Grand Am Prototypes - It's Time To Restore Order Beginning At Road America
ELKHART LAKE, June 20, 2012: A year ago, SunTrust Racing co-drivers Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor were riding high when they joined their GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series competitors for the series’ first race since 2001 at historic Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
Angelelli and Taylor were coming off back-to-back victories on Memorial Day at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn., and at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International’s prestigious Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.Taylor promptly qualified on the pole at Road America for the third of six consecutive races, and there appeared to be no looking back as he and Angelelli led 12 of the 46 race laps around the 4-mile, 14-turn circuit that’s hosted the world’s most legendary road-racing stars and cars since 1955. Strategy, as it turned out, didn’t quite work in the SunTrust team’s favor in its quest for a third straight win, but Angelelli and Taylor still found their way to the podium with a hard-earned third-place finish.
Fast-forward to 2012 and Angelelli and Taylor once again have a pair of recent back-to-back wins in their hip pocket as they head to Road America for Saturday’s GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series 250. But this time, since scoring victories at Homestead-Miami Speedway in April and New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville in May, the drivers of the No. 10 SunTrust Corvette Dallara DP of Wayne Taylor Racing have suffered not one, but two DNFs (did not finish) in back-to-back fashion at Detroit’s Belle Isle street circuit and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington.
Add to that a DNF at the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona and one of the Rolex Series’ highest achievers when it comes to lead-lap finishes and podium celebrations since it joined the series in 2004 now has three DNFs in its first six races of 2012. That’s certainly uncharacteristic, to say the least, for a SunTrust Racing team that had a grand total of eight DNFs in the previous eight seasons.
Angelelli has been there every step of the way since the outset of the 2004 season. He and Wayne Taylor, Ricky’s father, reeled off 26 consecutive races before the SunTrust team suffered its first-ever DNF at the 2006 season-opening Rolex 24. That impressive run included the completion of all 2,056 race laps contested in 2005 en route to that year’s Rolex Series championship for the SunTrust team. It’s a mark for perfection that still stands, not having occurred before, or duplicated since.
In the eight Rolex Series season prior to this one, the SunTrust team completed 96 of 104 races (92.3 percent) and a solid 79 of those (76 percent) on the lead lap. In that time, the team completed 14,728 of 15,534 possible race laps – that’s a remarkable rate of 94.8 percent.
Such impressive numbers make it all the more apparent that this year’s occurrences are an exception and not the norm in the SunTrust Racing camp. Fortunately, just 14 points separate the sixth-place Angelelli and Taylor from first place in the championship with seven races remaining on the schedule.
As they head to beautiful Road America this weekend, they will be bound and determined to restore order.
Practice for Saturday’s two-hour GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series 250 at Road America begins Thursday afternoon with qualifying set for Friday at 3:35 p.m. EDT. Race time Saturday is noon 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 11:45 a.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 and the SunTrust team have had an incredible record since you joined the series in 2004 of completing laps and finishing races well. Has this season, so far, been a little difficult to deal with?
“After so many years of not having many DNFs, having these last two recently, and also the one at Daytona, makes me feel kind of weird because it’s something we’ve never really experienced. Certainly not three in six races. At the same time, it puts pressure on us. We have to finish the races. We have to finish on the podium. We have to stay in the championship fight. I can’t hide the fact that we are in a difficult situation because we have to perform and we need to finish. Those two DNFs at Detroit and Mid-Ohio were very frustrating to me. Daytona, we already talked about that a thousand times about that one and there’s not really anything to say about it. Mid-Ohio, it’s in the past. It’s done. We are looking ahead, knowing we need to finish the races, first, and second, we need to finish in the top-three in order to maintain the championship fight. This is a must. This is my aim. This is our goal for Road America and Watkins Glen coming up.”
You did well at Road America in the series’ first visit there last year. What are you expecting for this weekend?
“With the new car, everything we do is going to be something new. Good tracks can become bad tracks. Bad tracks can become good tracks. Last year, Road America was in the middle – it was good in terms of performance but not in terms of longevity. But we did finish on the podium. I’m expecting us to be competitive and in the top-three. I’m not expecting major fallout. I definitely like that track, so that’s definitely a good thing. I’m sure we’ll have a good race. It’s going to be my time to qualify and start the race, so that will be fun.”
Ricky Taylor, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Corvette Dallara DP:
How’s the mood of the team after back-to-back DNFs at Detroit and Mid-Ohio?
“Mid-Ohio was disappointing because we were already calculating the championship points and were already planning on finishing second, knowing we didn’t have a winning car. To lose all that, plus a lot more, was pretty devastating. I think we’re all looking forward to the next couple of races in a big way. The BMW and Fords got additional RPM, so that was a big change and we’ll have to see how that plays out. It seems backward because they are the ones on top in the championship. The short tracks we’ve been at the last five races are setup- and aero-based. Road America is the first of many long, fast tracks we go to in a row and now those guys also have a rules break.”
How do you expect the track and the race to play out this weekend?
“I really like the track. It’s really hard on tires. That was something we found out in the race last year. It’ll be two hours, which is a nice, manageable distance. But it also makes it tough because, if you want to make it a one-stop race, tire management will be tough. You’ll have to be able to go a full hour on the same set. So, if you have to race somebody hard the final 20 minutes, things could get very interesting. In general, you want downforce in the car for the low-speed parts of the track that are pretty important. But it also has extremely long straights, where the downforce can be your enemy. So, you never have the perfect feel with the car all the way around the track. Last year, we learned a lot about downforce levels we need. Going back, we’re a year smarter, but we’ve got a little bit of a challenge with the new car.”
Wayne Taylor, team owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Corvette Dallara DP:
Your general thoughts on this weekend’s race as we head to Road America?
“I can’t say enough about what a great job this team’s been doing. Obviously, we’ve had these three DNFs, which is unfortunate because that’s the tough way to try and win a championship. But we have two really good wins to offset things and we’re not too far back in the points with a lot of races to go. The racing is so competitive. I’m happy to be in a Corvette with Corvette power and feel, without a doubt, we have the best team and drivers and partners, and all I can focus on is coming to Road America and trying to win the race. So, we’ll put our best foot forward this weekend. I’m looking forward to Road America. I’ve always liked that place. Let’s just get there and make it a good weekend, and then carry on from there.”