’s racing machine jumped abruptly to the left and made significant enough contact with the right-front of Taylor’s Cadillac to cause suspension damage, unbeknownst to Taylor, however. Taylor continued without incident as he accelerated through the equally high-speed, right-hand turn two but, when he arrived at the high-speed, left-hand turn three, the broken suspension caused him to drift quickly toward the right-side barrier, with which he made heavy enough contact to also damage the right-rear suspension while almost collecting the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona entry. Taylor was able to limp the Konica Minolta Cadillac back to the garage, where the team was able to make relatively short work of the repair process before sending him back out six laps down.
“It was really frustrating,” Taylor said. “I was just trying to get around the 5 (Fittipaldi) – he had a bit of a bad start – and made my way up alongside the 52 (Gutierrez) just to make sure I could get a good run out of turn one. I was alongside and had the car to where we were going to touch but, at worst, it was only going to be a rub. But it looked like he kind of shot up into me, maybe he had a moment there just past the apex, and kind of shot up into me and just got me in the (right-front) wheel. Normally, I don’t think that would’ve broken anything, but it broke the right-front toe link and I really couldn’t turn left. I feel bad if I got in anybody’s way after that. I was going as fast as I could and I didn’t know I wasn’t going to be able to turn left until I turned in. I was already committed and almost gave the 90 car another bad weekend. But the Konica Minolta boys got it all back together, took their time to make sure everything was right.”
Rejoining the race in the 10th and final position among the Prototype-class competitors on lap seven, Taylor and the team’s mission turned to salvaging as many points as possible. They started the day with a hefty 30-point lead over the No. 5 Action Express Cadillac team after their amazing five-race win streak to start the 10-race season. Placing themselves in the right place at the right time for three of the five caution periods for 17 laps on the day, they were able to make up three of the six laps lost to the first-lap incident. And major problems for four of their Prototype-class competitors enabled them to bring home a respectable sixth-place finish.
“It’s unfortunate that we had the incident at the beginning of the race, but the team did a great job recovering from it,” Taylor said. “Unfortunately, we were just a little bit too far down to really take advantage of the yellows and make those laps back. But nobody gave up and we salvaged some points. We still have a 20-point gap to the 5 car for the championship. I’m confident the team will get back to its normal ways after this, continue doing what we do, and the results will return to normal. I’m excited that we get to race again next week to put this race behind us.”
Younger brother Jordan Taylor did his part to keep the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R running stellar laps during the middle two-and-a-half-hour stint of today’s race, but only attrition and caution periods would enable him to make up laps or spots in the running order, neither of which were in abundance.
“Obviously, it was a disappointing day,” he said. “But I think from the lap-one incident – it wasn’t Ricky’s fault going to the outside, he always makes moves at the start to make up positions – the 52 car had a moment and touched us, which caused the damage. From there, it was damage control. The guys made the fix as fast as possible. We fixed both the front and rear suspension and went six laps down. From then on, it was running our own race and trying to make up laps when yellows came out. With strategy, we were able to get three of those back. With a few more yellows, we maybe could’ve made all of them back, which was a testament to the guys on the strategy side with saving fuel and timing our pit stops. So, from going from last to sixth due to other guys having reliability issues and making mistakes isn’t the worst day. I think we salvaged good points considering how we started and I think we can look to Mosport next week still with a healthy lead with 20 points and basically looking to continue chasing our championship there and continue running for more race wins.”
While Watkins Glen is a track where the team has not scored a podium finish since winning both the 2011 Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen and the two-hour sprint race during the August NASCAR weekend that year, the team heads next weekend to one of its most successful tracks on the outskirts of Toronto – Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario. Third-place finishes by the Taylor brothers in 2014 and 2016 sandwich their thrilling victory there two years ago.
“With five victories in a row, there comes a lot of pressure on everybody to keep doing it, and it’s not easy,” team owner Wayne Taylor said. “It’s disappointing how we had that incident at the start when the 52 ran into the side of us and, unfortunately, it broke the front suspension and the rear and we lost six laps. So, at that point, we were figuring out how to get our laps back. Clearly there weren’t enough yellows, although we got back three laps. Otherwise, the team did an awesome job. The pit stops were perfect. The drivers were perfect. Everybody was perfect. And we still leave here with a 20-point driver and team lead in the points, and we sealed the manufacturers championship for Cadillac. Not a bad day after a bad start. We finished sixth overall. So, onward and upward.”
Round seven of the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule is next week’s Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. The two-hour, 40-minute event Sunday, July 9, is set for a live television broadcast on FS1 beginning at noon EDT.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!