Fresh from his Fourth of July win shared with Corvette Racing teammate Antonio Garcia at Daytona International Speedway, Jordan Taylor is brimming with confidence and optimism looking ahead to this weekend’s visit to Sebring. Outside of notching the breakthrough victory for the new Corvette C8.R, Taylor is buoyed by the engineering and chassis optimization work that has made the mid-engine IMSA challenger an immediate threat to its GT Le Mans rivals.
“The Corvette Racing team did so much work in development in those months that we had off, that it was almost, I’d say, a small advantage for us having a new car to have that long break after the Rolex 24,” Taylor told RACER. “(Time) to go through all the data and understand the strengths, the weaknesses, and come back stronger.”
Taylor has been a favorite within the GM Racing family for many years when a new GT or prototype has been readied for its debut. Inside the Pratt & Miller Engineering company that facilitates the Corvette Racing program, the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype title winner got to see the C8.R’s evolution up close in the shop, and from inside the cockpit.
“It’s been a cool process to be part of, especially with a new car and seeing how it’s developed,” he said. “I did it with the Cadillac when we did the new DPi-V.R; and now to do it with the Corvette is pretty interesting to see how they go through the paces.
“When we went to Daytona for the Rolex 24 race weekend, we had a pretty good car. We were surprised with our pace throughout the first three quarters of it. I don’t think we had the pace in the last few hours, but we had a great starting point to work off of from that race.
“And the guys were able to go back and work on everything — suspension geometries, engine calibration, and all the little details that you need to figure out with a new car.
“When we came back to Daytona, the drivability and engine was even better. All the user-friendly things were good, the pit stops were more efficient, so all the little details were polished, you could say, and the car was really nice. We came a long way between Daytonas.”
Taylor felt the depth of support and raw passion from Corvette Racing’s legion of fans after sharing the winning C7.R at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2015. Although the win at a Daytona sprint race might not bring the same international acclaim, being part of the team delivering the C8.R’s first victory — and notching the 100th IMSA win for the team — lifted Taylor and Garcia to a new level of stature within the Corvette army.
“Especially to do it at Daytona on the Fourth of July, it seemed all very fitting, being an American Corvette driver and helping to get the first win for the new car,” Taylor added. “There was so much hype and talk and speculation all these years about a mid-engine Corvette; now that it’s finally here, there were a lot of question marks of how it would perform. I think to win in our second race is unbelievable. That really impresses everyone, but it really rallies all the Corvette fans around it, and the support is absolutely insane.
“I remember when we won Le Mans in 2015, just the notifications on social media were just out of control. The same thing happened the weekend when we won with the C8.R. Every time I opened my Twitter, there was just notification after notification. It’s really cool to see the support of the Corvette fan base. It’s bigger than I remembered, maybe because it’s still growing. (The new car) is definitely starting to attract new fans. It has a different look, a different sound, and I think that’s exciting — something new for people to get behind.
“Now that we’ve won a race, it’s just going to make everyone more excited.”
Taylor’s alter ego, Rodney Sandstorm, has pulled back from the spotlight since the full-time Corvette Racing opportunity was landed by his fellow Floridian. The jorts, wraparound sunglasses, and Jeff Gordon NASCAR jacket could make an appearance this weekend, however, if Taylor can get Sandstorm’s credential worked out with the series.
“He definitely needs to have some sort of celebration, especially since it was a Corvette winning at Daytona on 4th of July,” he said. “It was such an American victory, and Rodney’s definitely a very American person. I think the issue was IMSA was only allowing a certain amount of fans at the track, and he wasn’t able to get his ticket in time. But yeah, hopefully he’ll make it to Sebring. I think that one suits him a little bit more.”