Taylor brothers wrap up sports car title at Petit Le Mans
Ricky and Jordan Taylor have won their first championship together by starting the Petit Le Mans on Saturday at Road America, where they didn't have to wait long to celebrate.
The brothers only had to take the green flag in Braselton, Georgia, to wrap up the 2017 IMSA Prototype championship. They drive the No. 10 Cadillac DPi for their father's Wayne Taylor Racing team.
It was Ricky Taylor's first championship, but second for younger brother Jordan Taylor. He teamed with Max Angelelli to win the 2013 Grand-AM Rolex Series Daytona Prototype title.
"The first one was obviously special because it was my first one, but being with Ricky the last four years now, we've been close a lot of times, and it means a lot more to do it with family," Jordan Taylor said. "Max is like family. But I think it means a lot more having Ricky in the car."
The Taylors opened the season with five consecutive wins, and they've won seven poles this year.
"Jordan and I did the best we could, but it really comes down to the team," Ricky Taylor said of the organization that launched Cadillac's new sports program this season.
"September last year, we were the first team with a car, testing, learning. Our guys really were open to learning how these cars work and what makes them fast. They really showed how good people can all step up and do their job and really create a separation from the rest of the field."
They didn't get to celebrate with a victory.
Their Cadillac had a race-ending issue shortly after IndyCar driver Ryan Hunter-Reay began his stint. The team lasted less than three hours of the 10-hour race, and only three laps into Hunter-Reay's stint.
"We race to win every single race, and we were in a good spot and I'm not really sure what happened," Wayne Taylor said. "We had some sort of technical issue in the engine. I don't know if the plug wire fell off, or what-not, but we had to park the car and withdraw from the race."
It was the first catastrophic issue the team has faced since the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona in 2012 when the engine failed in the first hour of the race.
Brendon Hartley led Tequila Patron ESM to the overall victory on Saturday in what might have been his final race as a full-time sports car driver. Hartley is believed to be headed to IndyCar to drive for Chip Ganassi Racing alongside fellow New Zealander Scott Dixon.
"That was a cool race," said Hartley. "There's not a scratch on the car, you know? To finish first, you've got to finish."
Dane Cameron led Action Express Racing to a second-place finish by holding off Juan Pablo Montoya, his teammate next season in Roger Penske's new sports car program. Penske will field two cars next year, with a lineup of Cameron, Montoya, Helio Castroneves and a driver still to be named.
In the GT Le Mans class, No. 3 Corvette Racing teammates Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia clinched the title when the race began. But, they finished second overall in class Saturday behind winners Bill Auberlen and Alexander Sims in the No. 25 BMW M6 GTLM.
"The championship was won on lap one, but we proved we were fighting all day long," Garcia said. "We gave everything we had. Second is second, but it's at Petit."
And, for the second consecutive year, No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari co-drivers Alessandro Balzan and Christina Nielsen clinched the GTD title. Nielsen became the first woman to win a major North American sports car championship last season.
James French and Patricio O'Ward took the Prototype Challenge class championship with a victory in the class' most-recent race at Road America in August, and they tried to sweep the season with victories in all eight races. This is the final season for the PC class. They didn't pull off the sweep, but were content with the title.
"We had our fair of struggles, but it's great for the team to end the PC class with the championship," said French.
Castroneves started the race from the pole in No. 6 Team Penske ORECA LM P2 car. Castroneves this week was announced as a full-time driver for new Penske team, and the team earned experience at Road Atlanta by competing in the finale. Castroneves teamed with Montoya and Simon Pagenaud in the 10-hour race.
Because it was an endurance race, many IndyCar drivers were brought in to complete some of the lineups. Hunter-Reay was with the Taylors, while Scott Dixon shared the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT with Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook, and Sebastien Bourdais joined the No. 66 Ford GT with Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller.
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