Since 2015, if your last name wasn’t Taylor, you weren’t an overall winner at the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach.
For at least one driver, that’s going to change in this weekend’s race.
Jordan Taylor remains as the incumbent driver of the No. 10 Cadillac DPi-V.R fielded by Wayne Taylor Racing, which won every Long Beach race from 2015 through 2017 and finished second in 2014. Jordan Taylor’s new co-driver in 2018 is Renger van der Zande.
Van der Zande replaced Ricky Taylor, who co-drove the No. 10 to those three victories and runner-up result and who now drives the No. 7 Team Penske Acura ARX-05 alongside three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves.
The Brazilian, who has moved to full-time WeatherTech Championship competition, also owns a Long Beach IndyCar race victory in 2001.
So, just as it was in the first two races of the season, and as it will be in June’s Chevrolet Sports Car Classic in Detroit, all races won last year by the Taylors en route to the WeatherTech Championship Prototype title, only one of them can repeat this year.
“Yeah, neither of us have repeated yet,” said Ricky Taylor, referring to the first two rounds of the season.
While both his No. 7 team and the No. 10 team have shown plenty of pace in the year’s first two endurance races, neither has scored a victory yet.
“Hopefully, it’s one of us at Long Beach,” Ricky said. “Obviously, we’ve had a good history there. I think it’s so important to have a good qualifying when you go to Long Beach. The race is so difficult to overtake and strategy comes down to such small little details with normally one, maybe two (pit) stops.”
Ricky started from the pole position for two of the three Long Beach victories, in 2015 and 2017, and started from the front row in 2016 as well with a second-place qualifying performance. A strong starting position is a clear advantage, but Jordan suggests another key to success.
“Any little mistake is going to cost you a lot and there’s only one pit stop, so you can’t really make anything up with strategy,” he said. “So, it’s all down to executing. Obviously, at street courses, getting through traffic is difficult. You can gain or lose a lot of time and position.
“There’s a lot of calculated risk. One part of you is telling you, ‘I’ve got a championship to think about.’ Other parts are saying, ‘I want to win this race.’ You’ve got to really evaluate all your options as you’re racing and play it by ear.
“We want to win races. That’s why we’re competing. We’re going to go there and try to win the race. It’s going to be the toughest Long Beach we’ve had, probably in history. We’re excited for it, but we’ll definitely have to fight.”
What makes it more difficult is the combination of strong Prototype teams, including Action Express Racing, and Tequila Patrón ESM, which won the first two races of the season, respectively, as well as the influx of world renowned organizations that have returned to IMSA competition, namely Penske and Joest Racing.
“We saw at Daytona and Sebring, the car count and the size of the grid was huge,” Jordan said.
Ricky added: “We’ve shown a lot of pace with the Acuras, the Cadillac’s a proven package, the Nissan’s a proven package and Mazda has totally upped their game this year and should have been in the fight for the win at Sebring.”
Based on that, it’ll be difficult for either Taylor to continue their Long Beach winning streak this weekend. It also will make it even more intriguing for the fans.
“I think this will be our first year where we go to Long Beach and we could have ten cars that could realistically win the race,” Jordan said.
“As a fan of sports car racing, that’s really exciting. As a competitor, it adds a bit of stress, but I think for our team, it’s exciting for us to still be competing at a high level.”
“Really, there’s not a weak team out there,” Ricky said. “Where in years past, you could make a little mistake in qualifying or at the beginning of the race and you can kind of make up for it, I don’t think we have that luxury any more.
“Working you way up through the pack, there’s just so many strong teams and drivers, I think it’s definitely going to be an exciting year to watch from the outside. But being in it, it’s going to be really intense. To win a race, it’s going to be very rewarding.”