Wayne Taylor is experiencing the same sensation most parents feel when their children leave the nest to start a new life away from home.
He and his wife Shelley said farewell to their son Ricky, at least in a professional sense, when he left the family’s Wayne Taylor Racing team in 2018 to join Acura’s new IMSA DPi program with Team Penske. Ricky’s younger brother, the social media savvy Jordan Taylor, remained in the No. 10 WTR Cadillac DPi-V.R to lead the effort and, with Ricky as a newfound rival, beat Acura Team Penske in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
After two seasons of brother versus brother in DPi, Jordan received a similar factory call to the GT Le Mans category with the vaunted Corvette Racing program, where he makes his full-time debut this weekend at the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
His dad (pictured above), and his mom, will also be there, seeking to repeat WTR’s overall victory at last year’s Rolex 24. And for the family patriarch, the first race in almost a decade without one of his boys in the car will be filled with a heavy dose of mixed emotions.
“So many people over the years have asked the question, or sort of surmised, that this team was just me and the kids, and that basically nobody could offer them anything, because they’re always going to be stuck with me,” the champion driver-turned-team owner told RACER. “And that was never the intent. So when we won everything in ’17 and [Ricky] got the offer from Penske, that pretty much was what I had hoped us doing it together as a family was going to provide down the road. That certainly worked out and Ricky is very happy over at Penske, and with Honda.
“And then Jordan, I have to say that he was always the GT guy, but he got so good in prototypes. It took a long time to make that decision to go back from DPi back to Corvette. But then again, it’s this new mid-engine Corvette, and how do you turn down a full factory program with Corvette, because those guys had been around for years and years. They’ve won tons of races, they’ve won some championships. And he’s with [Antonio] Garcia, who’s really good.”
The knowledge that his sons are in high-value roles with two factory teams wasn’t enough to stave off the feelings that hit a few weeks ago during pre-season testing. To go racing without his boys would require a new motivation.
“When I went to the Roar [Before The 24], it was really weird,” Taylor admits. “I didn’t think about it, but the moment I arrived at the track I had this really empty feeling in my stomach. And it was really uncomfortable. And I started thinking, ‘What am I doing here?’ But it didn’t take long. And as soon as first practice started, it was as if nothing had changed. We just had changed the names of drivers. So I’m just happy for them that they’ve proved themselves well enough that they both have warranted these really big drives.”
“Our team has always been a family team, but the family is not just Ricky and Jordan and Shelley and I. It’s the crew of people that we have. Travis Houge, our general manager, Brian Pillar the technical director, Chris Finch, our crew chief. I mean, these guys and Bill Mullen and, and Chris Seaman. They’ve all been with me for many, many years. There is a very big family dynamic in our organization.”
WTR will attempt to repeat as overall winners of the Rolex 24 for the third time in four seasons using a radically different driver line-up. With Ricky, who was part of the winning 2017 team in the No. 10 Cadillac, and Jordan, who anchored the 2019 victory, competing elsewhere in the paddock, Taylor signed longtime client Ryan Briscoe, whose career he’s managed along with WTR co-owner Max Angelelli for more than a decade, as the full-time partner for the returning Renger van der Zande.
Five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon was the highest profile acquisition by WTR, and he’ll join the program for IMSA’s longest races, and for Daytona, Kamui Kobayashi is back to try and earn a second Rolex watch after standing on the top step last year.
“We’ve actually won two out of the last three Daytona 24 Hours, so I’m sure naturally people look at us as the favorite, but there’s so many things that go into this,” Taylor said. “I can tell you this, that we won the race last year because we got lucky because of the conditions and the strategy worked and we won the race. I feel if last year’s race was all in the dry, we probably wouldn’t have won it because we didn’t have a fast car. That was the time when the BoP was definitely off song.
“But I think it’s going to be probably the hardest of all because the cars are pretty evenly matched. We don’t know if anybody else is holding anything back. But I said to everybody and say to my sponsors: I can’t guarantee we’re going to win but what I can guarantee you we’re going to be racing to win it, and that’s all we can do. We do the same thing that we do every year. We’ve got a great crew, great drivers and it’d be really pretty cool if we could pull this off again.”