Veteran road racing star Max Angelelli will hang up his helmet at the end of this month’s Rolex 24 at Daytona after a 30-year championship-winning career in sports car racing.
In a Sportscar365 exclusive, Angelelli announced his retirement from professional racing, highlighted by two Grand-Am championships and 27 overall victories in IMSA competition, including the 2005 Rolex 24.
While having scaled back to being a third driver with Wayne Taylor Racing in recent years, the 50-year-old Italian has decided the upcoming Rolex 24, the first for WTR’s new Cadillac DPi-V.R, would be his last behind the wheel.
“I wanted to do it earlier,” Angelelli told Sportscar365. “Wayne convinced me to do Daytona for the very last time because he knows me very well and he knows how much I’m attached to Daytona as a race, as a track, as everything.
“This is where everything started and this is where everything will end for me as a driver.
“I made my name here, starting in Daytona, and now I’m going to greet the people and say goodbye in Daytona. I think it’s good. I thank Wayne for pushing me to do Daytona one more time.”
Angelelli got his start in his native Italy, winning the 1992 Italian F3 championship before moving on to race throughout Europe and Asia, and eventually North America.
“I had a career in Europe and then I went into Japan and then got thrown into the American market against my will!” he said. “I left America and went back to Japan because that’s where I wanted to be [at the time].
“By a series of coincidences, I came back to the States and I have to say thank you very much for those people that forced me to come back over here, and Wayne was one of them.
“I think that was my best decision in my career. My second best was joining Grand-Am and the France family’s vision. It was a great format. It made my my name and I have to thank to them.”
Angelelli, who is a co-owner in WTR, will remain active with the team, as well as being a link between the Indianapolis-based organization, Dallara and Cadillac.
“It became a little bit impossible for me to do both and performing at the level [the team] wants as a driver,” Angelelli said. There’s always an end to everything in life.”
Wayne Taylor paid tribute to his longtime friend, co-driver and business partner in his racing career.
“I don’t know of any other driver pairing that’s lasted as long as Max and I did, even though he was the most difficult teammate! We get on so well, I’ve put up with his nonsense!” Taylor told Sportscar365.
“Not only did we drive together but he became a partner in the program and has helped a lot with the kids. He will still be working with us and be [a link] between Cadillac and Dallara. He’ll still be at all the races.”
Taylor said he has yet to finalize their third driver for the Twelve Hours of Sebring, alongside full-season pilots Ricky and Jordan Taylor.
Four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon, who is completing the team’s lineup for Daytona, is unlikely, according to the team owner.
“We have so many people that are interested,” Taylor said. “Sebring is not an easy circuit so we have to find someone that can run with Ricky and Jordan. We’ve started talking to people but there’s nothing even close on deciding.”