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(Photo: Phil Allaway)

Wayne Taylor Racing Sweeps 36 Hours of Florida

The Taylor family really loves Florida.  Wayne Taylor Racing owner Wayne Taylor and his sons Jordan and Ricky have lived in Seminole County north of Orlando for years.  On Saturday, the family returned to Victory Lane once again with the Taylor brothers sweeping Daytona and Sebring, along with newcomer Alex Lynn.

With the win, Wayne Taylor Racing sweeps overall wins at Daytona and Sebring, a feat that Tequila Patron ESM pulled off last year.  Wayne Taylor himself accomplished the feat as a driver back in 1996 for Doyle Racing in a Riley & Scott Mk. III powered by a early version of Oldsmobile’s Aurora engine that was used in the IRL.

Afterwards, Ricky Taylor was overjoyed.

“A 1-2-3 for Cadillac is unbelievable,” Ricky stated after the race.  “To say that a brand-new car out of the box has run 36 hours of racing absolutely flawlessly, I don’t think that has ever happened. It is a testament to Cadillac and all of the development partners. It says so much about the brand and the serious effort they have brought to sports car racing. The Cadillac is the toughest car to beat. The (No. 5) Mustang Sampling and (No. 31) Whelen cars are fast. I am sure they are going to bring it at Long Beach and the rest of the season.”

The 1-2-3 for Cadillac came despite multiple changes to Balance of Performance (BoP) after Daytona that were designed to slow down the DPi-V.R.’s that dominated the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Overall, the race was one of attrition.  Only the top two finishing Cadillac DPi-V.R.’s stayed out of significant trouble all day in the Prototype class.  The other entrants either had costly spins or mechanical woes.

REBELLION Racing’s Neel Jani led early from pole, but a disastrous first pit stop that involved the engine cover being removed ended any chance of contention.  Tequila Patron ESM’s challenge never got off the ground.  Boost issues derailed the No. 2’s chances to defend their win from last year in the first 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, the No. 22 Nissan DPi was forced to retire in the sixth hour due to exhaust issues.

The winning margin for the No. 10 Cadillac was 13.614 seconds over the No. 5 Cadillac for Action Express Racing shared by Filipe Albuquerque, Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi.  The second Action Express entry ended up third, two laps down at the finish.  That was because of an incident where Eric Curran ran into the back of the No. 22 Nissan DPi of Johannes van Overbeek in Sunset Bend and spun.  Curran then could not get the car restarted.

As compared to Daytona, Prototype Challenge was much quieter.  Gustavo Yacaman started the No. 26 for BAR1 Motorsports and led without issue early.  Performance Tech Motorsports’ James French gave chase.

After the first round of pit stops and driver changes, Performance Tech’s Patricio O’Ward ran down and passed Yacaman 62 minutes into the race for the class lead.  Shortly afterwards, the first full course yellow.  Even though it was less than a tenth of the way into a 12 hour race, this pass was effectively for the win.

From that point, Performance Tech Motorsports’ No. 38 did not give up the lead for the rest of the race.  Running a near problem free race, the team of French, O’Ward and Kyle Masson backed up their class victory at Daytona with Sebring victory as well.  With all of the problems around them, they ended up finishing ten laps down on the overall leaders in fifth overall.

Performance Tech won the PC class by two laps over Starworks Motorsports’ No. 8 for Garret Grist, Maxwell Hanratty and Sean Rayhall.  The team had a much-improved performance after having a litany of wrecks in Daytona.  BAR1 Motorsports’ No. 26 ended up ten laps off the pace in third.

In GT Le Mans, the race was a highly competitive affair.  Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ford GT’s dominated the early hours of the race, but Corvette Racing and Porsche GT Team were close in tow.

However, the race came down to the last couple of hours.  Late in the race, Porsche GT Team’s No. 911 for Patrick Pilet, Frédéric Makowiecki and Dirk Werner was very quick and ran down the No. 66 Ford GT of Joey Hand, Dirk Müller and Sébastien Bourdais.  A duel between the No. 66 Ford, the No. 911 Porsche and the No. 3 Corvette was likely.

Unfortunately, issues in the pits took the No. 911 out of the hunt, despite a fuel advantage.  Issues with an air gun dropped Pilet’s No. 911 back to third.  A late penalty dropped them out of the top five.

Despite dealing with an oil-covered windshield at one point, Antonio Garcia drove the No. 3 Corvette (shared with Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller) up into contention in the nighttime hours.  In the 11th hour, Garcia ran down the class-leading No. 66 Ford.  Great work from the Corvette pit crew allowed Garcia to beat Hand out of the pits.  When Makowiecki stopped six laps later to hand over to Pilet, Garcia found himself in the class lead.

Pilet’s issues meant that only Hand could realistically challenge the Corvette.  Garcia handled Hand without any real problems, pulling away to give Corvette Racing their third straight class victory at Sebring.

The No. 66 Ford ended up second, four seconds back. Risi Competizione’s No. 62 Ferrari for James Calado, Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander was third.  The No. 67 Ford of Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon and Richard Westbrook was fourth, while the part-time No. 68 Ford of Billy Johnson, Stefan Mücke and Olivier Pla was fifth.

GT Daytona was ultimately dominated by Riley Motorsports’ Mercedes-AMG GT3.  The car, shared by Jeroen Bleekemolen, Mario Farnbacher and Ben Keating, first took the class lead at the end of the second hour.  From there, the team dominated much of the rest of the race.

Riley Motorsports used this Mercedes to dominate the GT Daytona class at Sebring. (Photo: Phil Allaway)

Despite leading many laps, the race still came down to pit strategy.  Everyone pitted at the edge of their pit window on the final yellow.  Scuderia Corsa’s Alessandro Balzan got out of the pits first and took the class lead.

A couple of laps after the restart, Bleekemolen was able to take the lead away.  From there, Bleekemolen pulled away to give Mercedes their first IMSA victory.

Balzan finished second in the sole Ferrari 488 GT3 in the field, shared with Christina Nielsen and Matteo Cressoni.  SunEnergy1 Racing’s pole-sitting Mercedes of owner-driver Kenny Habul, Boris Said and Tristan Vautier finished third, but had a heck of a time getting there.  After winning the pole on Friday, Vautier had to start from the pit lane due to a fuel leak in the warm-up Saturday morning.  Despite that (and a drive-through penalty for failing to make the grid), the team was able to make their way up to the podium in just their second race.

Fuel issues struck in the final laps, resulting in both Change Racing and GRT Grasser Racing Team missing out on top five finishes.  As a result, Montaplast by Land-Motorsport’s No. 29 Audi ended up fourth in class, followed by Paul Miller Racing’s No. 48 Lamborghini.

About Phil Allaway

Phil Allaway

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He’s the Manager of the site’s FREE e-mail Newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site’s Sports Car racing Editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the Press Officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as Tony Stewart’s Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions.

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