Connect with us


TAYLOR: Laguna Rebound

Ricky Taylor files his latest Sportscar365 column following victory at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca…

Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA

Laguna Seca this year was a chance to rebound. I cannot remember a weekend where we as uncompetitive as in Long Beach. We were truly embarrassed of the performance we had there, which was the best motivator to work hard to make sure we rebound in a positive way.

Laguna is historically a very good track for the Acura and at the fourth round of the championship we have to start making our mark on this championship before it gets away. Laguna was one of a few opportunities this season that we should be able to control our own destiny by executing wins when we are strong.

As are many race tracks on the calendar, track position is at a premium when you go to Laguna. So placing a major emphasis on qualifying was a key factor to our weekend to ensure we can gets some clean air and start the race with the ever important track position.

My job of the weekend was to figure out what I wanted for qualifying and to get the pole. Filipe was to work on the race car. This was a fun exercise because I got all the new tires! Filipe is a super guy, taking all of the old tire runs!

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

Practice went all to plan and we had led every session thus far and qualifying was up next. Throughout practice, the competition was creeping ever closer throughout each session, with theoretical lap times from timing and scoring placing the top 3 all in very close proximity.

Qualifying was intense! Laguna is all about execution and making sure you nail the lap time before the tires start to fall off.

We got the pole position but it was not on the perfect lap, I made a slight mistake on our best one for the tires, but it was a major relief to still get the pole position. The top three were all separated by just over a tenth, so it was looking to be a very tough race.

The race looked like it would be three stops with big windows that left the strategy wide open for pitting basically whenever people wanted to try undercut or short fill. So, our strategy was just to go as fast as we could and open the gap to negate any early stops by others.

My personal concerns before the race were the start, working through the traffic cleanly, and a quiet fear of the unknown on where the car would go on older tires (although I had all of the confidence in Filipe’s race setup).

Photo: Brett Farmer/IMSA

Once we got started, we settled into a three-second lead in clear track before getting some good traffic that surged our lead to around ten seconds before the first yellow fell at around the 30-minute mark.

At that point in the race, we wanted to get the driver change out of the way so we didn’t have to do it under green later. Filipe was in for a long fight, around 2 hours 10 minutes.

Our main competitor was our Acura teammate of Meyer Shank Racing which now had Tom Blomqvist in the car.

Filipe got a great restart and it looked like we were controlling the race in clean air from the lead. However, traffic continued to compress the race and erase any lead that Filipe could extend.

When the second pitstop of the race came, the 60 dove in early to beat some traffic, forcing our hand to follow. We pitted next lap but unfortunately lost on the exchange and settled into second place right behind the 60. This was just what Filipe needed to focus in on attacking the 60, there was no chance he was going to let this win slip away.

Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA

About five laps later Filipe kept in touch and was able to outsmart Blomqvist in traffic, taking the lead with a strong move up in to the Corkscrew.

This was a major shift in the race for us, Filipe was not in control and was driving masterfully in the traffic to keep the 60 car behind.

The team was all over the intercom discussing potential strategies and how the end of the race could play out and before we had confirmed what we were going to do, the 60 car made the decision for us. Pitting before the pit window opened.

So we followed two laps later to cover this move. But we needed to take the lead so they had to try attack instead of save fuel. The team did an awesome stop and we were able to take the lead.

Filipe drove a wonderful final stint and was able to hold off any of the 60’s attacks to seal the win!

This was a huge accomplishment for the team and an amazing turn around in our season.

We are now tied to the points lead with the 60 car heading into the halfway point of the season. Next up is another track where we expect to have a strong result, Mid Ohio.

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

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.

Click to comment

More in Commentary