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TAYLOR: Detroit Debrief

Ricky Taylor files his latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

So far we had a perfect season going four for four, but Detroit was going to prove to be the toughest one yet.

Having won there in the past, we knew what it took to win there, but with the new DPi/LMP2 format, it would definitely be a new challenge.

The weekend started and it was apparent that the Action Express Cadillacs would be tough to beat as they paced both practice sessions leading up to qualifying. We continued through our test program and felt quite confident we could qualify in the top two or three cars.

Qualifying began and the plan was to run all the way to the end as the lap times tend to drop throughout the session in Detroit as the track gains more and more rubber.

I wanted the pole badly but also knew that the 5 car with FIttipaldi would be tough to beat. I went out at the front of the line and was working up to speed for the first two timed laps.

When lap three came around I began to really push to start putting in a good time for qualifying. I got to Turn 4 and carried a bit too much speed into the corner, lost the rear of the car and slammed into the concrete barrier.

In order to go fast in Detroit, the driver must really take a lot of risk and commit to the corners. I simply over committed to the entry to the corner and did a lot of damage to the car.

As a result of causing the red flag and the qualifying session not completing 10 minutes, the field would be set on points and we would be at the back.

I was very upset for the team. This was not what we wanted at this point in the season and especially on a tough street course like Detroit. When the car got back, the team immediately got to work.

If I didn’t say it already, there was A LOT of damage and the guys were thrashing to just get the car ready for morning warm-up the next day.

By the time Jordan and I left the track around 8 p.m., the car was still in a million pieces, but when we arrived the next day at 7 a.m. we had a brand new race car.

The guys stayed up until after midnight making sure everything was right and we had a car that could still fight for a win.

Jordan and I are really lucky to have this team behind us; they are all champions. After seeing how great the car looked and the hard work the guys had put in, I knew I would have to give them my best effort in the race to try and repay them.

Starting behind the PC field and the entire Prototype field looked like a daunting task during the fan walk before the race, but everyone was motivated to make the most of it and see how far up we could get.

At the start, the PC cars made it easy on me to get clear of them. Later in the lap, we got by Ed Brown and the No. 90 Visit Florida car for 7th and started to chase down the next pack of cars.

After getting by Sharp for 6th, Long for 5th, and had a good pace to almost crack into the top-3 in the first stint.

The yellow flag came out, bunching everyone up and giving everyone the opportunity to make the first stop, which would leave one more stop at the end.

We had a quick fuel, four tires, and a driver change during this stop and it was a critical point in the race. The short fill meant that the pressure would be on the tires and driver change.

Even with being tired and worn out from a long night of fixing the car the guys did a fantastic job getting us out in P3, passing the 85 and the 55!

At the restart Jordan got squeezed and lost the position to Miller in the 70 but settled into a fantastic pace. With just a splash for everyone to get to the end it was all about getting track position and making sure to get through traffic smoothly while making the splash at the right time.

Jordan got into some clear air and turned some of the fastest laps of the race before our guys called him in for our final stop.

He went back out and just had to push his hardest all the way to the finish and see where the others came out.

Lap after lap cars began to pit and the race started to unfold. Each time we overtook a car coming down pit lane, the timing stand erupted with excitement.

We were up to second on the racetrack and the leader, the 31, still had to pit. We were calculating the gap and it was hovering right around the window we needed to take the lead.

Bouncing from one second ahead to one second behind depending on traffic, making the situation very tense. The 31 stayed out for a very long time to try get some of the time to maintain the spot when they eventually pitted.

When they pitted, everyone was on their toes, watching them pull the fuel and start rolling down pit lane.

Jordan came flying down the front straight to take the lead and again, everyone on the timing stand celebrated for the time being because we all knew it would be a daunting 20-minute sprint to the finish.

The laps went by very slowly, but Jordan was able to maintain the gap and hold on for the team’s fifth straight win!!

Each race this year has had its own flair and this one was extra special. We could not have written a better team performance.

Every team member contributed to this win and it was a textbook performance from start to finish (minus my qualifying mistake). From staying up until after midnight getting the car back together to the first fantastic driver change/tire stop, to the great splash at the end, combined with the perfect strategy and timing on the stops, this race was won by every single team member and they deserve every accolade that goes with it.

I felt awful about the mistake in qualifying, but the team really stepped up to make sure everything was back like new. I can’t thank them enough; they are truly the best.

Next up is one of my favorite races of the year, the Six hours of the Glen.

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

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