Grand Am Protoype - Return To Laguna Has SunTrust Duo Focused on Winning - Again
MONTEREY, July 6, 2011: From the hallowed grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to historic Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, it’s all adding up to be a milestone week for SunTrust Racing.
On Wednesday, team owner and three-time sports car racing champion Wayne Taylor helped the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series announce its long-awaited, first-ever race date in Indianapolis when it joins NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 weekend beginning in 2012. Taylor drove the No. 10 SunTrust racecar he co-piloted to the 2005 Rolex Series title during an afternoon press conference at the Speedway.
This weekend, Taylor’s SunTrust Racing team, featuring co-drivers Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor, heads out west for the Rolex Series’ triumphant return to Laguna Seca after a one-year hiatus, and they’re focused on winning for the third time in the last four events on one of the oldest road circuits in North America.
Two weekends ago, Angelelli and Taylor sadly saw their modest two-race winning streak come to an end at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., but were nonetheless more than satisfied with their third consecutive pole position by the 21-year-old Taylor and a third consecutive podium finish that came about when Angelelli pulled off a gutsy last-lap pass for third place.
Laguna Seca’s 2.238-mile, 11-turn road circuit – with its famed left-right downhill combination of blind turns called “The Corkscrew” – is a place where the SunTrust team has won before in five previous outings. A year after he and Wayne Taylor co-drove to the Rolex Series championship in 2005, Angelelli took charge of the Laguna Seca stop on the 2006 schedule with co-driver Jan Magnussen, leading a race-high 39 of 86 laps in scoring SunTrust’s lone victory the season.
The last time the Rolex Series visited the scenic hillside road circuit in 2009, Angelelli and Brian Frisselle started on the front row, led 17 laps and brought home a solid third-place finish for SunTrust.
In the midst of the team’s most successful stretch of races in recent years, Angelelli is particularly optimistic he and Taylor can return to the top step of the podium come Saturday evening. After all, it’s a place the veteran Italian and his 21-year-old co-driver have grown quite accustomed to in the last month or so.
Practice for Saturday’s Continental Tire Sports Car Festival begins Friday morning with qualifying set for 7:50 p.m. EDT. Race time for the two-hour, 45-minute event is 5:30 p.m. Saturday with SPEED’s next-day-delayed television broadcast set for Sunday at 4 p.m. Live radio coverage will be provided by the Motor Racing Network and Sirius Channel 94 beginning with pre-race activities at 5:15 p.m. Saturday. Live timing and scoring during all on-track sessions can be found at www.grand-am.com, and now on mobile devices at m.grand-am.com.
Max Angelelli, Co-Driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Chevrolet Dallara:
You’ve made it known that you feel especially positive about this weekend’s race at Laguna Seca. Does anything in particular make you feel that way?
“This should be one of our best races of the year because the layout of the track and the experience we have there and on other tracks of this type has led us to always do fairly well. This is why I feel positive and I’m really looking forward.”
You seem to like this track and this event more than a lot of others. Why is that?
“It’s a great event as far as the race itself. And it’s in a very beautiful setting. It’s California, it’s Monterey, it’s Laguna Seca. The history there and everything about it is nice. It’s close to San Francisco. It’s just a beautiful place in the United States. As I have said many times in the past, I like many of the United States racetracks. There are some really good ones. At Laguna Seca, you have all the elevation changes and blind corners, it’s very challenging and very technical. I really do like it a lot.”
What do you think about this week’s announcement that you’ll be racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway beginning next season?
“It’s absolutely great. Our schedule should be made up of nothing but events of high quality. Going to Indianapolis is taking us down that road. I think it’s best to be racing in Indianapolis, racing at Daytona, racing at Watkins Glen, all of those racetracks with great history and tradition. I’ve been to the Indy 500 many times, and I actually went to all of the Formula 1 events there, too. Indianapolis has great history in motorsports and the automotive industry. If you remember, in the early days of the 19th century, it was Detroit, Indianapolis and St. Louis where cars were being built. Indy has a great history and I’m really looking forward to it. You can feel the atmosphere when you are there and how much the people appreciate racing. It’s a great place to be.”
Ricky Taylor, Co-Driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Chevrolet Dallara:
What are your overall thoughts heading to Laguna Seca for the first time with the SunTrust team?
“It’s a nice, historic track. The only time I raced there was in 2009 with Beyer (Racing). I really enjoyed the track. I think it’s a lot of fun. Max has been telling me all year that this is going to be one of the top three races for our car. I’m looking forward to it. I don’t know exactly what to expect going there with the Dallara for the first time but, if Max has anything to say about it, we’ll be pretty good.”
How would you describe the track, and what challenges will you face this weekend?
“I think it’s got a bit of everything – high-speed corners, low-speed corners. The one difficult thing about the track is you can either cause a yellow or damage the car if you go off the track. It’s a very technical track, but it’s pretty fun to drive, as well. The one difficult thing is going to be overtaking. There are not a lot of straights, and the one straight there really is, it’s not too straight, so we’ll have to use GT cars a bit. The ‘Corkscrew’ is unbelievable. I had never been to the track before I raced there in 2009 so, just seeing it on TV, you don’t have a real feel for how big it is. It’s actually pretty difficult to get it right because you can’t see the second part of the corner when you’re in the car. You just kind of point the car where you want it to go and hope it works out.”
What do you think about this week’s announcement that the Rolex Series will be racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2012?
“I’m really excited. We did the test there in 2009 and the track was a lot of fun. I think, when we go there, it’s going to be one of the best races on our schedule. There are plenty of passing opportunities, and just the history of going to Indy and racing at Indy is going to be special. When we tested there, I had goose bumps. I’m sure racing there will be really, really cool.”
Wayne Taylor, Team Owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Chevrolet Dallara:
What is your outlook as the team heads back to Laguna Seca for the first time since 2009?
“I’m really looking forward to going to Laguna Seca. Any time we get a chance to race in California, that’s good. I think, two years ago, the Dallara was very competitive. We feel it’s a good track for us. We think the SunTrust car should be really good there. I think it’s going to be good. We’re really excited about this one. Ricky seems to be on a roll at this point with these poles. It’ll take a maximum effort, obviously. Max will be fighting like crazy when he gets in the car. Let’s see if we can get some points back at this one.”
Your modest, two-race winning streak ended at Road America two weekends ago. How did that feel for you and the team?
“It was incredibly disappointing, given that we qualified on the pole and thought we had a winning car. Unfortunately, the long yellow flag changed everything and, unfortunately it didn’t work well for us. So, yes, it kind of felt like we finished last. But we did get a podium finish out of it, so that was definitely a plus. And we’re heading to a track this weekend where we truly believe we’ll be competitive.”
What are your thoughts about this week’s announcement that the Rolex Series will be racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 weekend beginning in 2012?
“I think it’s a huge milestone for GRAND-AM and it’s incredibly exciting for sports car racing in the U.S., in general. I think the Brickyard 400 is one of the elite events on the NASCAR schedule, and to be able to showcase our cars at the Speedway in Indy will be something we can all be proud of. On top of all that, our SunTrust team is based in Indy and it will be special for everybody at Wayne Taylor Racing and their families and friends to come out and watch us race at what will be our new ‘home race.’ Just like when we used to race with NASCAR in July at Daytona, I think the fans will love our style of road racing. I can’t wait.”