Brotherly love to brotherly rivalry: IMSA’s Ricky, Jordan Taylor to race each other in Rolex 24

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It was evident last year was going to be a special season for Wayne Taylor Racing when the organization rolled into Daytona International Speedway. The team had coaxed Jeff Gordon into joining its lineup for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, where they debuted the new Cadillac program.

Gordon was the headliner, but Ricky and Jordan Taylor were the stars and teamed together to give their father’s team the overall victory in one of the most prestigious sports car races of the year. The brothers went on to win the first five races of the IMSA schedule and the series championship.

Then Ricky Taylor promptly left. He was offered a job to drive for Roger Penske in a new Acura program that would directly compete against his father and brother. His family knew he had to take the ride.

“If there was any time to leave Dad’s program, it was after the season we had,” Ricky Taylor said. “We did it, we won the championship, we won Daytona, so that made the transition a lot easier. To get an opportunity to go to Acura with Team Penske, I don’t think anyone could turn it down. It was probably the only opportunity that could take me away from that program.”

Wayne Taylor understood – seeing a son drive for Penske is what every racing parent hopes for – and so did his little brother. The two have not always raced together, and Ricky was not on the team when Jordan Taylor helped the organization win the 2013 series championship.

The brothers will now be rivals beginning Saturday at the Rolex 24.

Jordan Taylor will try to defend the overall title in his Cadillac with new teammate Renger van der Zande and IndyCar star Ryan Hunter-Reay, the endurance race replacement for Gordon. Ricky Taylor is part of an eagerly anticipated Penske and Acura effort that has him partnered with three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and Graham Rahal, the IndyCar driver added for endurance races.

Neither brother may win the overall title in this year’s twice-round-the-clock race, but it’s impossible for both Taylors to stand atop the podium together for a second straight year.

It’s a strange feeling for Jordan Taylor, who is adjusting to the new look of his father’s team. It was started by Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli, then was Ricky and Jordan’s way into the top level of sports car racing.

“Obviously it’s been a family team oriented team from the beginning,” Jordan Taylor said. “I joined the team in 2013 when it was just Max and I … Max had been with the team until last year, and then it was just Ricky and I. Max was like a father figure, and Ricky was obviously family, so I’ve always had some sort of close person. This is the first time being in what I’d say is a normal environment of teammates.”

It’s not yet normal for their parents.

At preseason testing earlier this month, mom Shelley was torn on whether to watch from the Penske or the Taylor pit stands. When she did venture into Penske territory, she felt out of place. Wayne Taylor had his own emotions.

“As a father and the team owner, it’s sad to not have both Ricky and Jordan in the car again together,” Wayne Taylor said. “But we replaced Ricky with a really good guy in Renger.”

Jordan Taylor said van der Zande shares a similar attacking style to his brother, which is an essential skill to replace for the team. The Taylors started five races from the pole, and Ricky used last season to step into his own and show he can seize opportunities – he won five poles – and close victories.

But he’s now learning an entirely new culture at Penske, one that is less family oriented and far more corporate. He’s also figuring out how to gel with Castroneves, who Penske moved to sports cars this season.

Ricky Taylor said he’s up for the challenge.

“To be part of such a winning team, where the expectations are so high, I’m learning so much from everybody here,” he said. “The team has so many tools to help you do the job. It’s not magic, there’s a reason they are so good, and it’s interesting to see it from the inside.”

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Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.