Riding a yearlong winless streak into Watkins Glen, defending IMSA Prototype champions Wayne Taylor Racing are ready for a change in fortunes.
Look back to the same event in 2017, the big question in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship paddock was whether WTR’s string of five race wins could be broken. If we skip ahead to 2018, the defending Prototype champions are faced with a different and much tougher question to answer.
Starting at last year’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen where its win streak ended, the Cadillac DPi-V.R program has gone 10 races without tasting victory, so what will it take to reach the top step of the podium?
“It’s a very strange situation to find yourself in because we have been so accustomed to winning,” WTR team owner Wayne Taylor told RACER. “I can only say that it has become increasingly difficult to win in this series as all the other [DPi] manufacturers continue to raise their game, so we can look only to the other Cadillacs, and the Action Express [Racing] team in particular, to judge ourselves.
“We’ve had some big problems at certain races — Daytona being the worst of them — and we’ve undergone some changes within our program, so our year has not been going as expected by any stretch of the imagination. Our boys know we can win, as do I, and we’ve had a second and a third this year, but all the pieces have not come together so far. That being said, I go into this weekend with the same expectation I always have, and that’s to be up front at the end. If that were to happen, I believe we can win.”
With Cadillac having taken three of five WeatherTech Championship wins this season, including the most recent outing in Detroit, Taylor says the AXR team — responsible for all three victories — is WTR’s benchmark. Regardless of where IMSA’s Balance of Performance settings fall on a given weekend, beating AXR is the only measurement of progress worth using.
“I’m looking at what we have, what we’re missing, what we have that’s better, and referencing it against the other Cadillacs,” Taylor continued. “The Spirit of Daytona [Cadillac] team missed a few races, so Action Express is the only consistent team in the Cadillac family to go by right now. They’ve done all the winning, so are we doing something wrong, or have we been less lucky? We’re searching for answers.”
Taylor was fortunate to have his sons Ricky and Jordan as a driving tandem for many years. With Ricky as the leader on chassis setup and Jordan as the appointed closer in most races, the brothers established an easy and well-defined working relationship.
With Ricky’s acquisition by Acura Team Penske during the offseason, WTR brought in the rapid Dutchman Renger van der Zande as his replacement and he and Jordan Taylor have created a strong collaborative foundation with the No. 10 Cadillac. The loss of Ricky Taylor, though, has forced WTR to take a step back and take stock of the program-wide changes that have occurred in his absence.
“We have a different driver line-up this year, and both are very good,” WTR’s owner added. “They like different [handling] cars, though, so we’re always in a compromise. Clearly we miss Ricky, but Renger’s also really good, too. We are a very focused group with engineers and drivers, and last year, you never saw Ricky outside the transporter. Renger’s a little bit more sociable, and he’s around everywhere. That’s a difference.”
With the 10-race slide in mind, Taylor has placed a priority on overcoming the winless streak during Sunday’s six-hour race or leaving New York with an action plan on where adjustments will need to be made.
“Watkins Glen will be an indication of what we’ve lost and where we’re going,” he said. “Everybody on the team is pulling their hair out. When you’re winning, everybody’s happy. And when you’re not, you get down on yourself and wonder if it’s on you. We win and lose together, and I’d put our team up against anybody. But we’re not winning at the moment.”
Despite the long vacation from Victory Lane, WTR has shown great resilience after starting the year at Daytona with a retirement due to repeated tire failures.
“We’ve crept up from something like 15th place in points after Daytona, and now we’re tied for third in the championship with Ricky’s Acura, so I can unequivocally say there has been immense improvement and we’re going in the right direction,” he said.
“But winning is the thing we haven’t done. Once we fix that, once we figure that part out again, I believe everyone will relax and feel more like themselves. But we aren’t having much fun, I must admit, while we’re trying to get there.”