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TAYLOR: CTMP Debrief

Ricky Taylor files his latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: Scott LePage/IMSA

After Watkins Glen we were looking to rebound with a strong finish at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park to get back into the great rhythm we had for the first five races.

Although the team was still executing well and strategy was all there, a bit of misfortune at The Glen just set us back a bit in our confidence and our stride.

CTMP has historically been a strong racetrack for us and we were looking for this weekend to kick start the second half of our season.

Right off the trailer, the car was very quick and we found ourselves in the top two through every practice session. Qualifying came and we knew we had a good shot but we also knew the others were very close on outright pace.

It was a very difficult session but we managed to grab the pole position by just about a tenth of a second over the JDC Oreca who was very strong all weekend.

Going into the race we had a lot of momentum from the weekend success in practice and qualifying, but even more than that we had a ton of support at the track from Konica Minolta.

There were over 150 Konica Minolta employees at the race between the suites on the front straight and in turn three. Their support was really pushing us this weekend and we so badly wanted to chase down CEO Rick Taylor with champagne after the race (a podium tradition when he makes it to the racetrack).

The race started and right off the bat it was apparent that this race would be extremely intense and a high pressure race all the way through.

The traffic was very difficult which makes leading the race quite a challenge when you are the ones opening the doors and seeing the slower cars for the first time. Making this event more difficult for everyone is the increased closing speeds differential between the Prototypes and the GT cars.

Everyone is in their own race and for the GT cars they might check their mirrors before the corner and think they are clear and suddenly we could be right next to them by the time we get to the exit curb, catching them off-guard. So it makes it difficult on everyone, especially when it comes to risk versus reward situations because you can’t be overly conservative or you could lose up to six seconds per lap.

My double stint was quite eventful with the 85 car who eventually got by me in traffic after a good fight. I just stayed in touch during the rest of my stint before pitting and handing the car over to Jordan who would take it to the finish.

Jordan was in the battle for the lead all through his first stint until the yellow came out and bunched everyone up. At the same time, the rain began to fall quite heavily in the back side of the track, which was completely soaked.

Meanwhile, the front of the track was just damp and the radar said the rain would just be quick.

When everyone pitted there were only two cars to go to slick tires, and everyone else went to rains. It was just us and the 70 car on slicks and I was very glad I wasn’t in the car because those were very difficult conditions.

On the final lap of the yellow after the 5 car got its lap back, the 31, the 5, and the 70 came into the pits. The 5 and 31 put on slick tires like us and the 70 opted to switch off of their original decision to go to slicks and put rains on (a race-changing decision).

So it was Cadillacs on slicks and everyone else on rains. It turned out that we made the right call and Jordan kept reeling off quick laps eventually getting back into the lead as the rest of the feel burnt off their rain tires. It was Cadillac 1-2-3 due to all of us opting for the slicks.

Jordan was in control of the race at the front and was about 20 seconds ahead of the 31 car with about 30 minutes to go when we saw the car in the wall on our video screens. We couldn’t believe it, but Jordan got it back up and running on track in the lead, but we knew the damage would be too much and we would have to pit to repair it.

From watching the replays, it really looked like a racing incident where there was a bit of miscommunication between the three cars going into Turn 4. Jordan made a good move to the outside and was all but about 2 inches from being clear of the Corvette when the Ford and Corvette collided, tagging Jordan in the left rear and into the wall along with the Corvette.

It was a very difficult result today but the team did well and this will only motivate everyone more to go into the next race at Road America with everything we have to get our results back.

We haven’t lost our groove and everyone is still doing a great job, just two split second misfortunes have cost us a couple of results.

The strategy was a winning strategy, Jordan drove great, the pit stops were unreal and the only thing that disappointed was the result.

Looking forward to Road America where we can get back at it!

Ricky Taylor (@RickyTaylorRace) is the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype champion, driving for Acura Team Penske.

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