After his sons’ rise, Wayne Taylor feeling a ‘void’ at the Rolex 24

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Leaning on a small roundtable in a makeshift hospitality area outside his team’s hauler at Daytona International Speedway, Wayne Taylor felt “a bit of a void in my stomach.”

Crew members were scrambling in and out of the team’s technical nerve center behind him, making trips to the pit stand to prepare the No. 10 Cadillac for the opening session in the Roar before the Rolex.

It seemed business as usual at preseason testing for the overall championship team of the Rolex 24 in two of the past three years, but it wasn’t. For the first time in a decade, Wayne Taylor was contemplating a race weekend without either of his sons, Ricky and Jordan.

“It’s a little early for me to understand the magnitude of it,” Wayne Taylor said.

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Understanding the next step was easy, though.

“No, no, no,” Taylor said with a hearty laugh when asked if he considered leaving IMSA after helping propel his sons into top-notch rides. “What the hell would I do with my life? I don’t know anything else.”

It’s always all about racing for Wayne Taylor, but it’s no longer all in the family for his team, which will be without either Ricky or Jordan in its IMSA lineup this season for the first time since 2010.

Ricky Taylor, who raced for his father from 2010-12 and ’14-17, is entering his third season with Acura Team Penske. His younger brother, Jordan, has joined Corvette Racing this year after a 2013-19 run at Wayne Taylor Racing.

Jordan Taylor in his new Corvette firesuit (courtesy of IMSA).

In joining two top-flight teams, the Taylor brothers are being rewarded for excelling at WTR. They won the 2017 overall at the Rolex 24 (with Jeff Gordon) and the 12 Hours of Sebring on their way to the IMSA championship for their dad.

Though Wayne Taylor enjoyed having his boys behind the wheel, he also fielded cars for them to ensure they could land paying rides without needing to bring sponsorship.

“That was always the goal as a dad is have your kids make a living doing it,” Jordan said. “And not just make a living doing it but with two of the biggest sports car teams in the world. So our dad is very proud and very happy. I think part of him is sad and upset that we’re not with him, because it was always nice to have us with him to make it a little easier.

“But he’s proud to be our dad. And happy that he doesn’t have to pay us anymore.”

Wayne Taylor said “most people thought I’d stop the program” after Ricky and Jordan had found elite rides. But when renewing his contract with General Motors two years ago, he committed to keep his DPI team running if the manufacturer wanted to move Jordan into a factory team.

“Both of them have earned really good rides, which is what I always wanted at the end of the day,” Wayne Taylor said of his sons, who grew up in Central Florida under their father’s racing tutelage and progressed through go-karts to sports cars. “A lot of people thought that I set this up only for them, and hopefully they all realize now it’s not.

“I’d look at the teams they could have been going (to race) and think, ‘No, they’re not going to do anything here, so let me put them into the right environment and teach them.’ Because we’ve had a lot of success before them.”

Taylor, a successful sports car veteran in his own right with wins at the Rolex and Le Mans, has built quite the pedigree over the past 13 seasons as a team owner.

Testing at Daytona for Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 Cadillac, which will be driven by Renger van der Zande, Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon and Kamui Kobayashi at the Rolex 24 (Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

After winning Rolex 24 overall titles with a four-time NASCAR champion (Gordon) in ’17 and a two-time Formula One champion (Fernando Alonso) last year, Taylor has recruited five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon to his DPI car for Daytona.

“We got rid of our weak link with Jordan,” Wayne Taylor laughed, exemplifying his family’s omnipresent sarcasm and sense of humor (Jordan Taylor has become a social media sensation, mostly through his Rodney Sandstorm alter ego).

Dixon will join returning drivers Renger van der Zande and Kamui Kobayashi a the Rolex 24 along with new full-time Wayne Taylor Racing driver Ryan Briscoe, whose management ties to WTR co-owner Max Angelelli made for a smooth transition after the shutdown of Chip Ganassi Racing’s GT program.

At the Roar, van der Zande said there still seemed a family atmosphere within the team even without Ricky and Jordan Taylor.

“Clearly not having one of them is going to take some getting used to, but I’m very close with Ryan Briscoe,” Wayne Taylor said. “He’s like a third son, so that’ll make it easy. But I don’t know how the feeling is going to be (without Ricky and Jordan) by the time we get to the race.

“There’s certainly a void from my standpoint, but then I’ve surrounded the team with really good drivers again. We’ve got a good enough lineup that we can win the race again.”

That made leaving even more difficult for Jordan.

“It was a hard decision, and the hard part was leaving my dad’s team,” Jordan, 28, said. “Since 2013, we’d won two championships, two Daytonas, Sebring, the Petit Le Mans. You’re leaving a team that can win races and championships overall. And it’s a family team. I know everyone on the team. I was so comfortable and so easy for me to just be there.

“But Corvette Racing is kind of a hard thing to turn down. It was almost impossible to say no. If I’d said no to that, that opportunity probably is never going to come back.”

At least Wayne Taylor will be able to cheer Jordan’s progress in a new mid-engine car that Corvette will field in the GTLM class.

Ricky Taylor of Team Penske (courtesy of IMSA).

It will be a little trickier to root for 30-year-old Ricky, whose No. 7 Acura is a direct threat to WTR’s No. 10 Cadillac in DPI.

During the Roar, Ricky briefly stopped by outside the WTR trailer with Penske teammate Helio Castroneves but left after a few minutes of small talk and smiles with his father.

“It’s a bit odd the past two seasons,” said Ricky, who laughed while recalling a recent dinner table conversation in which his dad playfully pried for info about whether Team Penske had tested a new tire at Daytona. “We can’t necessarily go into the trailer. I can’t talk to the guys casually. I have to kind of keep my eyes straight ahead.”

Wayne Taylor said he still will keep at least one eye on the lap times for Jordan and Ricky.

“Racing against my two sons will be great,” he said, pausing for a devilish smile. “I’ll have to get the guys to figure out how to take them out.”

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.