Jordan Taylor was proud to keep up the record of Wayne Taylor Racing winning at least one race every season for the past fifteen years at Petit Le Mans on Saturday, although the #10 Cadillac he shared with Renger van der Zande and Ryan Hunter-Reay left it late to do so.
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-ending ten-hour endurance race turned into a fuel conservation event in the closing stages, and it appeared that the #5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac of Filipe Albuquerque was going to net the victory only to slow with just two corners remaining as it ran out of fuel, enabling van der Zande to take the chequered flag first.
It was the cars first victory of 2018, but it ensured Taylor and van der Zande confirmed themselves in third place in the championship standings behind the #31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac and the #54 CORE Autosport Oreca.
“It was pretty crazy,” Taylor said. “It was a never-give-up strategy today. It was 10 hours and one of the toughest Petit Le Mans races there’s been in a long time, especially in the Prototype class.
“It was a tough year not having a win until now, and it would’ve been very disappointing to leave this season without a win. But our guys were unbelievable – the whole Konica Minolta crew. We were making up positions on every pit stops, which kept us up front for track position.
“And for the last two hours, Renger was saving fuel. If we wouldn’t have stuck to that strategy like we did, we would’ve ended up like the 5 car. We were pushing him every lap to save fuel and hit his numbers, and he was still able to keep the pressure on and it worked, passing for the win with two corners to go.
“To go through 10 hours of racing is unbelievable. Wayne Taylor Racing has won at least one race for all 15 years of its existence, so it’s a great way to end the way and a great way to lead into 2019.”
For van der Zande, it was a first victory for Wayne Taylor Racing having joined the outfit ahead of the 2018 season in place of Acura Team Penske-bound Ricky Taylor, but the Dutchman was both happy and proud of the efforts of the whole team at Petit Le Mans and was able to make his strategy at the end work in their favour, sweeping around the slowing Albuquerque with just two turns remaining of the season.
“It took 10 races to get my first win with the team and we finally got it done,” said van der Zande. “I’m super happy and super proud of the team and I think this was a real team effort.
“We kept it on the black stuff, we gave it our all at the right time, but mainly on the fuel mileage and hitting the numbers they gave me was a big calculation at the end and the team got it done.”
Van der Zande revealed he was happier with the feeling of the Cadillac the longer the race went on, and when it turned dark it came too life, enabling him to do what he did to take the victory.
“We knew we were going to struggle during the day when it was hot,” said van der Zande. “When I got in for Ryan on my second-to-last stint, it was starting to cool down and that’s when I started to feel like we do have a good car because it felt horrible before that. It was steering in, it was braking, it was doing everything I wanted.
“The closer we got to the end of the race, the better the car was getting, I could attack everywhere. At the end, it was a very calculation kind of game on track because you want to get position, but you want to save fuel, as well. That’s the game that we played, and we played it very nice.
“I’m very happy. We have a baby coming any time now, so I have to head home now. I’ll be very anxious until it happens, but this is a very nice thing to happen to end the season.”
For Hunter-Reay, victory at Petit Le Mans came on the back of a victory in the final Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season at Sonoma Raceway, but his ambition now turns to the Rolex 24 at Daytona, an event he is eager to win in 2019.
“This is a big one – Petit Le Mans is huge,” said Hunter-Reay. “It’s so great racing with this team. I have such a great time with them, it’s easy to come from my full-time job in IndyCar and jump in here and work with these drivers.
“Jordan and Renger did a fantastic job today. Renger, to finish the race like that, was outstanding. We’ve come close, we finished second at Sebring, we had a great car at Daytona before we had some issues, and this is just fantastic to finish the year like this.
“We went from qualifying on the pole to winning (the IndyCar season finale) at Sonoma and now to this, it’s just been a fantastic end to the 2018 season. Petit Le Mans is a big one.
“Next up, we have our eyes on winning the Rolex 24 At Daytona. I’d love to win that race. I just love being back here in IMSA.”