Wayne Taylor on penalty to Rolex 24 winner: Team accepts call but ‘quietly disappointed’
Though a massive penalty to Rolex 24 at Daytona winner Meyer Shank Racing admittedly left Wayne Taylor wondering about the past, it’s positioned him well for the future.
With the No. 60 Acura stripped by IMSA of everything but its Rolex 24 trophy and watches for manipulating tire pressure data in the season opener, Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport’s No. 10 Acura ARX-06 will enter Saturday’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring as the new championship leader and housed in the best pit stall at Sebring International Raceway by virtue of its second place at Daytona.
“Since the 60 car has been found by IMSA to have been cheating, we’ve gained that points lead because they lost points and stuff, and it also gives us the first pit out, which is always an advantage in strategy,” Taylor told NBC Sports in a March 14 interview. “That’s an advantage that’s just that little bit more that can help us.
TWELVE HOURS OF SEBRING: Details, schedules, and information for watching Saturday’s race
“I’ve got to accept what IMSA’s decision was. And also with Honda and HPD. I’m just disappointed, though, that our drivers and guys are walking around leading (the points) and not wearing the Rolex watches. But I still accept their decision and Honda’s decision and Acura’s decision, and you’ve got to look at the big picture. I think ultimately going to Sebring being in the lead of the championship is more comforting than going there in second place.”
The aftershocks of the March 8 penalty to MSR still figure to reverberate -- even six weeks after the Rolex 24 at Daytona -- despite attempts to put the matter in the rearview mirror. Aside from announcing the termination of a team member responsible for the infraction and taking responsibility, MSR said in a release last week that the team would have no further comment.
Honda Performance Development, which discovered and informed IMSA of the manipulation by MSR, issued a tersely worded statement condemning the Rolex 24 winning team’s actions. An HPD spokesman told NBC Sports the manufacturer “would not be commenting further at this time” when asked whether the penalty would impact its relationship with MSR (which also fields Hondas in the NTT IndyCar Series).
After last month's strong runner-up finish at @DAYTONA, the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-06 team assumes the points lead heading into the #Sebring12.— Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport (@WayneTaylorRcng) March 14, 2023
💻: https://t.co/Hej2TqErmj#KMSports // #WTRAndretti // #AcuraMotorsports // #Sebring12 pic.twitter.com/LeV6fr9Lvm
Taylor also seems ready to let the matter go.
“You always are looking at that, but you’ve got to accept what IMSA says,” Taylor said when asked by NBC Sports if he believed his team was robbed of a possible victory at Daytona. “They’re the sanctioning body and have ultimate control over what results are, but, of course, we are quietly disappointed, but it is what it is. We stick with what IMSA says, and we stick with what all our partners say, and we just live with it. We just have to go and try to win the race.
“I’m not really at liberty to quote about this. I think if you read the article that I saw that was written by Autoweek, it sums it up pretty correctly as to what happened. I’d rather not get down in the weeds of this. It’s been a long, hard break with this going on in the background not knowing what’s going on. Nobody likes this kind of stuff, and it is what it is. We’ve just got to live it now.”
With a 1-2 finish in the first race of the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) hybrid era, Acura was assured of a third consecutive victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
WTR delivered the first Rolex 24 win in 2021 for Acura, which had been shut out in its first three attempts at Daytona International Speedway with Team Penske from 2018-20.
Taylor is hoping for a similar feat Saturday with drivers Ricky Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Louis Deletraz at Sebring International Raceway, where Acura has been shut out in its five attempts at the 12-hour endurance race classic.
“We obviously want to be the ones to give (Acura) the win there,” Taylor said. “It was great for us to be able to be the first team that gave them the win at Daytona in ’21. And so yeah, it’s been good. Honda and HPD and Acura have been fantastic supporters. They are really a motor racing manufacturer. Not all racing teams has racing in their DNA like Honda does.”
It’s been six years since Wayne Taylor Racing won the 2017 Twelve Hours of Sebring with a Cadillac, which might be its stiffest competition in Saturday’s race. With Cadillac Racing and Porsche Penske Motorsport fielding LMDh cars in both the World Endurance Championship and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship events this weekend, Taylor has been monitoring the competition in WEC testing and practice for Friday’s 1000 Miles of Sebring (IMSA is on track Thursday for the Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Taylor said the Chip Ganassi Racing-prepared Cadillacs have been setting the pace with the Toyota Hypercars in WEC’s premier prototype category with Porsche and Ferrari just behind.
IMSA has made post-Daytona Balance of Performance adjustments that add weight to the GTP cars with the Acura now heaviest (by about 16 kilograms over the Cadillac). Taylor typically is no fan of BoP rulings, but he views this more about balancing the LMDh of GTP against the Hypercars than being based off the results at Daytona (and the GTP cars also are getting a horsepower boost).
It’s been six years since Taylor’s car won at Sebring with a Cadillac in the first year of the now-defunct DPi category, but he is confident after both Acura ARX-06s survived 24 hours at Daytona flawlessly while mechanical gremlins struck Porsche and BMW (which are both new to the premier prototype division this year).
“(Sebring) is a very, very demanding, bumpy track and sometimes that suits the other chassis,” Taylor said. “I think this year with the new car that ORECA has built with HPD, we’ve ironed out all those issues. Based on our test, we were very quick. Then it’s just a case of executing. With all the hybrid engines, batteries, MGUs and stuff there are so many things that are out of our control. That’s what we all worry about.
“At Daytona, everyone was of the opinion we’d all end up in the garage after about three hours with all sorts of problems. But the cars ran flawlessly. It seems like every time somebody connects the computer to the car, the bloody thing stops. So luckily in the race, nobody can put their computer in the car. So I’m hoping that we have the same thing and then it just comes down to execution and having the right strategy.
“And rain is going to play a massive role in this result if it does rain. Clearly, the fastest car is not the favorite.”
The forecast is hovering at a better than 50 percent chance for rain throughout the 12-hour race at Sebring International Raceway, where the pit lane has been known to flood.
Regardless of Saturday’s weather, Taylor has a sunny long-term outlook since partnering with team owner Michael Andretti in December.
“It took me a long time to make a decision to partner because I’ve built this team over 17 years and built a group of guys that are almost like a family,” Taylor said. “We operate as a family. I thought we could dilute it, but it’s been such a great partnership so far that it’s really the best thing I ever did. Clearly, I must thank Michael Andretti, (team president) J.F. Thormann and (chief operating officer) Rob Edwards. They’ve just been fantastic. They’ve let us run the program as we’ve run it in the past.
“It’s what we’ve done, and it’s all we do is sports cars. When we need something, we just call, and they help us out with whatever we need. So it’s a really good partnership.”
Along with tools, technical support and a new home (when Andretti relocates to a 525,000-square-foot base in 2025), the new partnership also sets the foundation for fielding a second Acura ARX-06 in GTP next season.
Taylor is hoping to have news on that front after Sebring.
“It’s definitely in the cards,” he said. “The intent definitely is for us to try and run two cars next year. We don’t have it completely wrapped up yet. I’m sure after Sebring, we’ll know a little bit more.
“Running two cars, it just gives you that bigger chance of different strategies, different setups, and we’re competing against all these other factories that have two cars, and so you have more chance of taking a gamble when you’ve got two cars. Ultimately, that’s what I’ve asked HPD and Acura for, but I think we’ll know where we stand once we’ve gotten through this race.”