Source: Wayne Taylor Racing
A fourth consecutive victory on the Grand Prix of Long Beach (Calif.) street circuit was not to be for the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team Saturday. But a solid third-place run from the sixth starting position in the first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship sprint race of the season by the new full-time driving tandem of Jordan Taylor and Renger van der Zande is certainly a welcome result.
Since finishing second here in 2014, Taylor and his older brother Ricky Taylor had been the dominant and undisputed kings of the beach, taking home the first-place trophy from the Bubba Burger Sports Car Grand Prix each of the last three seasons.
But this year’s renewal of the annual one-hour, 40-minute street fight was expected to be much more competitive with a host of new teams and world-class drivers beefing up the Prototype class for 2018, and this weekend’s event lived up to those expectations. One of those new powerhouse teams is the two-car Team Penske effort, to where Ricky Taylor departed following his 2017 championship season with his younger brother on the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team.
Coincidentally, the Taylor brothers found themselves nose-to-tail during a key restart with 23 minutes remaining in today’s race with Ricky Taylor holding down third place in his No. 7 Team Penske Acura DPi. Less than two laps after the race went back to green, fourth-place Jordan Taylor made a stellar save avoiding his older brother while negotiating the tight, right-hand hairpin known as turn 11 that empties onto the long front straight along Shoreline Drive. The younger Taylor continued to apply pressure to his older brother from behind, briefly getting by coming out of turn 11 with 10 minutes remaining. Ricky Taylor retook third place by the time they arrived at turn one.
But, one lap later, with less than nine minutes remaining, Jordan Taylor completed a pass of his older brother in turn one and never looked back from there, taking the checkered flag behind race winner Felipe Albuquerque in the No. 5 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R and runner-up Ryan Dalziel in the No. 2 ESM Nissan DPi.
“From where we started to finish third, we’re very happy with that.” Taylor said. “It is a tough track to pass on, so finishing third is a good points day. You never know what you are going to get on a street course. Anything can happen when you go around a corner, you can end up in the wall. To come away with third place after second place at Sebring, those are the kinds of days that can go a long way toward our championship chances. I think Ricky was a little nice to us. He was struggling big-time with his car. I could see him fighting it everywhere, just kind of hanging on. I put some pressure on him and I was going to go for it, but I saw him defend and he went a little wide, so I was able to capitalize on it. It was a good battle. Thankfully we didn’t touch each other or my dad would have been pretty upset. I think we are going to have some fun racing each other this year. I had a moment going into turn 11 after the restart. I think Ricky had some pick-up on his tires and he was a little cautious and hit the brakes a little early, so it caught me off guard. I hit the brakes and it went completely sideways and I was sure I was in the runoff. But, when I opened my eyes, I realized on was on the track, so I turned left and we didn’t even lose a position. That was a big moment. But, overall, to leave here with third, we can feel really good about that.”
Van der Zande, the 32-year-old Dutch driving veteran who opened the season with a dramatic pole qualifying effort at the Rolex 24 At Daytona endurance marathon, qualified fourth here late Friday afternoon but had his best lap nullified because of a track limit line infraction and had to settle for sixth on the starting grid.
He started today’s race cleanly and worked hard to keep the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R in touch with the leaders during what turned out to be a 39-minute opening stint that ended during the second full-course caution of the day, when he pitted for tires and fuel and to turn the car over to Taylor.
“This is a fantastic result, all things considered,” van der Zande said. “Halfway through the race, I didn’t think we would get good points today, but there we went. Jordan made a great move on Ricky and, apart from that, a big save while he was chasing Ricky before that. I had a bit of a hard stint. There wasn’t too much going on. I was just staying in position and saving fuel. I think altogether we can be happy with this. It’s great to score points like we did and be on the podium at the end of the day.”
With the team’s second consecutive podium finish and fifth in a row at Long Beach, it moves up one position in the standings to fourth, 13 points behind the race-winning No. 5 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R and just one point out of third, occupied by the No. 54 Oreca LMP2, which finished 10th today.
“As usual, everybody did a great job,” team owner Wayne Taylor said. “We didn’t seem to have the car to win this weekend. Hats off to the 5 team on their win and to ESM for getting second, but it was very nice to get a podium considering where we started. We qualified fourth and had an infringement during qualifying, so we had to start sixth, so it was a bit tough because it’s so competitive and you just can’t pass anyone, anywhere. Watching Ricky and Jordan battling at the end, there, was probably the toughest 20 minutes of my life. But, to get a podium is a good result today. We’ve now had two in a row and that’s how you win championships.”
Round four on the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship calendar is the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Showdown at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington three weeks hence. Race day is Sunday, May 6 with live television provided by FS2 beginning at 1 p.m. EDT.
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