|#10 Wayne Taylor Cadillac|
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida – The driver names on the racecar have changed, for the most part, since the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team pulled out a thrilling and long-awaited victory in the 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona. But the mission remains every bit the same this weekend when the sleek, black racecar returns to the 3.56-mile, 12-turn Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway road course for the 57th renewal of America’s most iconic endurance race.
Full-time co-drivers Jordan Taylor and Renger van der Zande will be joined by two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso and former Formula One and current FIA World Endurance Championship regular Kamui Kobayashi as the team looks to rebound from an uncharacteristic DNF in last year’s Rolex 24 and rekindle the magic of its 2017 Daytona win at the hands of Taylor, his older brother Ricky, veteran Italian Max “The Ax” Angelelli, and four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon.
Star power never seems to be in short supply when it comes to the Rolex 24 over its almost six decades of existence, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team has featured its fair share. Some of the most recognizable names in racing not just in the U.S. but worldwide have strapped into its cockpit in search of a highly coveted victory at Daytona. Gordon first joined the team for a podium finish in the 2007 edition of the twice-around-the-clock event before returning 10 years later to score one of the most memorable race wins of his career. IndyCar Series champion and Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay co-drove the No. 10 to a runner-up finish at Daytona in 2013 before last year’s disappointing turn of events. Former Formula One star Rubens Barrichello co-drove with the Taylor brothers and Angelelli to a runner-up finish in 2016.
Alonso and Kobayashi hope to be the latest on its growing list of elite guest drivers to help bring success to the Konica Minolta Cadillac team in the Rolex 24. If their ability to instantly mesh with Taylor and van der Zande and the rest of the team during the three-day Roar Before the 24 test days at Daytona earlier this month is any indication, it could turn out to be another magical weekend. The four drivers logged virtually identical lap times with each taking his turn at or near the top of the timesheets during the three-day test three weekends ago. And as productive and helpful the four drivers were with each other and the team’s technical staff between on-track sessions, they were also as lighthearted and playful throughout the weekend as if the four had been friends all their lives. By weekend’s end, the team chemistry was incredible.
Considering the remarkable consistency exhibited at Daytona by the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R camp over the years, those positive vibes exhibited at the Roar stand to go a long way toward generating another positive result when the checkered flag flies Sunday afternoon. Before last year’s retirement during the 17th hours of the race, the team scored five consecutive podium finishes from 2013 through its victorious run in 2017. In those five consecutive Rolex 24s, the No. 10 Prototype led 963 of 3,359 laps – 27.2 percent, the last three showing race-high totals of 265 laps in 2015, 152 in 2016, and 263 in 2017, preceded by 227 laps led in 2014 that was second-highest for that race. Even though the team’s third-place finish in 2015 was voided five days later due to a maximum drivetime violation, the team has certainly shown its ability to be in the hunt for a race win in the closing hours of this grueling event on a regular basis.
Alonso, the 37-year-old Spaniard and winner of 32 F1 races and back-to-back championships in 2005 and 2006, will be making just his second career Rolex 24 start, having debuted last year in the United Autosports LMP2 car that finished 13th with mechanical issues. Despite his relative inexperience in closed-cockpit racecars, he laid claim to victory in his first career 24 Hours of Le Mans last summer with Toyota Gazoo Racing and has another win and a pair of runner-up finishes with the team, which leads the 2018-19 FIA WEC superseason standings. Kobayashi, the 32-year-old from Japan, has been a regular with Toyota Gazoo Racing on the WEC circuit the past three seasons after his Formula One run from 2009 through 2014. He is recognized as one of the consistently fastest drivers in sportscar racing.
As the racing world casts its eyes on Daytona this weekend, the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team certainly looks ready to bring back that winning feeling from just two short years ago.
Practice for the 57th Rolex 24 At Daytona begins Thursday morning with DPi-class qualifying set for 4:25 p.m. EST. Race time is 2:35 p.m. Saturday with new broadcast partner NBCSN kicking off live television coverage at 2 p.m. Thursday’s live, two-hour qualifying show on NBCSN begins at 3 p.m., preceded by a one-hour season preview show at 2 p.m. JORDAN TAYLOR, driver, No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R: It’s time to kick off the new season and your team has assembled quite the driver lineup. Your thoughts as you head to Daytona and try to bring back the magic of your 2017 Rolex 24 win?
“I’m excited because obviously there are a lot of new things going on, starting with our lineup, and the new tires this season, so there has been a lot to learn, a lot of things to adjust to. But I think we can rely a lot on our history as a team and what we’ve done in this race and trust that our processes will work. At the same time, there are a lot of teams and cars and lineups up against us that are very strong, so we’ll have to make the most of it. We had some good days of testing that helped us get to know the Michelin tires and get an understanding of where we’re at. Having guys like Kamui and Fernando definitely helped us expedite that learning process a lot. They bring so much experience and information from what they’ve done in Formula One and in the WEC and in Japan to help us learn, and hopefully we’ll be ahead of the curve all through race weekend.” Where do you feel the team stands after the three-day Roar Before the 24 test earlier this month?
“At this point, we’re optimistic. From a car point of view, we made a lot of progress with some changes. It was also good to get Alonso and Kobayashi through the car to get them comfortable driving-wise and seat-wise and ergonomics. That’s really what this test is all about, getting everyone comfortable, getting driver-change practice done, solid routines that they’re not used to that we do, pit-stop procedures. They fit in super well and they bring a ton of experience, so it’s been interesting to hear their feedback and their direction. Looking at our history, we know how to run these races. You have to get through the first 20 hours without touching anybody or making a mistake. We’ve got the perfect lineup for that. They all have 24-hour experience and experience with traffic and understanding that these races are won in the last few hours. We might have a great start in the race, but we’ll only know 20 hours into it whether we have a shot at winning.”
RENGER VAN DER ZANDE, driver, No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R:
You bookended last season by winning the pole for the Rolex 24 in your first qualifying attempt with your new team, then securing the victory at the Petit Le Mans finale with a dramatic last-lap pass. Safe to say it’s been a long wait for you to get back to racing?
“I’m happy to go racing again and happy to be back in the car. For sure, Wayne has brought us some incredible things to this team, including the pair of drivers who will be joining us. I’m very pleased with everything that we do here. It’s a bit of a change this year with the new Michelin tire, a bit of a change in terms of setup and so on. But we learned a good bit at the test a few weeks ago. Last year, we started out with the pole position but not a good ending to the race due to the issues that we had, and it turned out to be kind of an up-and-down year with a couple of DNFs. But when you consider we still ended up just seven points out of the championship, if you look at the season we had, all the races where we didn’t have trouble, we executed very well and that’s what we’re going to take into this season. For me, it’s a season that I’m working with the team for the second year in a row and I think it’s a big advantage, where last year it was all new. I’m definitely happy to be heading back to Daytona.”
How was the Roar Before the 24 test from your standpoint?
“It was an interesting test, ticking all the boxes that we had on our list. All the drivers had some quality time in the car. My personal thing was to get used to the Michelin tires and I think they are very easy to adjust to. I was happy to see the average pace between all of our drivers. We’ve done some fine-tuning with various things since the test, and we have work to do like everybody else when practice starts this week. But overall I’m excited about our chances. We have Fernando Alonso – he’s a legend. You can feel that in everything he does. Heading to Daytona with him, and also with Kamui as a teammate – two ex-Formula One stars – I think is very special.”
KAMUI KOBAYASHI, driver, No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R:
Your overall thoughts about your first Rolex 24 At Daytona this weekend?
“First of all, I’m thankful to Konica Minolta and Cadillac and Wayne Taylor for allowing me to be here. To be racing in America is a target for a lot of drivers around the world, including myself. And, of course, for my first race in America to be the Daytona 24-hour, it is quite a big honor for me. When I first jumped into the car at the test, I was quite amazed at the banking and the rest of the circuit. I was shouting on the radio when I first drove on the banking and, the funny thing was that nobody on the team reacted. Silence. I think the team was just trying to have some fun with me, but I felt like I’m now ready for NASCAR. They seemed to enjoy my reaction when I got out of the car that first time. This race is so great, the atmosphere is so good, the team is really professional, and I’m definitely enjoying myself a lot right now and I am really looking forward to this 24-hour race.”
What kinds of things did you learn during the three-day test earlier this month?
“As we expected, I think the team worked very well together – we have a good feeling. We left knowing what we needed to do. I think we all have enough experience for this type of race. We just collaborate with our experience to bring each other up to speed. I think overall we saw some positive things. Some things went really well and we worked well together. It was my first test with the team and we got off to a good start. Our expectation is to win the race. I feel really happy being here and very proud to drive for this team. I think we enjoy and know each other well, we communicated well. The track is pretty amazing, especially the banking – it’s quite amazing. I’m always looking for new stuff that is exciting in motorsports and obviously this track is one of those kinds of things. It’s also amazing how different it is compared to Europe with the spectators being so close to the drivers. It’s very nice. Basically, I come from a completely opposite world as far as that goes. I enjoy this place and it’s a good explanation why the United States has such great fans in racing – sports cars, NASCAR, Indy cars. That makes it fun for the drivers.”
FERNANDO ALONSO, driver, No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R:
One year after your Rolex 24 debut and U.S. sportscar-racing debut, you’re back at Daytona with the Konica Minolta Cadillac team. Your thoughts heading into race weekend?
“I’m happy to be back at the Rolex 24. Definitely, last year, I enjoyed the race a lot. Wayne Taylor Racing’s performance over the last several years, being on the podium almost all of the time, winning the race two years ago, we know that we can be very competitive. Wayne Taylor Racing has a lot of experience in IMSA, a lot of experience at Daytona, and I’m learning a lot from them, and I will continue to learn a lot from my teammates. I am happy to drive the Cadillac around Daytona and hopefully it will be a good one at the end. I definitely feel like I’m in a much better position this year compared to last year. Last year, this was my first U.S. sportscar race and my first closed-cockpit experience and, definitely this year, I’m ready to enjoy it a bit more and use the experience of my first WEC season, as well. This race was a great experience last year with the fans and how close they are with the garages and with the teams. Everything is much more open than racing in Europe. The target this year is definitely to be more competitive on the track and I’m happy and I’m sure that, with the Konica Minolta Cadillac and Wayne Taylor Racing, we can be in that position.”
You decided to take a hiatus from Formula One so you could enjoy some other racing disciplines. What is it like trying to learn the ins and outs of different types of racing?
“It’s a challenge changing cars every weekend. They’re all different and require different driving styles and different types of preparation and different philosophies of racing, as well. Formula One is all about qualifying and the first lap, the start, the first corner. Here, it’s more about consistency, about traffic management, keeping the car safe and alive for the last couple of hours, so it’s a different approach to racing. It’s challenging but it’s part of the process but, in one or two sessions, you’re up to speed and should be OK for the 24. The environment on this team, the success they’ve had in the past, how professional they are, how they approach every session on the track and even the weeks leading up to it, that makes me more confident and puts me in a more competitive environment. The targets are higher this year but, at the same time, I know how these 24-hour races work, how difficult it is to predict all the things that will happen in 24 hours. Sometimes we might feel down and frustrated with things happening on the track, with traffic, a lot of things. We just need to stay calm and execute the race as best we can and see what happens. Even if the expectations are high, 24 hours is a long time.”
WAYNE TAYLOR, owner, No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R:
You seem to have assembled quite the driver lineup for this year’s renewal of the Rolex 24. How did it come together, and what are your thoughts about this coming week?
“In 2017, we won it with Jeff Gordon, as well as with my sons Ricky and Jordan and my partner Max (Angelelli). Of course, we lost Ricky to Penske. Last year at the 24-hour, (McLaren CEO) Zak Brown introduced me to Fernando and, a couple of weeks later, I inquired if he was available for this year. Over the next several months, it looked like a possibility, and then it went away. In the meantime, we continued our search for a third driver and we went looking through the entire WEC and all forms of sportscar racing for a driver who was not only fastest over one lap but over long periods of time, and clearly the person who came to the top of that list was Kamui Kobayashi. I called him one night and it turned out to be 3 in the morning where he was, and he quickly called me back and said he wanted to drive for us. So we finished that deal pretty quickly. Then, some time later, through McLaren and Zak, all of a sudden I got a text asking if there’s still a seat for Fernando. I said, ‘I’ll make one available.’ Very quickly, again, we made a deal and here we are. Of course, we have my son Jordan, who’s now won two championships with us, and his teammate Renger from last year, with whom we won the Petit Le Mans to finish last year, and we’re ready to get back to our winning ways at Daytona.”