The Frontstretch: Beyond the Cockpit: Ricky Taylor on his 2012 Season, Surfer's Paradise, and the Future by Phil Allaway -- Thursday October 25, 2012

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For 23-year old Ricky Taylor, things are looking pretty decent. Entering Lime Rock, he had won two races (the rain-shortened event at Homestead, and at New Jersey Motorsports Park) and two poles (New Jersey and the short course at Watkins Glen). Recently, Taylor took a break from his busy schedule to sit down with our own Phil Allaway.

Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com: Can you give our fans an idea of what it’s like to drive around [Lime Rock] in the wet?

Ricky Taylor, driver, No. 10 SunTrust Racing Chevrolet Corvette DP: It’s a handful. It’s a lot of work. There’s not a lot of runoff here, and when you do go off, it’s all grass, which gets super slippery. So, the margin for error is really small. The track isn’t very wide, so there isn’t a lot of room to explore different lines. [As a result], you’re stuck on one line. If that line is super slippery, then you’ll have to deal with it. You have to be very sensitive with the throttle and the brake. You have to be very precise with all of your movements with the car.

Allaway: How would you characterize your season?

Taylor: It started off very well with the two wins, but since then, it’s been a really trying year. With a couple of mistakes on my part at Detroit and Road America where we could have had good results, we came away with DNF’s. And then, [we had] performance struggles for the last half of the year. It’s been really tough to get a handle on the new bodywork. We’re making progress, but we’re kinda one step behind for the last half of the year.

Allaway: Did the mechanical issues at the start of the Rolex 24 take some wind out of your sails at the beginning of the year?

Taylor: We were really looking forward to it. In hindsight, we didn’t have much for the Fords there at Daytona anyway. But, it would have been nice to get a result in the [Rolex 24]. It’s amazing how the 24-hour kickstarts your year and with a result, just how long you can keep the momentum going.

Allaway: [A few weeks ago], it was announced that you would be going down to Surfer’s Paradise for the Gold Coast 600. Can you talk about how that opportunity came together with Garry Rogers Motorsport?

Taylor: Yes, it came through Leigh Diffey of SPEED, who’s a great friend of our family. [He’s] always been around the series. He introduced a couple of drivers over there and asked me if I was interested, and I said, “of course.” He made the introduction and…I can’t wait. It’s really exciting and a great opportunity for me to go over there and compare myself against all the best drivers in the world.

Allaway: Boris Said did that race last year with the Paul Morris team. Have you leaned on him for a little advice?

Taylor: I’ve been talking to anybody I can. I don’t know Boris very well, but for sure if I bump into him, I’ll pick his brain about any help he can give me. Ryan Briscoe, who drove with us at the [Rolex 24 at Daytona], he’s got a lot of experience over there, so I’ll be nagging him for some pointers for sure.

Allaway: A few weeks ago, they officially announced the merger between Grand-Am and ALMS that will go into full effect in 2014. Has the team started to figure out what you’re going to do once that occurs?

Taylor: We’re just going to keep racing in 2013. We don’t know what’s going to happen in 2014. We don’t know what the rules are going to be like, or if there’s going to be many changes to our cars. All we can do is keep racing this year and next year, win as many races as possible, win the championship next year and keep working hard. When they do release the rules, then we can start planning.

Allaway: You mentioned the switch to the Corvette DP from the old Dallara. Can you talk about the differences between the Dallara and this Corvette?

Taylor: We actually still run the Dallara chassis, but with the Corvette bodywork on it. Regardless, it’s much different. Last year with the Dallara, the way that the car made downforce was completely different [as compared to] this year. You think that you could just throw the bodywork on and go racing. That’s what we all thought, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. There’s a lot of little details that go into it, and there’s a very small window that you have to work in with this car.

Allaway: I find it interesting. The Corvette DP was pitched as an all-new chassis.

Taylor: For some teams, they got a new chassis. The Corvette DP was originally built around the Coyote chassis. The GAINSCO team still runs a Riley and we run the Dallara. Other than that, all of them are Coyotes.

Allaway: Interesting. [Grand-Am] never really publicized that.

Taylor: I know.

Allaway: Grand-Am recently unveiled the 2013 schedule. It’s going to be 12 races instead of 13. They’re dumping both of the races that you won this year.

Taylor: I know. That’s what [our team] was talking about earlier.

Allaway: The sprint race at [Watkins] Glen is gone, you’re going to Austin, Road Atlanta, and Road America has been moved to August. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Taylor: I think it’s great. We get to go to Road Atlanta, which is one of the greatest tracks in the country. Then, going to Austin, which will be great. I think it’s good if we can get a good crowd to all those races.

Especially as a precursor to 2014, we’re probably going to go to Road Atlanta and Austin. Gotta get a taste of those tracks before we go there when we’re merged.

Allaway: The only question mark for next year is the new race at Kansas Speedway.

Taylor: Yeah. I don’t know what’s going to happen there.

Allaway: There is an open test scheduled for the end of October. The track will be interesting to say the least. Away from the track, what do you like to do to unwind?

Taylor: I like to spend time at home and relaxing. I’m always focused on [racing], training and driving on iRacing.com to get ready for the next [race].

Allaway: iRacing.com has the old Riley Daytona Prototypes in there. It seems like it’s fairly realistic.

Taylor: Yeah, it’s great. You can’t really simulate driving an actual car. Obviously, the g-forces and the feeling you get in the seat, but learning the tracks is easy. The tracks are perfect. The feeling of being in a car, you get a good immersion effect. It’s pretty good. It’s the best that I’ve found.

At Lime Rock, Angelelli and Taylor started fourth and took advantage of pit strategy and some swift driving from Taylor to take their third victory of the year. At the time, it looked like Taylor would be back with his father’s team, SunTrust Racing, for 2013. However, that is not so.

On October 9th, Ricky announced that he would be leaving SunTrust Racing in order to move over to Sprint of Daytona Racing, where he will drive the No. 90 Chevrolet Corvette DP.

Allaway: A couple of weeks ago, you announced a move to Spirit of Daytona’s #90 for the 2013 Rolex Sports Car Series season. How did his move come about and how confident are you going into next season?

Taylor: Late this year, Troy [Flis, Spirit of Daytona Racing owner] approached me about the possibility of working together in the future. It was a tough decision to make leaving a group of guys that I had spent three years with, but Spirit of Daytona is another top notch team and I am looking forward to fighting for a championship with them this year.

Taylor replaces Antonio Garcia with the team full-time and will pair up with Richard Westbrook for the 2013 season. Garcia will focus on driving for the factory Corvette Racing team in the American Le Mans Series, but will return to the team for the two endurance events on the schedule at Daytona and Watkins Glen._

Meanwhile, SunTrust Racing announced last year that Ricky’s brother Jordan will join Max Angelelli in the No. 10 SunTrust Chevrolet Corvette DP. Jordan Taylor spent much of the season driving the No. 88 Autohaus Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro GT.R in the GT-class before the team cut back their schedule due to lack of sponsorship. Jordan also raced at Watkins Glen in August for Action Express Racing in the Daytona Prototype class.

As noted above, Ricky drove the No. 33 Fujitsu-sponsored Holden Commodore for Garry Rogers Motorsport (GRM) in the Armor All Gold Coast 600 in Surfer’s Paradise. Ricky was originally supposed to partner with regular driver Alex Premat. However, GRM decided to bench Premat after he failed to finish better than 13th in a race all season and no better than 16th since April. As a result, part-time racer Greg Ritter was Ricky’s co-driver.

Unfortunately, all of Ricky’s excitement went for naught. Teammate (for the weekend) James Hinchcliffe created a stack-up on the start of race No. 1 on Saturday which ultimately left Ricky nowhere to go. The resulting crash saw Ricky flip his Commodore multiple times. With that, his weekend was over.

Allaway: Back when we chatted at Lime Rock, you were extremely excited about the then-upcoming Surfer’s Paradise trip. However, it didn’t go so well. Can you describe what happened to put you on your lid?

Taylor: The accident in Surfers was by far the biggest I have had. We had put a lot of emphasis on practicing our standing starts and I actually had a good one! After I got to third gear I moved out from the line to overtake a car when I saw stopped cars in front. I tried to get back in line but it was too late and got squeezed into the mess. The accident looked much worse than it was, I did not have any pain or discomfort in the following days. Just disappointment that our weekend was over.

Allaway: Aside from the unfortunate crash that ended your weekend, how was your first experience with the V8 Supercars, Garry Rogers Motorsport and your co-driver Greg Ritter?

Taylor: The trip to Australia was great, even without completing a race lap. I still learned a lot over the testing we did in Queensland and the practice sessions at surfers. Greg and the team were fantastic to work with an were always very helpful with any of my millions of questions. I just hope they will let me back next year to make up for our shortened weekend!

_SPEED will air highlighted coverage of the V8 Supercars’ Armor All Gold Coast 600 on Sunday night at 11pm EDT. However, you don’t have to wait that long. V8 Supercars Australia has posted both races in full from Surfers Paradise on their YouTube channel. Race No. 1 can be seen here, while Race No. 2 can be seen here

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