It’s one of the most significant angles leading into the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA this weekend: Wayne Taylor Racing is trying to win the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA for a fourth consecutive time.
In fact, it’s the talk of the race. Everywhere except the team’s garage, that is.
“The approach for us to win Daytona is always the same,” said Filipe Albuquerque, who will co-drive the team’s No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 with Ricky Taylor, Alexander Rossi and Will Stevens. “It has nothing to do with one, two, three or four. The approach is the same. If it comes, it comes.”
If it does happen, it will break the record of three consecutive overall Rolex 24 victories set in 2008 by Chip Ganassi Racing. If it doesn’t happen, it will interrupt one of the most dominant performances in the storied race’s 60-year history.
For now, though, a possible record isn’t a topic of conversation for the team’s drivers, engineers, mechanics or team owner Wayne Taylor. They’re just doing their jobs, precisely and efficiently, as they always do.
“Winning is part of the business,” Albuquerque said. “By now, all of us are so experienced. The most important thing is to stay loyal to our principles and work ethic. If it worked in the past, then we should keep doing the same.”
Like Ganassi’s team during the 2006-08 streak, Wayne Taylor Racing accomplished its three consecutive victories with an ever-changing lineup of drivers. Unlike CGR, which won all three in its streak with Lexus, WTR changed manufacturers mid-streak, going from Cadillac to Acura before last year’s race.
This time, as has become his custom, Taylor chose the newest member of the team during their first phone conversation. No face-to-face meeting, no resume, no test session. Stevens, a veteran of Formula One, FIA World Endurance Championship and six 24 Hours of Le Mans, was chosen to join Albuquerque, Rossi and Ricky Taylor based on reputation alone.
“You could tell straight away that he knew what he was doing,” Taylor said. “You don’t even have to put them in the car to know when you’ve got the right guy.”
That’s not uncommon when Wayne Taylor Racing searches for drivers to fill its endurance positions – the third or fourth driver to spell the team’s two full-time drivers during longer races on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule.
“When you talk to these types of drivers, you know what they want to do,” Wayne Taylor said. “You know that they are dedicated and passionate. … They are guys I can call friends.”
Tickets are available for the week’s activities and include the below. For all ticket information for the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA weekend, log onto www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or call 1-800-PITSHOP.
4-Day Adult Tickets At Gate: $125 (Infield/Frontstretch/Garage Access); Kids 12-and-under FREE
Sat-Sun Adult Tickets At Gate: $75 (Infield/Frontstretch/Garage Access); Kids 12-and-under FREE
Sat-Sun Adult Tickets At Gate: $50 (Infield, Frontstretch Access): Kids 12-and-under FREE
Sat-Sun Adult Tickets At Gate: $50 (Unreserved Frontstrech Seating): Kids 12-and-under FREE
Friday Adult Tickets At Gate: $30 (Unreserved Frontstrech Seating): Kids 12-and-under FREE
Sunday Adult Tickets At Gate: $35 (Unreserved Frontstrech Seating): Kids 12-and-under FREE
- Editor’s Note: To download the new the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA logo, click here.
The Proof Is in the Trophies and Watches
It’s proven to be a successful approach for the team in the Rolex 24. A phone call with Scott Dixon led to victory in 2020. A brief conversation with Rossi led to victory a year later. In the past five years, Taylor’s team has hired several other marquee drivers – some outside the realm of sports car racing – to fill the endurance role.
“It comes down to the selection process of who we want in the third and fourth spots,” said Ricky Taylor. “The team does a really good job of looking deep into their careers and finding who has sports car experience. Nobody we pick is inexperienced with this sort of stuff. They all seem to translate over very well.”
The streak began in 2019 with two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso on board. In 2020, Dixon, the six-time IndyCar champion, joined for a victory. Last year, Helio Castroneves did the same before going on to win the Indianapolis 500 for a record-tying fourth time.
The trick, then, is finding the right person for the part-time driving position. Wayne Taylor and Brian Pillar, WTR’s technical director, have perfected the process.
“I’m very much a fan of racing, and I’m very much in awe of race car drivers,” Wayne Taylor said. “I like that I’m able to find the right person. For me, it’s always hard to say no because I know what it’s like to be a driver. It becomes very difficult when you’re coming down to the wire to make that decision.”
When the decision is right, it can be magical. Rossi, who won the Indianapolis 500 in 2016 in his regular gig with Andretti Autosport, is Ricky Taylor’s current favorite in the endurance role. Stevens, a teammate with Rossi at Marussia F1 Team in Formula One in 2015, will replace Rossi for the remaining IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup races – Sebring, Watkins Glen and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta – in 2022.
“He treats it like it’s his primary job,” Ricky Taylor said of Rossi. “He takes everything in and remembers it and comes back the next time as if he was driving the car yesterday. Every time he gets in the car, he contributes. We never say, ‘OK, we need to give Alex some time’ just to get comfortable or just to drive around. He’s always doing work and always there to do the job.”
Doing the job is the fundamental element of Wayne Taylor’s approach to the third and fourth drivers. Different disciplines and different series are assets – not detriments – to endurance sports car racing. The best racers can (and do) drive anything well.
“I like what Wayne has done,” Dixon said. “He mixes it up. Obviously, it has worked extremely well at Daytona for the past few years, that’s for sure. … There are some that are going to step in and the style of the car will be more natural than others, but anybody at that level should be able to be plug-and-play.”
Considering how close the Rolex 24 has become in recent years – margins of victory have been under 14 seconds in three of the past five runnings – adaptability is critical for the part-time driver’s role.
“Every lap is a qualifying lap,” Wayne Taylor said. “You need drivers who understand that and have the stamina to do it. You need both sides – the team and the drivers. Drivers play a huge role, especially on these long-distance races. Your driver lineup is important, but more important is to find drivers who listen to you when you tell them how you want them to run the race. They are overlooked these days.”
Little is overlooked with this group. They’re polished, experienced and prepared to win again. Quietly, of course.
“If it worked in the past, then we should keep doing the same,” Albuquerque said. “It takes organization and coolness to win this race. You go through a lot of emotions during the 24 hours. You need to have the trust of everyone on the team.”