WTR shocked by Petit Le Mans win after “so many problems”
Wayne Taylor, who saw his team score its third Petit Le Mans win in seven years, says the latest triumph could be attributed to his personnel’s “never give up attitude”.
The #10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R drivers Ryan Briscoe and Renger van der Zande came into the event having not won since January’s Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona. But with five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon drafted in as endurance race extra – as he had been in the Rolex 24 – the Wayne Taylor Racing team looked increasingly impressive as sunset turned to darkness.
Finally, van der Zande was in third place and only 10sec in arrears in the closing stages when Ricky Taylor (Acura Team Penske) collided with Action Express Racing’s Pipo Derani while dueling for the lead. The WTR Cadillac swept past the scene to grab the win.
The victory extends the team’s lead in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship to eight points with two rounds to go – the 2hr40min event at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and the much delayed 12 Hours of Sebring.
The latest win came despite the adversity of a couple of off-course excursions for Briscoe and a failing alternator causing the battery to die while van der Zande was at the wheel. All three drivers worked hard to save fuel and regularly went one-to-three laps longer on a stint than Acuras, Mazdas and other Cadillacs. Yet despite the necessarily reduced pace, they remained in the top five, and – as has been a WTR tradition – gained on the opposition as temperatures dropped and night fell.
Dixon closed to within six seconds of the lead in his final stint, pressuring the leading AXR Cadillac at that point driven by Felipe Nasr, and the #7 Acura driven by fellow IndyCar ace Alexander Rossi.
On taking over the black Caddy, Briscoe then suffered a trip through the gravel at Turn 10 but then whittled away the deficit to the leaders, before handing off to van der Zande who continued this work until he was just 10sec behind the two lead cars, by then driven by Derani and (R.) Taylor. When they collided and went off at Turn 6, van der Zande was able to swoop through, just about avoiding the Acura as it rejoined the track.
After the inevitable full-course caution, the black Cadillac remained in front at the restart, and then another yellow flew for clashing GT cars, and so the race ended under caution.
“I’m almost speechless,” exclaimed Wayne Taylor. “This is one of the hardest races and now I’ve won it four times, once as a driver and three as a team owner.
“We had so many problems going on throughout the race that people don’t know about and we didn’t know where we would end up.
“It’s a tribute to the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team. These guys work so hard and never give up. It all paid off really well and gives us a greater points lead in the championship, so I’m very happy about that.
“I can’t say enough about Renger, Ryan, and Scott. I’m blown away. “
Van der Zande commented: “It was a crazy race where we were lucky at the end, but we kept chipping off lap time to get up to the leaders.
“We had all kinds of issues during the race – a battery issue where it was going down and we had to drive with low power steering, so it was hard to drive and had no air conditioning so it was very hot in the car. But those just make the win that much sweeter.”
“Great day,” added Briscoe. “It was a hard-fought weekend. We started out with some issues on the car, we had to change the whole brake system.
“During the race when Renger got in the car for the first time, the car shut off twice out on the racetrack! Our battery voltage was dying, so it was actually very scary the whole race and we weren’t sure if we were going to make it to the end.
“The start of the race the car was not great, but we set it up for the night and for the finish, so when the track rubbered in the car got better and better.
“We had a plan and it went to plan and Renger was doing some awesome lap times at the end and was bringing down the gap. Then those guys crashed, and we got the win. It’s just fantastic.”
Dixon, who will next week be gunning for his sixth IndyCar title with Chip Ganassi Racing, will be rejoining WTR for the Sebring 12 Hours. It will mark the squad’s final start with the Cadillac DPi-V.R, as next year it will run one of the Acura ARX-05s.
“I have to say I really enjoy being a part of this team,” said Dixon. “I’m two-for-two while being with Wayne Taylor Racing!
“Daytona was obviously a crazy start to the season, and this was such a big weekend with the championship fight being so close. This was such a big weekend for Wayne and the team. And it’s always such a pleasure to drive with Renger and Ryan.
“All I try to do is not fire it off the track and create too much of a deficit. We had a little bit of luck, but we had the pace. The car was super-fast and Renger drove the wheels off it at the end where we closed an almost 20 second deficit towards the final few laps.”
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