Wayne Taylor Racing Hangs Rolex 24 Three-Peat Hopes on Dream Driver Lineup, Acura

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Mike Pryson
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Photo credit: Icon Sportswire - Getty Images
Photo credit: Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

From Autoweek

  • Wayne Taylor Racing is going for its third consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona overall victory.

  • This year's team is WTR's first with Acura. The team's three previous Rolex wins have come with Cadillac.

  • Taylor's driver lineup for this year's Rolex includes Indy 500 winners Helio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi, along with past Rolex winners Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque.

Wayne Taylor will never be accused of resting on his laurels.

The team owner of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Series' Wayne Taylor Racing has been the king of the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona in recent years with back-to-back wins and three wins in the past four Rolex 24s. Each one of his team's three overall wins have come with different lineups.

This year, Taylor, a two-time Rolex 24 winner himself as a driver (1996 and 2005), not only is bringing another new driver lineup to the party in the team's bid for a three-peat, he's also sporting a new car in the garage.

Out is the Cadillac DPi, and in is the new No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05.

The new driver lineup for this year's Rolex 24, not-so-coincidentally, includes three drivers with plenty of experience driving the Acura for Team Penske. Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor won the DPi season championship in the WeatherTech Series last year for Acura Team Penske. Rossi, who like Castronoves is an Indy 500 winner, drove Penske's Acura for endurance races the past two years.

Filipe Albuquerque rounds out the lineup. He is a 2018 Rolex 24 winner with Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac and the reigning LMP2 champion in the World Endurance Championship.

Last year, Wayne Taylor Racing won the Rolex with drivers Scott Dixon, Kamui Kobayashi, Ryan Briscoe and Renger van der Zande.

"As you’ve seen over the last couple of years, we’ve changed drivers quite a lot," Wayne Taylor said on Wednesday, ahead of this weekend's Roar Before the 24 at Daytona International Speedway. "We do for the 24 hours. This year, it was a no-brainer to hire Alex and Helio. The two of them with Ricky have spent three years in the (Acura), and to have Filipe for the season with Ricky (is another plus).

"Alexander, Helio and Ricky, they’re actually teaching us some of the stuff that we haven’t learned yet (about the Acura) because we just don’t have that amount of time. Of course, Filipe is lapping it all up. He’s really easy to work with. The big job now is for the team to execute, and to execute in these races is critical. These races these days are not like the old days of the 24 Hours. It's like qualifying for 24 hours now.

"I think the one thing I can say for sure, we have the right driver lineup, That’s 100 percent."

Rossi, who is looking for his first overall win at the Rolex, said that no one is going to win the Rolex on paper. It has to be done over the course of 24 grueling hours on the track.

"There's so many variables in these endurance races that regardless of the effort and the preparation and the most talented team and driver lineup, there's always going to be some circumstances that either help or prevent you, and you hope to just be on the right side of it," Rossi said. "If you look at Wayne Taylor's history, especially at the 24 Hours of Daytona, it's speaks for themselves, especially the past few years.

"For me, it was very impressive to watch the team take on a really big challenge and a very advanced car and a pretty small time frame and to go out (and test Tuesday) and have pretty much no issues whatsoever is a testament to this group that Wayne's put together."

For Ricky Taylor, the return to Wayne Taylor Racing after three years with Penske, has been easy. Let's just say he knows his way around the family garage.

"It really feels like home still," Ricky Taylor said. "Even though there were three years in between, obviously being the family team, coming back is easy. It's really nice and smooth. But it's under different circumstances. I've been away with a different team and built a really great relationship between myself and Acura and HPD (Honda Performance Development). And it's really even more refreshing to see that kind of partnership come together with Wayne Taylor Racing and have all those parties together.

"A lot of it felt like it was nothing new, which was a nice feeling."

For Castroneves, the Rolex 24 kicks off his first full year in two decades not working with Team Penske. He said that Penske's run in the WeatherTech Series helped raised the bar for everyone.

"I think Team Penske set a great example, so now a lot of the teams are very similar," Castroneves, 45, said. "I'm very humbled to come to a team that has won so many times, the Daytona 24 Hours, and having the same car, same teammates—Filipe is a new guy, but he's already fit in—and the language is pretty much the same.

"I'm excited. It's different, but I'm excited. I feel like a young kid again, learning all over again, but with more experience and it helps a lot."

Are you ready for some racing? Can Wayne Taylor Racing make it three wins in a row. Join in the Rolex 24 conversation in the comments section below.