Both as a driver and team owner, Wayne Taylor is a winner. The sportscar-racing champion started Wayne Taylor Racing in 2007 with his teammate Max Angelelli. As a driver, he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Rolex 24 At Daytona (twice), the 12 Hours of Sebring, and the inaugural Petit Le Mans in 1998. Today, Taylor’s team entries have finished in the top-three in the Rolex Series and subsequent IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings every year but one.
In short, he’s the perfect person to seek out to get the best advice on managing a winning race team.
Sharing his insights about establishing a superior record in winning big races and championships, Taylor asserts “I think the big thing is the passion, from my standpoint. I saw Jeff Gordon on TV saying he saw the passion in my eyes about winning.
“Of course we also surrounded ourselves with really good people. Without them nothing could happen, they’re like family. I live in Orlando, my race shop is in Indy, and I trust them with anything, year in and year out.”
Another aspect of Taylor’s winning formula: “I get the right drivers, that’s a big part of winning. But even if you have the drivers, the team, the passion, someone still has to pay for it, and we have a great relationship with GM and the Cadillac brand. Konica Minolta have been with me forever, and Ricky Taylor and Mike Mathe have been tremendous partners for nine or 10 years. I think you need all those pieces to be successful.”
And finally, Taylor notes “Drivers are very important in the whole scheme of things. I’ve been fortunate both my kids turned out to be star drivers. We won everything in 2017 with them.”
Taylor describes his company’s culture as a “family-type environment. Everyone knows what their responsibilities are, and they’re all accountable for their jobs, including me. We have the same motivation, the same passion. That consistency with your work force is important.”
Looking specifically on the tech side, he notes that developing a tech team starts with supporting its members from the start. “We look for young people. Our chief engineer, Brian Pillar was just a junior engineer when the senior guy left. I put him in the role, and I would put him against any engineer. Every Friday after work, he drives home and he calls me on the way, gives me a heads-up on what’s going on, what he’s planning for the weekend.”
Taylor feels it’s important to treat everyone on his team well. “We are just a group of guys who go racing. We are all at the same level as far as I’m concerned, the assistants, the marketing people, the team manager, our racers – all the same. You engage with everyone.”
Time is important in racing, and Taylor’s use of it never stops. “I don’t have a life, let me tell you,” he laughs. “This telephone is glued to me seven days a week. You have to do that if you want to succeed. You have to work at it all the time, motivate the team, you have to motivate everybody to make things happen for partners like Konica Minolta: get media coverage, branding, social media coverage. We do so much as a team that’s not just about racing.” He notes “I use the racing team as a vehicle to do business. I’m lucky, because I have a team I trust, so I can focus on business.”
Because of his need to focus on business, much team work is based on delegating. “I have to take care of raising money all the time. You don’t keep the kinds of partners we have without delivering. We have never gone a year without winning a race. We have won every single year we’ve been in business,” he says proudly.
Currently, Taylor is already planning-ahead for 2022, when new changes are coming down the line – a new amalgamated race car engine among them. And, he’s always strategizing to gain the small advantages necessary to be truly good at running a race team. “It’s so competitive – you have tenths of a second between the top 10 cars. We’re working on ways to go further in the engineering department; it’s about developing new technology, making the pit stops faster to gain a tenth of a second, working with drivers on in-and-outs, laps, and track positions,” he explains.
The logistics of moving a team can be as daunting and expensive as racing itself, Taylor notes. “It’s extremely stressful with so much equipment, so many people flying around. You have up to five different trucks with millions of dollars-worth of stuff in them. We always choose the best mechanics, engineer, best drivers for the trucks, and then we have two people who work on the logistics all the time. For example, going to Daytona, we will run one car there, and we need 50 people to run it for two days before and the 24 hours of the race. We need hotels, rental cars, golf carts at the track, meals. It’s like moving house each time.”
Taylor believes 85% of a race team owner’s time should be devoted to sponsors and sponsorship money, which are the lifeblood of a team. “The other 15% goes to discussing things with your engineer and team manager, discussing race strategies, how we’re going to run the race. I like to keep my fingers on everything, and some people call me a control freak,” he attests.
Building a successful sponsorship program is all about the relationships, he says, adding that he prefers the word partner to sponsor. “Every company out there is a potential partner. We actually deliver money back to them tenfold over what they give to us.” He stresses the importance of taking those potential partners to the track to experience a race. “We had to bring in the Japanese senior executive for Konica Minolta, and then we signed a deal within two weeks – he’d never been to a race before.”
All the work aside, Taylor shares that he’s living his dream. “I’ve been in racing since I was 15, and now I’m 63. I drove up to 2006, started the team in 2007, and I was really fortunate to go from driving to team ownership, it doesn’t happen to a lot of drivers.”
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