Grand Am Prototype - Angelelli And Taylor Looking Forward To Belle Isle
DETROIT, May 31, 2012: If good things truly do happen in threes, then the SunTrust Racing driver duo of Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor, winners of the last two GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series races, will gladly be the ones spraying victory champagne again at the conclusion of Saturday’s inaugural Chevrolet GRAND-AM 200 on Detroit’s resurrected Belle Isle temporary street circuit.
Back-to-back wins at Homestead-Miami Speedway in April and three weekends ago at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville have vaulted the veteran Angelelli, the 22-year-old Taylor and the No. 10 SunTrust Corvette Dallara DP team of Wayne Taylor Racing to within four points of the Rolex Series championship lead heading into the latest stretch on the schedule that has them taking to the track for four races over the next five weekends.First of those is Saturday’s two-hour sprint race on the 2.1-mile, 14-turn Belle Isle street circuit that – thanks to promoters Roger Penske and Bud Denker – is hosting big-time auto racing for the first time since 2008, and the Rolex Series for the first time ever. Thusly, a vast majority of the Rolex Series competitors, including Angelelli and Taylor, have never set a tire tread on the fast but tricky layout on which legendary drivers with names including Fittipaldi, Andretti, Rahal, Sullivan, Zanardi, Franchitti and Castroneves have driven their Indy-style racecars to victory dating back to the first event there in 1989.
Considering the challenge of having to learn and excel at a new race venue in relatively short order, the SunTrust team has quite a lot going in its favor at Belle Isle, not the least of which is the fact it is riding a two-race winning streak.
Since joining the Rolex Series in 2004, the SunTrust team has a rather successful history in first-time visits to racetracks. In 19 first-time appearances at a racetrack for Rolex Series sprint races, the team has scored 10 podium finishes, including five victories – Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn. (2010), Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve (2007), Virginia International Raceway in Alton (2004), Phoenix International Raceway (2004), and Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway (July race 2004).
Overall, the SunTrust team’s average finishing position the first time it has seen a racetrack for a Rolex Series sprint race is 4.4. For the veteran Angelelli, who has been there for all of them, just call him a quick study. And Angelelli’s young co-driver Taylor, who’s already qualified on the pole nine times the past two-plus seasons and collaborated with him on six Rolex Series wins, he’s proven to be not too bad at learning things quickly, too.
Practice for Saturday’s two-hour Chevrolet GRAND-AM 250 – part of the weekend’s IZOD IndyCar Series Chevrolet Belle Isle Grand Prix festivities – begins Friday morning with qualifying set for 5:05 0.m. EDT. Race time Saturday is 5 p.m. with SPEED carrying the television broadcast live. Live radio by the Motor Racing Network (MRN) and SiriusXM Channel 117 begins with a 15-minute pre-race show at 4:45 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:
You’ll be getting your first look at the Belle Isle circuit when you arrive there this weekend. What have you been able to do to prepare?
“I have zero first-hand knowledge of the track. I’ve been looking at videos of the track with the boys, Ricky and Jordan (Taylor). We’ll see when we get there. It’s a lot of corners, long straights. I’ll need to see it to understand it. The event, racing in Detroit, on Belle Isle, there is a little bit of history there, it’s good. I want to say thanks to Chevrolet and GRAND-AM for making this happen. It’s a good new venue for us, and new venues are always exciting, especially this one.”
You’ll be qualifying the SunTrust Corvette DP this weekend and starting the race. Considering it’s a brand new circuit – a street circuit – does that put you on the hot seat a little more than usual?
“You just need to be extra careful. Low-percentage passes are not suggested. But, anyway, everybody will be in the same boat. I think it’s going to be a very exciting race because it’s going to be short and we will be pushing from beginning to end. It will definitely be interesting. This time will be my time to qualify and start the race. Pressure or no pressure because of that will make no difference. I qualify at Daytona, so I don’t think there will be any more pressure than that.”
You’re back in serious championship contention after two straight wins. How will that affect things for you this weekend?
“I prefer not to think about the championship, for now, for a couple of reasons. First, it’s very early in the season. Second, there are many competitors in the championship who want to beat us. It’s just way too early. This is the beauty of GRAND-AM. A lot of years, you can point to certain cars and say, ‘This is the one that is going to win the championship.’ But this year, we have many good cars that are all probably going to score wins. We have nine races to go and we will need to win other races to win this championship, that’s for sure. Otherwise, it’s way too early to try to predict what is going to happen.”
Ricky Taylor, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Corvette Dallara DP:
You and Max and the SunTrust team turned things completely around in the championship chase after winning the last two races. How does that affect your approach to Saturday’s race in Detroit?
“We’re right in the backyard of Chevrolet and the pressure is really going to be on because we’re now fighting for a championship, just a few points out of first. As recently as last race at New Jersey, we could be really aggressive with our strategy and everything. Going to a street course for the first time, it’s another variable that makes it tough and makes you be a little more conservative so as not to touch anything or anyone. It’s a lot less pressure when you’re behind in points, I think. It’s more fun to try and make risky moves and you can afford to take risks. I’ve never been in this position with a DP, so I’m not sure how it’s going to play out from here. No matter what happens, we are conscious of the situation and we’ll try and not make any mistakes because, when we get to the tracks we know for sure we are good at, we’ll want to be able to take advantage of those.”
You’re among the vast majority of drivers in the race who have not competed on the Belle Isle circuit. How are you preparing?
“Learning a new track as a driver and a team is always a challenge. With how small the racing community is, everybody knows somebody who’s been there before, so we’re tapping into all of those resources. I’ve been talking with people. Brian (Pillar, engineer) has been talking to people. Pratt & Miller (Corvette DP bodywork designer) has been there with the ALMS (American Le Mans Series) Corvette. We have been gathering a lot of input to make educated guesses as to how to set up the car for the circuit. Brian’s got a good plan for practice and that should help a lot. I’ve been watching a lot of video of on-board cameras – in an LMP (Le Mans Prototype) car, an Indy car. It’s really for a rough overview, really, because normally when you watch on-boards, it just helps you learn which way the track goes and the big picture, really. We want to be as ready as possible when that first practice starts on Friday morning.”
You’ve been alternating starting and finishing roles with Max this season and, this weekend, you will be the closer. Thoughts?
“I’m not exactly sure quite what to expect, how long I will drive – a half-hour, an hour and a half, or maybe an hour. It’s only a two-hour race and, depending on yellows and strategy, it can go so many different ways. I already know traffic will be a big factor. The yellows will determine a lot of it. It’s a track where, if you make a mistake, there’s not really much runoff and a lot of concrete walls. I think, like at New Jersey, track position is going to be as important as it’s ever going to be all year. Qualifying is going to be important. That’ll be Max’s job this weekend. At New Jersey, we had track position, not necessarily speed, but we protected it well and won the race.”
Wayne Taylor, team owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Corvette Dallara DP:
You’ve now won two in a row and are just four points out of first in the championship with what stacks up to be an exciting street race in Detroit on tap for this weekend. Your overall thoughts?
“For us, it’s really exciting, especially going right into the heart of GM territory. It feels good to be going there after winning the last two races. There are some drivers who have driven it before in other series, but none of our guys have. It will be a completely new experience. I’d really like to thank Roger Penske and Bud Denker for putting together what will be a great event. It’s going to be one of the best venues we go to. Obviously, we want to keep getting maximum points, so we’re going to do everything we can to finish up front. I always think our team does a really good job when we come straight out of the trailer onto a brand new track. We always seem to do well in situations like that. It’s going to be a huge event, being there with the Indy cars the weekend after the Indy 500. We’re really looking forward to it.”