Rolex DP - Sun Trust Indy Preview
INDIANAPOLIS, Jul. 27, 2012: Friday’s inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix may be the first time the cars and stars of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series will have ever turned a competitive wheel on the hallowed pavement of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but the No. 10 SunTrust Corvette Dallara DP team of Wayne Taylor Racing will very much be operating in thoroughly familiar surroundings.
Based not far up the road from the Speedway at 79th and Georgetown, the nine full-time employees of Wayne Taylor Racing are a collection of racing professionals with decades of Indy-style experience on their collective resumes, and four of them are actual Indiana natives who perhaps more than any of the others grew up revering the very institution known as the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.Team manager Simon Hodgson, a native Brit who spent time with F1’s Team Lotus and McLaren before moving to Indianapolis, worked on Champ Car World Series championship campaigns for drivers Alex Zanardi and Juan Pablo Montoya while at nearby Target Chip Ganassi Racing before moving to Super Aguri Fernandez Racing to manage that Indy-based team’s IZOD IndyCar Series operation.
Data acquisition engineer Adam Banet (pronounced BAN-net), who was born in New Albany, Ind., and raised in Floyd Knobs, Ind., also was part of Ganassi’s IndyCar Series effort before moving to Wayne Taylor Racing in 2008.
Mechanic Chris Bennett, an Indianapolis native, came to the SunTrust team in 2011 after stops at myriad IndyCar teams, including Cheever Racing (2006), Vision Racing (2007-08), Dreyer & Reinbold (2009) and KV Racing Technologies (2010). Transporter driver and tire specialist Sean Hopper, who was born in Detroit but was raised in Noblesville, Ind., followed a similar path, having worked at Vision Racing (2006-09) and Dreyer & Reinbold (2010) before arriving at Wayne Taylor Racing just prior to last season.
Mechanic Jon Fricker, another native Brit on the SunTrust crew, was race engineer for four seasons with Forsythe Racing in the Champ Car series. And mechanic Bill Mullen, an Ohio native, once regularly spent the month of May at the Speedway in the early 1990s while with Walker Racing.
Meanwhile, bodywork specialist Daniel Dunn, a Minnesota native, has worked his share of Firestone Freedom 100s at the Speedway, having been with Firestone Indy Lights Series competitors Team Palm Beach International Raceway and Michael Crawford Motorsports.
Other Indiana natives among the Wayne Taylor Racing ranks are office manager Michelle Gibson (Indianapolis) and fueler Dan Helman (Warsaw), even though the latter, who is also team owner Wayne Taylor’s accountant, moved to the Orlando, Fla., area some time ago. And engine specialist Paul Low, who commutes to races and test sessions from his native Midland, Texas, built Champ Car engines for Mercedes-Benz in the late 1990s and is no stranger to Speedway-style racing.
Thus, it came as no surprise SunTrust Racing co-drivers Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor took no time getting up to speed at the Brickyard during a recent two-day Rolex Series test, which the 22-year-old Taylor capped off by turning the fastest lap (1 minute, 23.962 seconds at 108.649 mph) among all 34 competitors that took part. Now, those years of Indianapolis Motor Speedway experience in the SunTrust Racing camp are focused on translating that momentum into victory during this weekend’s inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix.
Practice for Friday’s inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix begins at 10 a.m. EDT with qualifying set for 11:15 a.m. Race time is 4 p.m. with SPEED carrying the television broadcast live. Live radio by the Motor Racing Network (MRN) and SiriusXM Channel 117 also begins at 4 p.m. Live timing and scoring during all on-track sessions can be found at www.grand-am.com, and on mobile devices at m.grand-am.com/laptrax.
Max Angelelli, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Corvette Dallara DP:
Your overall thoughts as you head to Indianapolis for the first-ever Brickyard Grand Prix?
“I’m very excited to go to Indy and race. I’ve been to many Indy 500s and Formula 1 races there and, like those, this will be a very, very special event for the SunTrust team and all of GRAND-AM. I’m very happy that GRAND-AM put it on the schedule and I hope this is the beginning of a very long stay at Indy for us for many years to come. To think of all the great drivers and teams who have been a part of the history there, all of the past winners, it would be so nice to end up in the highest podium position so we can claim to be one of the greatest. We hope to deliver a great performance for our team and all of our many guests this weekend.”
Is the Indy layout like any Rolex Series tracks you’ve driven on before?
“The track is really nothing like anything we’ve ever driven on before. It’s very difficult to compare to anything else. Definitely, for the amount of space they had to work with, they did a very good job in designing what they came up with. To think that track would be a competitive one for our series, for the Moto GP series, and Formula 1, it’s not easy to design a racetrack in an infield where space is limited and be so suitable for all these different series. It’s just great. The feeling as you head to the main straightaway is knowing all that has happened there the last 100 years. All the drivers, the cars, the team owners, everyone who has won there, who has made history. We are going to fight to get ourselves some of that history this weekend.”
With five races to go, the championship, which is always your primary goal for the season, already looks like it might be out of reach. You’ve never been in that position before. How are you dealing with that?
“It’s an unusual season not just for us, but for everybody. If you look at the championship standings and see the cars in the top four or five spots, all of them have had bad weekends and they’re still there. In the past, all the way until last year, one bad weekend would have cut you out of the championship completely. This year, because many drivers and teams have had bad weekends, and still many drivers and teams are alive for the championship, that is what makes it all so unusual. Winning championship is never easy, especially this year.”
Ricky Taylor, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Corvette Dallara DP:
You’re coming off a very successful test at Indy in which you turned the fastest lap of all Rolex Series competitors. Are you anxious to get the weekend started?
“Yeah, especially since it’s such a compact, one-day show. There’s only an hour of practice, we go straight into qualifying, and then pretty much straight into the race. Having been quickest in the last session there during our two-day test is a big positive. If we can pick up where we left off, hopefully we won’t have to do too much to the car and then we can control the race.”
It seems most of your team members were born and raised in Indy or grew up not too far away. How special is that?
“It’s very special just to be at the Speedway, to see everything, to understand the history of what has gone on at that place over the last century. It means a lot to me and I know it means everything in the world to most of the guys on the team. I think there will be a bunch of family and friends coming, way more than we’ve ever had before. Everybody’s got tons of people coming. The whole energy leading up to the race has been really, really nice. Everyone’s excited and upbeat. It’s very cool, but it’s also just a tiny bit weird that everyone’s so upbeat after we’ve had such a bad stretch of races. This race will, if we can win it, it would make up for a lot of what’s gone wrong for us this year. It’s been a crazy season, but it would be a really a big deal if we could win the first-ever Brickyard Grand Prix. There’s one and only one chance to do that, and it would definitely be No. 1 for me if we win this one.”
How would you compare the Indianapolis road circuit to any other track the Rolex Series has raced on?
“I think the course is really not like anything we’ve ever run on. In terms of compromise and setup, I guess you can say it’s similar a little bit to Daytona with its long straights and its combination of corners. It has two different types of asphalt, though, which makes it a real challenge. It’s really grippy on the oval but the infield is slippery. Daytona is a little bit like that but it’s really easy on the tires. Indy is really hard on the tires. That should make things really interesting, strategy-wise, since this will be a three-hour race. There will be a lot of different things going on out there. I’m looking forward to it.”
Wayne Taylor, team owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Corvette Dallara DP:
There hasn’t been this kind of anticipation for a new Rolex Series race in recent memory. What are your thoughts?
“We’re very, very excited for this weekend. We had a great test a few weeks ago and hopefully we are going to be a force to be reckoned with. Hopefully, our bad luck is finally behind us and we’ll be able to get one of our biggest wins in history. We’ll be going with this new livery for StarPort. Nelson (Cambata, StarPort founder and CEO) has been a great friend and supporter over the years. We’re going to really be doing lot of entertaining. We hope we get a big crowd. The Speedway has been promoting the event really well. GRAND-AM has been doing a great job promoting it, too. We’ll have a couple of new cars in the field, which will be good – Chip Ganassi’s NASCAR guys (Juan) Montoya and (Jamie) McMurray, and Kevin Doran’s car for Paul Tracy will have M&M’s livery. It’ll be great to race at Indy for the first time. My first Indy 500 was in 2005 with Ryan Briscoe and I’ll always remember that one. It was my first 500 and my first time at the Speedway. Being there for Ryan, who was a young driver at the time and we were managing him, he just came over from Europe and it was very, very special.”