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TAYLOR: A Long Time Coming

Ricky Taylor files his latest Sportscar365 column following long-awaited victory in Detroit…

Photo: Jamey Price/WTRAndretti

Six-hundred and 44 days is a long time. We weren’t actually counting, but apparently everyone else was! A full 1.5 winless seasons felt like an eternity for the Konica Minolta WTRAndretti team.

Those 1.5 seasons without a win came following three consecutive seasons of finishing 2nd in the championship and six total wins in two years. When things are going well, it seems like things can’t go wrong, you and your teammates are in the rhythm of winning and it truly feels like a habit. Going to a race weekend feeling like a favorite became a normal feeling.

Throughout the 2023 season we showed incredible pace, due to the excellent work put into developing the Acura ARX-06 by the over 200 team members involved from HRC to WTRAndretti to ORECA and our partners, but for a variety of reasons the wins were not coming.

I don’t know if it’s his quote, but I remember Kyle Busch saying, “you never know when your last win will be.” This quote begins to ring louder and louder in your head, the longer the winless streak goes on.

The feeling that things can’t go wrong flips to things can’t go right. With each loss, the sense of urgency goes up and the temptation to “force” a result creeps in, for me that materialized in Long Beach of ’23 making a lunge, going for a win and misjudging the move slightly, which only ramps up the pressure and tension of failure.

The team never lost faith, kept working, and most importantly always reflected on the results and why they were the way they were.

It’s a balance between the natural self-criticism that helps us to improve while maintaining a certain level of confidence to be able to drive at the limit on track and compete at our best.

Photo: Josh Tons/IMSA

During the winning times, winning came naturally, by the time Detroit 2024 came, that feeling of being the favorite on each weekend was a distant memory. But importantly, while we were out of victory lane, we were looking at all the details that had to go right to get back to the top step.

And not winning for so long made us see those details more clearly.

It was a return to Detroit for the series after a one-year gap and our first time to the new downtown layout. Learning a new track is not just a challenge for drivers, but also teams and engineers to get up to speed as quickly as possible.

I feel very lucky that we have an amazing team that put an incredible amount of work in between events to prepare and understand what will make us competitive every weekend.

After a tough weekend in Long Beach this year, it was a major point of focus to rebound in Detroit. That work began immediately after Long Beach from a tightly bonded group from HRC and WTRAndretti, looking critically at our performance at Long Beach and coming up with a strong plan for the upcoming street course challenge.

A two-day sim session was the lead-in to the weekend so the drivers could all do some laps and run through some of the major test items on the engineering plan to get a direction for where to start.

I believe that what happened on the weekend was a result of the preparation and experience that came before it. If you watched the race, you will see how badly we all wanted this win.

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

Instead of going through the whole race, here are the highlights and why they’re important to us:

Lap 1 Starting from P4 would’ve been a tough place to win from at this tight track, but Filipe made an amazing start up to P2. By the pit stop was the leader as a result of a penalty for the 6 car

The lead up to the pass for the lead was meaningful for two reasons: 1) As an example of how well Filipe and I work together, he had been helping me with Turn 2 (he was very strong there) and that helped to set up the pass for the win. 2) The actual pass for the lead was almost a replay of the failed pass in Long Beach of 2023, battling with the same car and driver for the lead. So that was satisfying for me personally to overcome the demons of that mistake.

The win was the first for Logan Sprung, our No. 10 race engineer after being promoted to race engineer at the beginning of the season.

WTRAndretti has so many talented people and everyone has a chance to advance. Logan has been with the team for many years now and has grown into an incredible engineer. He has shared in all of our wins and losses, he has pulled his hair out (literally) through stress, but I couldn’t be prouder that he can relax a bit as a Winning race engineer.

Chris Seaman is another guy who has been with the team for a long time and is now our crew chief on the No. 10 car. Chris has won everything but with him on our car this year, it was extra sweet to get a win with him after such a tough stretch and so much crash damage.

We are one team with two cars, when the 40 car won in Sebring, we were thrilled for them and I was personally very excited for my brother to get his first GTP win. But there was unfinished business until the 10 car got its GTP win as well.

So it felt nice to check that off the list. Now we can begin our second half of the season focusing on the details and keeping the intensity for winning.

Photo: Jamey Price/WTRAndretti

Ricky Taylor (@RickyTaylorRace) is the 2017 and 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype champion, driving for Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport and Acura Motorsports.

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