‘Completely neurotic’ and near a Rolex 24 record, here’s what makes Wayne Taylor tick


DAYTONA BEACH, Florida – Hang a left out of Daytona International Speedway, head down I-4 into the suburban Orlando sprawl, and Wayne Taylor says it’s easy to find his home.

Not because the namesake of Wayne Taylor Racing keeps his front porch festooned with all the specially engraved, gold-plated bling from the haul of winning timepieces over his team’s three consecutive overall victories in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“If you drive past my house, you can find me on all fours picking up leaves out of the grass,” Taylor, a longtime resident of Altamonte Springs, told NBC Sports with a laugh. “I think I’m pretty sick to be honest, and as I’ve gotten older, it’s gotten worse and worse. So I’ve become completely neurotic.”

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If that attention to detail sounds like the key to becoming a sports car powerhouse that annually wins the endurance race classic that opens the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, Taylor would agree.

“That bleeds over into the race team,” Taylor said. “So when I see stuff on the counter, I literally either throw it off or pull somebody in and say, ‘Hey, this place needs to be tidy.’ But yeah, I’m very, very detail-oriented. And every single year (in the race), we never ever have a problem.

“I’ve always tried to run my operation as professionally as Roger Penske does. I’ve watched him for years and years and years. But then again, he’s across the board, not just sports cars. But I’ve learned a lot from him, and I’m trying to install the same sort of ideas into my team — and not all of the things that Roger does, because we do stuff differently.

“But yes, it does come down to detail, and when you’re using a race team to represent different brands, you should be slick and well tucked up and ready to go.”

Taylor, 65, might lack the auto racing gravitas and magnitude of Penske and his 18 Indy 500 victories and championships in IndyCar, NASCAR and IMSA.

But the South African native certainly can etch his name in racing history in the 60th Rolex 24 at Daytona this weekend.

Taylor’s No. 10 Acura ARX-05 will start from the pole position Saturday at the Daytona International Speedway road course in pursuit of a record fourth overall victory that would break a tie with another racing titan, Chip Ganassi (whose teams won the Rolex 24 in 2006-08).

“The biggest thing you see with Wayne’s teams is the passion for winning, and that’s true with Chip, too,” six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, who has driven on Rolex 24 winners for Ganassi and Taylor, told NBC Sports. “It’s not just Wayne and not just Chip. It’s the whole team. But it comes from those guys. Wayne is just as competitive as Chip, and Chip is probably the most competitive person I know outside of my wife. So they’re definitely fun programs to be a part of because they’re only focused on winning.”

Alexander Rossi, the 2016 Indy 500 winner for Andretti Autosport who also drove for Team Penske in sports cars for three years, won the Rolex 24 with WTR last year and returns this year with Ricky Taylor, Felipe Albuquerque and Will Stevens – the fourth consecutive year Taylor has had a fresh lineup at Daytona.

Despite the churn of drivers (and a manufacturer switch last year from Cadillac), there is a continuity within WTR’s close-knit group of longtime team members, which Rossi immediately identified as the championship DNA he’s witnessed in other teams.

“You can 100 percent see why Wayne Taylor Racing has been so successful and have the championships and big race wins,” Rossi told NBC Sports. “Being able to drive for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar (and) Acura Team Penske in IMSA, they’re organizations that go about things a different way.

“Wayne Taylor Racing is a very small, almost family oriented group where everyone from mechanics to truck drivers to management all have an equal say, and everyone is going for the same goal and have the same ideology and work ethic. I think that is a major part of why they’ve accomplished what they have, and that all stems from Wayne being the type of person that he is and being a racer and then a businessman at heart. And for him it’s all about winning and everything else is pretty much secondary.”

Taylor, who retired from full-time driving shortly before starting his team 15 years ago, likes noting that mechanic Bill Mullen once strapped him into the car and since has done the same with Taylor’s sons, Ricky and Jordan.

The team also has continuity in management. General manager Travis Hogue joined WTR in 2006, and technical director and strategist Brian Pillar came aboard in 2007.

“I think that’s what people think about WTR,” Taylor said. “I’ve been in sports car racing ever since coming to this country in 1990 and never done anything else and so our focus has always been sports car racing and these long-distance races. And if you look down the paddock, you’ll see teams here for two to three years and then they’re gone. I think we show consistency. I think the team we run as a family because it really is. The guys on the team have been with me since we started.”

It’s quite the juxtaposition with the team’s rotating cast of endurance and fourth drivers. Since 2019, WTR’s winning entries have included champions from Formula One (Fernando Alonso in 2019) and IndyCar (Scott Dixon in ‘20), a 24 Hours of Le Mans winner (Kamui Kobayashi in ’19-20) and a four-time Indy 500 winner (Helio Castroneves last year).

“The key ingredients are look at your driver lineup and make sure there’s no egos,” Taylor said. “You have to find someone that’s had experience and someone that has won any international race. No. 1 is finding that driver that has done this type of racing that’s accomplished, and they can do the same lap times as everyone else on the team. Speed is important. Being part of the group and working with the group is important.

“People forget that the setup of the car really comes down to the drivers. Even though the engineer sets the car up, it’s based on the feedback from the drivers.”

Wayne Taylor hired his newest driver, Stevens, over the phone — the same way he brought on Kobayashi and others whom he barely knew personally.

WTR does enough meticulous research on each driver to ensure interpersonal relationships are virtually guaranteed to work – a manner similar to its mostly flawless quality control. Taylor’s mantra is that pit stops are when “the car comes in for tires, fuel and drivers,” underscoring that “we never come in the pits for something that’s broken or loose.”

“I think winning three in a row just goes to show it’s such a team effort,” Ricky Taylor said. “They’ve had a revolving door of drivers. The one thing that’s consistent is the core group of the team. They’ve done such an amazing job of executing in this race.”

Describing his father as “a warrior who is OCD in a very good way,” Ricky said he and his brother, Jordan” sometimes will get as many as 10 calls a day from Wayne about everything from racing to Jordan’s dog Fonzie digging holes in his back yard.

“Sometimes he might have forgotten why he called,” Ricky told NBC Sports with a laugh. “He’s a bit of a control freak, but I think in the world of motorsports, the difference is in the details, and he wants everything to be perfect. And I think whether it’s just clean countertops or whether it’s having the ride height down to the half-millimeter, the team knows because your shirts are tucked in, and because the countertops are clean, that level of detail should be put into every aspect of the race car, whether it’s setting up the car in the shop or how diff change gets made at the racetrack.

“That level of detail gets put into every detail of the race team.”

Jordan Taylor, who drove for three of his father’s Rolex 24 winners (2017, ’19-20) before leaving for Corvette Racing, said WTR also feeds off the passion and emotion of his father, who is among the most outspoken live wires in IMSA (particularly when he feels his team has been wronged).

“I think the guys feed off that,” Jordan Taylor told NBC Sports. “The crew guys, the engineers, the drivers, they all feel that passion and know that he really wants to win and only comes to events to win. Every week that I’m at home, he’s talking about the next race and how they’re going to win it.

“This one is a big one for him. The Rolex is our home race. Obviously, as a family member, I hear about it every day, and it’s pretty special what he’s been able to accomplish as a team owner.”

Taylor’s success also might stem from a bluntness that sometimes can be prickly.

Renger van der Zande won the Rolex 24 in 2019-20 with WTR but said he was “suddenly sacked” by the team before the 2021 season. Now with Chip Ganassi Racing, van der Zande said about WTR that “there’s no chance they get four in a row” but also was complimentary despite some hurt feelings.

“It’s been a great step forward to go with Ganassi, but at the same time, that little team is very strong,” he told NBC Sports. “Wayne Taylor Racing, the guys who work there, they know what to do, they know how to win.”

Filipe Albuquerque, who replaced van der Zande last year, said Taylor is “a unique character, and I laugh a lot with him,” but things often turn serious in debriefs.

“We say exactly what’s on our minds without thinking much,” Albuquerque told NBC Sports. “It’s just plain and simple. Even if it’s hard, we just put it out there. Wayne is super nice to deal with him because he will never tell you a lie. He will tell you exactly what he thinks, and exactly what he’s doing wrong or right, and that’s perfect, because you don’t want people to tell you that is not really true to your face.”

Said Rossi: “Wayne is a racer at heart. He is very, very vocal about the way he wants things to be run and operated. And if you’re doing a good job, he’ll tell you that. If you’re not, he’ll tell you that. You know where you stand. It’s great to drive for someone like that because there’s no questions. It’s this is what we need to do. This is how we’re going to do it. The results have been proven in the past, so why would you ever not want to buy into that mentality?”

Rossi said WTR’s “secret weapon” is its engineering department of three “whereas a bigger team, it’s all spread out and there’s a lot of delegation in different departments, which obviously has its advantages, but I think over a 24-hour race and being able to react very, very quickly, the fact that this core group of people has their hands in everything makes those decisions a lot easier and a lot clearer.”

Wayne Taylor said there is no secret to his historic success, though it helps to avoid dwelling on it.

“Honestly, I don’t think about that, because if I started thinking about that, it would drive me completely crazy and drive my team crazy,” he said. “So I just look at this as another 24 Hours at Daytona, and as I said to my lead engineer, ‘I provide the money, you provide the race team. If you get the money, I’ve done my job. Your job is to win the race.’

“So that’s how we run every single race. We race to win.”

Lessons learned in three rounds of Extreme E pay huge dividends in the Copper X Prix for Tanner Foust

Foust Copper X Prix
McLaren Racing

To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long, unique trip it’s been for Tanner Foust in his first season with the Extreme E series as he took his early season lessons to Chile to compete in the Copper X Prix. And he’s learned his lessons well.

In February, McLaren announced they would expand their motorsports program with an Extreme E entry. They signed two talented rally drivers in Foust and Emma Gilmour – and paired them for the opening round in Neom, Saudi Arabia with just a few days of testing under their belts. Baked by the Arabian desert sun, it was trial by fire.

The duo performed well in their debut, advancing into the final round and finishing fifth. As Extreme E headed to another desert halfway across the globe for Round 4, it was a good time to catch up with Foust and ask about McLaren’s progress. The Copper X Prix was held this past weekend in one of the most extreme regions in the world: the Atacama Desert.

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“The shock going into the first race was the speed,” Foust told NBC Sports. “It was much higher than we had tested. We spent a lot of time around 100 miles per hour [in race trim] and our testing speeds were more in the 60 to 70-mile range. Then, once we sort of got around that, the car got updated so you can drive it even faster.”

In rally racing, some incidents are out of a driver’s control. Even peeking around another car can be dangerous because of potholes that have recently been gouged in the ground or large bushes that seem to sprout up between laps. A couple of rollovers brought Foust back to earth – but the pace was there and that was important.

“We had some challenges this season,” Foust said prior to the Copper X Prix. “We had a good start; made the final, which is a difficult thing to do in this series. I had two rolls in the first three events, but I have improved each time. Now we come into Round 4 in Chile in a pretty strong position. We have competitive times as a team. We are communicating really well and have our heads around this Odyssey vehicle.”

Foust’s words proved to be prophetic.

He won the Crazy Race – Extreme E’s version of a Last Chance Qualifier – and did so after passing the field. It was the same manner in which he qualified for Saudi Arabia’s finale, but this time things would be better. There were those hard-earned lessons on which to lean – and Foust had reps under his belt. He was not going to be caught off guard by any random obstacles.

Tanner Foust passed Sebastien Loeb heading to the Switch Zone in the Copper X Prix. (Photo by Sam Bagnall / LAT Images)

In the Copper X Prix finale, he pressured one of the best rally drivers in the history of the sport.

Pitching sideways through a tight left-hander late in his stint, Foust put his McLaren Extreme E Odyssey at the head of the pack in front of Sebastien Loeb as they headed to the Switch Zone. There, he would turn the car over to his co-driver Gilmour.

The Extreme E series pairs male and female drivers with both taking a turn behind the wheel.

After the driver change, Gilmour lost the lead momentarily to Loeb’s teammate Cristina Gutierrez, but as they charged toward the finish line, she surged ahead and crossed under the checkers first.

“What an improvement for the team over this year,” Foust said after the race. “We have struggled through some of the events, being in our first year in competition. We showed true pace this weekend; overtaking Sebastien Loeb was a highlight.

“Emma put in a great run in the Final. I was fortunate to go from last to first in the Crazy Race and then first in the Final but with some flag penalties, we had 20 seconds added to our time, which put us into fifth. It was a great feeling crossing the line first, I love this wide style track and the NEOM McLaren Odyssey was fantastic here.

“Hopefully we can continue that momentum into Uruguay.”

Loeb and Gutierrez were elevated to the top of the podium, but no one can take away the feeling of crossing under the checkers first.

Racing Responsibly

Since cars were first invented, racing has played a socially responsible role by improving safety. As Earth reaches a tipping point with climate change, racing needs to adapt to these new needs and requirements, which is where Extreme E’s unique strategy becomes increasingly important.

The Extreme E experience is more than simple racing. Each race is accompanied by a legacy program designed to offset damage done by climate change and to erase the footprint caused by the events.

Foust, a biology major from the University of Colorado, was given the chance to rekindle his interest and give back to the environment ahead of the Copper X Prix.

The Atacama is the oldest desert in the world at 150 million years. It is the driest place on earth and has the highest degree of ultraviolet light. And yet somehow life perseveres through underground rivers with oases dating back to Incan times. Foust participated in preparing a local habitat for the reintroduction of a critically endangered water frog to Chile’s longest river, the Loa, which snakes its way through the desert.

“I’m loving the experience,” Foust said. “I’m putting on a lot of Chapstick, a lot of sunscreen. What a fascinating part of the world. I never would have come here otherwise.

“I honestly am very honored to be a part of this sport. I am a huge believer in the fact that motorsports has done us good in the last 100 years. I think we benefit every single time we put our seatbelts on and drive down the road to the lessons learned in racing since the turn of the century. And I really hope motorsports continues that tradition.

“I think that motorsports like [Extreme E] does it in a responsible way, a gender-neutral way and a carbon-neutral way.”