After Three Straight BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach Wins, Only One Taylor Can Repeat
Monday, April 9, 2018

Since 2015, if your last name wasn’t Taylor, you weren’t an overall winner at the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach.

For at least one driver, that’s going to change in this year’s 100-minute IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship battle on the famed 1.968-mile street circuit in downtown Long Beach, California. The race will be televised live on FOX network at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 14, with live IMSA Radio coverage also available on IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com and on SiriusXM Radio.

Jordan Taylor remains as the incumbent driver of the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R fielded by Wayne Taylor Racing, which won every Long Beach race from 2015 through 2017 and finished second in 2014. Jordan Taylor’s new co-driver in 2018 is Renger van der Zande.

Van der Zande replaced Ricky Taylor, who co-drove the No. 10 to those three victories and runner-up result and who now drives the No. 7 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05 DPi car alongside three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves. The Brazilian, who has moved to full-time WeatherTech Championship competition, also owns a Long Beach IndyCar race victory in 2001.

So, just as it was in the first two races of the 2018 season – the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts – and as it will be in June’s Chevrolet Sports Car Classic in Detroit, all races won last year by the Taylors en route to the WeatherTech Championship Prototype title, only one of them can repeat this year.

“Yeah, neither of us have repeated yet,” said Ricky Taylor, referring to the first two rounds of the 2018 season. While both his No. 7 team and the No. 10 team have shown plenty of pace in the year’s first two endurance races, neither has scored a victory yet. Among the two teams, the No. 10 had the best single race result so far with a second-place outing last month at Sebring.

“Hopefully, it’s one of us at Long Beach,” Ricky said. “Obviously, we’ve had a good history there. I think it’s so important to have a good qualifying when you go to Long Beach. The race is so difficult to overtake and strategy comes down to such small little details with normally one, maybe two (pit) stops.”

Ricky started from the pole position for two of the three Long Beach victories, in 2015 and 2017, and started from the front row in 2016 as well with a second-place qualifying performance. A strong starting position is a clear advantage, but Jordan suggests another key to success.

“Any little mistake is going to cost you a lot and there’s only one pit stop, so you can’t really make anything up with strategy,” he says. “So, it’s all down to executing. Obviously, at street courses, getting through traffic is difficult. You can gain or lose a lot of time and position.

“There’s a lot of calculated risk. One part of you is telling you, ‘I’ve got a championship to think about.’ Other parts are saying, ‘I want to win this race.’ You’ve got to really evaluate all your options as you’re racing and play it by ear.

“We want to win races. That’s why we’re competing. We’re going to go there and try to win the race. It’s going to be the toughest Long Beach we’ve had, probably in history. We’re excited for it, but we’ll definitely have to fight.”

What makes it more difficult is the combination of strong Prototype teams that have been racing in the WeatherTech Championship – teams like Action Express Racing, and Tequila Patrón ESM, which won the first two races of the 2018 season, respectively – as well as the influx of world renowned organizations who have returned to IMSA competition after some time away – namely Acura Team Penske and Mazda Team Joest – who already have proven to be plenty fast. 

“We saw at Daytona and Sebring, the car count and the size of the grid was huge,” Jordan Taylor said. “In years past, you’d have five or six cars that could probably realistically win the races. Some have strong driver lineups and a strong car and some have a weaker car and a weaker driver lineup, but this year, we have a big grid with high-quality teams and high-quality lineups. There’s that many more cars that can win these races.”

Ricky Taylor agrees.

“The first two winners of the year (the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac team from Action Express and the No. 22 Tequila Patrón Nissan team), I don’t think are extremely surprising,” he said. “Both teams are great teams, but we could definitely see seven or eight different winners this year, I think. We’ve shown a lot of pace with the Acuras, the Cadillac’s a proven package, the Nissan’s a proven package and Mazda has totally upped their game this year and should have been in the fight for the win at Sebring.”

Based on that, it’ll be difficult for either Taylor to continue their Long Beach winning streak this weekend. It also will make it even more intriguing for the fans.

“I think this will be our first year where we go to Long Beach and we could have 10 cars that could realistically win the race,” Jordan Taylor said. “As a fan of sports car racing, that’s really exciting. As a competitor, it adds a bit of stress, but I think for our team, it’s exciting for us to still be competing at a high level.”

“Really, there’s not a weak team out there,” concluded Ricky Taylor. “Where in years past, you could make a little mistake in qualifying or at the beginning of the race and you can kind of make up for it, I don’t think we have that luxury any more.

“Working you way up through the pack, there’s just so many strong teams and drivers, I think it’s definitely going to be an exciting year to watch from the outside. But being in it, it’s going to be really intense. To win a race, it’s going to be very rewarding.”

 

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