Ricky Taylor believes Acura Team Penske is already “ready to win” heading into the program’s debut race in next month’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The reigning IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype champion has moved from his family’s Wayne Taylor Racing organization to Acura’s new flagship sports car racing effort, joining open-wheel aces Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves plus 2016 Prototype champion Dane Cameron in the pair of Acura ARX-05 DPis.
The new-for-2018 program has already underwent an extensive development program, with outings at Road Atlanta, Sebring, Daytona and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and most recently the IMSA-sanctioned test at Daytona, which saw the debut of the team’s second entry.
According to Taylor, the level of preparation has given added confidence for the team to hit the ground running.
“I’ve never done so much testing before,” Taylor told Sportscar365. “It was a normal progress through having a new car with teething issues just like any car would, but they really worked through everything.
“The one thing that I’ve noticed being here is that there’s not a limit on car performance or team performance in terms of resources and making sure that they’re ready to win.
“I think if they’re going to go to Daytona it’s only if they have a shot to win. I don’t think anything less is acceptable here. It’s pretty cool.”
With the Acura DPi being the only all-new Prototype in the WeatherTech Championship next year, Taylor admitted it hasn’t taken a lot to adapt to the ORECA-chassied car, despite the majority of his experience coming from the Dallara-based Cadillac DPi-V.R.
“I think most of the progress is with what the engineers are understanding,” he said. “On the race weekends it’s so important to be right there.
“It’s definitely different. It requires some different inputs from the driver in order to do the lap time, but it’s just another race car. I think the performance will be there. We’re just working through the program.”
Last week’s two-day test at Daytona marked the public debut of Penske’s Acura DPi operation alongside the majority of the other Prototype competitors, allowing the 28-year-old the first chance to acclimate to his new environment.
“I’ve been a part of the team for six or seven test days already, but to come to an actual official test with all the teams here and actually walk over to the Penske timing stands and be a part of the team is amazing,” Taylor said.
“The team is so welcoming and comforting to be a part of. You expect to be under a lot of pressure but really it’s the exact opposite.
“They’re really trying to take the pressure off and make you feel comfortable, and that you’re the guy for the job which is really a nice warm feeling.”
“Competitive” Rivalry Expected Between Brothers
Taylor admits that he expects a friendly, but competitive rivalry between he and brother Jordan Taylor, who remains with WTR next year alongside new co-driver Renger van der Zande.
The Taylors head into Daytona as defending race winners, but now in separate cars.
“It’s hard not to just because both teams are expecting to win,” Ricky said. “It’s two championship-caliber teams and we’re going to be battling. It’s only natural for it to turn into some competition.
“No matter what it’s not going to turn sour or bitter, but I can definitely say that it’s competitive.
“You kick it off with the big one. Everybody has a good history here, and it’s just going to be really interesting when we get on track together and everybody is really going for it.”
While having driven for different teams in the past, Taylor admitted it was a strange feeling being distanced from his family’s outfit, and brother, at the test.
“It has been really weird,” he said. “The guys are pretending like they don’t remember me, but I know they miss me!
“Just the thought that I can’t just go in there and say hi has been on [my mind] but we’re all focused over here and they’re doing their job. Everybody’s moving on.”