Throughout the year, Continental Tire will focus on celebrating the fans, media, drivers, and teams and their contributions to sports car racing, including a weekly trip down memory lane in Sportscar365’s Continental Tire IMSA Reflections series.
This week, Wayne Taylor Racing driver Renger van der Zande reflects on his IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype Challenge class championship season in 2016 and how it laid the groundwork for the rest of his career.
When you think back on your 2016 Prototype Challenge class championship season, what memories spring to mind?
“Well obviously we won the championship, which was really cool! It was a cool era of PC, I would say.
“With Balance of Performance ruling the world of motorsport these days, PC was one of those categories where there was no BoP.
“It was great. I still have a memory of having a lot of fun together with Peter Baron about that year in 2016.
“Every session, every lap you were on the limit, flat out. It was a matter of tenths of a second to be P1 or not.
“I don’t think PC had that good of a reputation, but I think the people who were involved, the people who did a good job there, they look back at that championship because it was cool.
“It was proper racing, a proper fight in the front of the field.
“At the same time, I think without BoP it was a great way of hard racing. I really enjoyed it.”
Who do you remember racing against that season?
“Tom Kimber-Smith was strong, [Bruno] Junqueira was quite strong, Colin Braun, Kyle Marcelli, and some of the young kids like Jose Gutierrez, for example.
“Jack Hawksworth was there for awhile, Alex Tagliani. There were some good names there.
“All together, the equipment was so similar and it was really about getting the most out of your setup work and the most out of your driving. Those cars were hard to drive.
“You were always on the ultimate limit and the car was moving around the whole time. To be fast with that car you really had to work hard.
“I had races where I was fighting for two hours in a row, for example in the heat at COTA in 2016 with Tom Kimber-Smith when we clinched the championship with one race to go.
“It was about being smart on track, being smart on pit stops, everything was involved.
“To win a race you had to outperform other cars that were the same equipment, the same chances. That made that class really good.”
How important was your relationship with co-driver Peter Baron?
“Peter and I had a lot of fun that year. We had a lot fun on the radio as well while driving! At the same time, he is a guy who gave me a real chance in America to go racing.
“It brought me where I am now. I think he helped a lot of drivers like Brendan Hartley and Ryan Dalziel. He’s a heck of a guy and a real racer.”
How important was the PC class for getting you to this point in your career?
“I think Wayne Taylor Racing, one of the guys within that team pushing for having me was Jordan Taylor. I think it was because he was seeing what I was doing in Prototype Challenge.
Because I was in PC for a few years, managing the IMSA traffic is something special and going to all the tracks was a big advantage.”
What has Continental Tire’s involvement in IMSA done for sports car racing in the United States?
“I think sports car racing in the U.S. has grown massively. I think the IMSA has become the main championship for endurance racing.
“It’s fair to say now that I’ve also done some WEC, the atmosphere in the IMSA paddock is great.
“I can only say that Continental brought a very stable tire over the years. You know what to expect, you know what the tire is going to be every weekend. It’s been very good.
“I think it was nice that they brought some different spec tires from year to year so setup work had to be done again sometimes when they brought a new-spec tire.
“The good thing about the tire that there is some degradation but not massive degradation so you can keep pushing.
“At the same time, I think the marketing perspective of Continental was interesting because it also brought a lot of insight.
“They played a big role in getting the fans activated within our series.
“I think that was a brought a big part that they brought in as well which was very nice.”