The No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R trio of Jordan Taylor, Renger van der Zande and Ryan Hunter-Reay ended one of their team’s most challenging seasons to date with a much-neeed exclamation point as van der Zande’s dramatic pass for the lead two corners from the finish line brought home the victory in the 21st annual Petit Le Mans IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship endurance marathon at Road Atlanta.
It was the team’s only victory of 2018 and kept alive a streak of 15 consecutive seasons with at least one win since team owner and three-time sportscar-racing champion Wayne Taylor and his long-time business partner and former co-driver Max “The Ax” Angelelli first fielded the No. 10 Prototype in Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series competition in 2004.
The victory, the team’s second at the iconic 10-hour race since 2014, also solidified a third-place finish in the final championship standings after having clinched the 2017 championship at this event a year ago.
“I feel like I have never been more happy than I am tonight,” said team owner Wayne Taylor. “These guys, this team, our partners Konica Minolta, Cadillac, ECR Engines, everybody associated with this program, this was for them. It was a really tough weekend because we didn’t have the fastest car. We were five-and-a-half miles an hour slower than most of those other cars in a straight line. But, as usual, this team, when it’s time to do something and pull stuff out – our engineers and our drivers – they find a way to make it happen. Thank goodness because for all 15 years we’ve been doing this, we’ve never had a year without winning a race. And for the Petit Le Mans, it’s now three wins because I won as a driver and now twice as a team owner with Max. I can’t say enough about our chassis maker Dallara – it’s not only the technical side of everything they do with us, it’s the relationship we have with them. They truly, truly feel the pain with us and they win and lose with us, so I can’t say enough about them. We’ve got just really good partners. This year was a difficult year, but this is one heck of a way to make us feel good during the offseason.”
After struggling to qualify 12th for today’s race, victory might have seemed improbable for the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team, even though it has mastered the art of contending for wins in time and again in the series’ iconic endurance events at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta over the last decade and a half.
The 32-year-old van der Zande, who replaced Ricky Taylor as Jordan Taylor’s full-time co-driver at the outset of 2018, drove a patient opening stint in working his way into the top-10. He handed the car over to Taylor at the one-hour, 13-minute mark during the first caution period of the race, and lightning-quick work by the crew enabled Taylor to restart just outside the top-five.
Taylor and Hunter-Reay on their opening stints, and then van der Zande during his second stint, took charge over the next five and a half hours and, with the help of consistently quick pit stops and driver changes, kept the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R in and around the top-five. The Dutch driver first took the lead during a round of green-flag pit stops at the six-hour, 45-minute mark, and he and Taylor were able to lead 55 of the next 60 laps until just past the eight-hour mark.
Van der Zande took over with 92 minutes remaining in the race and would take the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R the rest of the way. He rejoined the race in fifth place and gradually worked his way toward the front during the initial fuel-and-tire run, leading the final five laps before making his final fuel-and-tire stop with 43 minutes remaining.
He resumed in third place behind the No. 5 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R of Felipe Albuquerque and the No. 22 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan of Pipo Derani. Van der Zande passed Derani with seven minutes to go in the race, and he carefully bided his time in chasing down Albuquerque for the lead as the team suspected the No. 5 Cadillac would not have enough fuel to get to the checkered flag.
It was a nail-biting final few minutes as a determined Albuquerque was able to hold off van der Zande. But finally, just two turns from the finish, the No. 5 car sputtered and van der Zande got around him on the outside and took the win.
“It took 10 races to get my first win with the team and we finally got it done,” said the Dutchman. “I’m super happy and super proud of the team and I think this was a real team effort. We kept it on the black stuff, we gave it our all at the right time, but mainly on the fuel mileage and hitting the numbers they gave me was a big calculation at the end and the team got it done. We knew we were going to struggle during the day when it was hot. When I got in for Ryan on my second-to-last stint, it was starting to cool down and that’s when I started to feel like we do have a good car because it felt horrible before that. It was steering in, it was braking, it was doing everything I wanted. The closer we got to the end of the race, the better the car was getting, I could attack everywhere. At the end, it was a very calculation kind of game on track because you want to get position but you want to save fuel, as well. That’s the game that we played and we played it very nice. I’m very happy. We have a baby coming any time now so I have to head home now. I’ll be very anxious until it happens but this is a very nice thing to happen to end the season.”
“It was pretty crazy,” Taylor said. “It was a never-give-up strategy today. It was 10 hours and one of the toughest Petit Le Mans races there’s been in a long time, especially in the Prototype class. It was a tough year not having a win until now, and it would’ve been very disappointing to leave this season without a win. But our guys were unbelievable – the whole Konica Minolta crew. We were making up positions on every pit stops, which kept us up front for track position. And for the last two hours, Renger was saving fuel. If we wouldn’t have stuck to that strategy like we did, we would’ve ended up like the 5 car. We were pushing him every lap to save fuel and hit his numbers, and he was still able to keep the pressure on and it worked, passing for the win with two corners to go. To go through 10 hours of racing is unbelievable. Wayne Taylor Racing has won at least one race for all 15 years of its existence, so it’s a great way to end the way and a great way to lead into 2019.”
“This is a big one – Petit Le Mans is huge,” Hunter-Reay said. “It’s so great racing with this team. I have such a great time with them, it’s easy to come from my full-time job in IndyCar and jump in here and work with these drivers. Jordan and Renger did a fantastic job today. Renger, to finish the race like that, was outstanding. We’ve come close, we finished second at Sebring, we had a great car at Daytona before we had some issues, and this is just fantastic to finish the year like this. We went from qualifying on the pole to winning (the IndyCar season finale) at Sonoma and now to this, it’s just been a fantastic to the 2018 season. Petit Le Mans is a big one. Next up, we have our eyes on winning the Rolex 24 At Daytona. I’d love to win that race. I just love being back here in IMSA.”
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