As much as today’s Acura DPi news is worthy of celebration, sports car fans might need a few minutes to process the wholly unexpected split between Wayne Taylor Racing and General Motors.
Having turned his first laps in a Chevy-powered IMSA GTP program in 1990, it seemed safe to predict the 64-year-old Taylor would retire as a member of the GM family.
Although his driving career included stints in BRMs, Ferraris, Mazdas, and plenty of interesting machines in between, the vast majority of Taylor’s time behind the steering wheel, and as the owner of WTR, has featured Cadillacs, Chevys, Oldsmobiles, and Pontiacs under GM’s expansive umbrella of brands.
Exclusive to GM since 2000, Taylor’s next chapter with Acura as successor to Team Penske could be his swan song in the sport. After a lifetime spent on pit lane, and toiling away in the office, embracing change felt like the right thing to secure WTR’s future.
“When I formed Wayne Taylor Racing, I remember thinking to myself, ‘Okay, what do I want to achieve out of this?’” Taylor told RACER. “And it was very clear to me that I wanted to form a team that could perform on the track and have big wins in championships. I wanted it to be the best-presented team in the pit lane. And I also wanted to be the best in the boardroom, bringing manufacturers, large corporations together to make a successful team where everybody benefits. Not just the drivers but the manufacturer and the sponsor. I feel we’ve achieved these goals, which created some new opportunities to seriously consider.
“Honda Performance Development came to us and gave us the outline of where they wanted to be in the future, and it truly fit where I’ve imagined taking our team. And for me, of course, I want to add more IMSA championships, but there’s also one more thing in my career I want, and that is to try and win Le Mans overall. And this, with Acura, is the chance for my team to do it.”
Stepping in to switch from WTR’s championship-leading No. 10 Cadillac DPi-V.R to field next year’s No. 10 Acura ARX-05 DPi will make for an interesting homecoming of sorts. Among the many driving suits tucked away in Taylor’s collection, one bears his name from 1992, when he was drafted into Acura’s first prototype endeavor in the precursor to today’s LMP2 category. With his son Ricky entering the Acura Team Penske program in 2018, and his anticipated continuation with the ARX-05 at WTR in 2021, there’s plenty of old and recent history set to collide.
“Well, this has done a 360-degree turn because it was very early on in my career here in the United States, when the Intrepid program went from a two-car team to a one-car team and they hired Tommy Kendall to stay,” Taylor said. “So I was looking around and I got a call from the guys at Comptech about driving the second Acura GTP Lights car at Laguna Seca. There were three races for me to help them win the Manufacturers’ Championship, and we did, so this has come full circle for me.
“It’s a different group in charge from when I drove for Acura, but all I can say is I’ve come to learn this a great group of people, running under (HPD president) Ted Klaus and (Acura brand officer) Jon Ikeda, these guys have got some really talented people behind what they do.”
In wanting change for his team, Taylor has shaken up the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship paddock by joining forces with Acura. WTR will be joined by Meyer Shank Racing in the ARX-05 DPi stable, but this is altogether different for Taylor. Where MSR is continuing its association with Acura and HPD in a new IMSA class, Taylor WTR will return next season as newcomers to one brand and a newfound enemy within the manufacturer he’s championed for the better part of 30 years.
“Turning up at Daytona next year, it’s going to be sensitive,” Taylor admitted. “As excited as I am to do this with Acura, I’m also sad leaving the group of guys that took care of me and my kids for so many years in the sport. It’s going to be difficult. It’s going to be strange. But you know, what’s important to me is that you don’t burn bridges in this sport. I suppose, if you really drill down, with all the years we’ve been together, you could say it feels a divorce. But if it is a divorce, it was a very nice one because of all we’ve achieved together in this sport. But as we all know in this business, you’ve got to go where you got to go.
“And of all the decades since I started with GM, there’s nothing bad that comes to mind; I’ve greatly enjoyed this journey. As a team owner, with the history around Cadillac and the success we’ve had in DPi, and all the top brass at GM; I have become really great friends with Mark Kent, Jim Campbell, Mark Reuss, Steve Carlisle, and Rory Harvey, these are all great guys. Although it’s sad leaving Cadillac, I can just say we had great times together. I can also say that Acura and Honda have got a great track record, and so I’m really excited about this new adventure we’re entering into. I always wanted to finish my career on top, and that’s where I feel we are headed.”