Wayne Taylor Racing technical director Brian Pillar believes the team’s dominant early season run has been down to the level of pre-season development and preparation, as well as team chemistry that’s put its Cadillac DPi-V.R in victory lane in the first four IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races.
Brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor are currently undefeated in the new DPi era, having taken wins at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Twelve Hours of Sebring, on the streets of Long Beach and most recently, in commanding fashion, at Circuit of The Americas.
Pillar, who forms the engineering braintrust with assistant engineer Adam Banet, said their involvement with Dallara and GM, from the very start of the Cadillac DPi program more than two years ago, had paid the biggest dividends.
“When we approached this in the beginning, Wayne and I agreed, we wanted to develop technical partnerships,” Pillar told Sportscar365.
“When this program started, there were already a lot of deep relationships, especially with Dallara, and we were able to build that foundation.
“A lot of the legwork was done before Dallara had the bid. GM’s full support for this program, so early in the process, allowed us to do these things and be so proactive.
“It gave us [Cadillac Racing] an advantage very quickly.”
Work progressed through 2015 between Dallara, GM, ECR Engines and the Indianapolis-based team, which provided extensive design feedback into the Italian constructor’s new LMP2 car, including consultation on the cockpit layout of the Dallara P217, and was also involved in all DPi-specific decisions, except for the bodywork.
Pillar said WTR even instrumented its Dallara-chassied Corvette DP through the 2015-16 seasons to provide information on car development specific to U.S. tracks, in order to optimize the new prototype for the WeatherTech Championship.
Cadllac’s commitment was evident in the design of the DPi-Specific bodywork, which Pillar said resulted in a partnership between the Cadillac design team and Dallara aero group in understanding styling cues and aerodynamic compromises that yielded a final product “beyond expectations.”
WTR was the first team in the world to put a 2017-spec LMP2-based prototype on the ground for testing, in a rollout at Putnam Park last September, with Pillar developing a test program in an “evolution of intensity” that included a 24-hour endurance simulation test at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The team completed upwards of 3,000 miles prior to the Rolex 24 at Daytona, which is equivalent to a third of a racing season.
“We put the car under more loads, different conditions. And every time it went to testing, we never had any major issues or concerns. Honestly, it was a surprise,” Pillar said.
“Setup was never a consideration. It was about building a car that could finish 24 hours; that was the sole focus. Really, we didn’t start trying to make the car go fast until the Roar.”
It was at the WTR-organized Charlotte test in November that saw fellow Cadillac DPi squad Action Express complete its first full on-track test with its cars, some two months after Jordan Taylor turned the first laps in WTR’s Cadillac.
Wayne Taylor admitted their working relationship during the off-season with Action Express was “very good” and supported the “strength in numbers” concept.
“When we made this decision with Mark Kent and Cadillac to do this program, we knew that GM and Cadillac needed another team,” Taylor told Sportscar365. “So they went with Action Express. Who could blame them, considering they won two championships.”
While the two Cadillac teams appeared to be fairly evenly matched at Daytona and Sebring, the No. 10 Konica Minolta-backed entry was arguably in a league of its own at COTA, something Pillar credits as a “totally different mindset” in car setup.
Ricky Taylor, who tested a Team Penske Dallara DW12 Chevy IndyCar earlier in the year, put WTR’s Cadillac on pole at COTA by a whopping 1.6 seconds.
“This is fundamentally now an Indy car with bodywork,” Pillar said. “Antonio Montanari, who worked with us through the DP era, was influential in both the DW12 and new LMP217.”
While neither Pillar or Banet have any significant background in the open-wheel ranks, Pillar said all of their mechanics have, and helped them understand a car’s needs.
He recognized their involvement as instrumental in both the performance and reliability success of the Cadillac, which has overcome several early season Balance of Performance adjustments by IMSA.
Pillar said the chemistry between the Taylor brothers has also been a “massive contributor”, where their selflessness as drivers has allowed the team to efficiently develop car performance.
But Pillar admitted his ten-year relationship between he and Banet, who subbed for him at Long Beach due to an illness, has also been a factor.
Despite a near picture-book start to the year, the team isn’t standing still, with Pillar realizing that the competition is only going to get tougher, particularly next year, with the potential arrival of Penske and at least one additional DPi manufacturer in Honda.
“The first race we don’t win is going to be a very different experience,” Pillar said. “We’re feeling strong, with Detroit being very similar to Long Beach, why can’t we win there again? But everyone is working just as hard so we can’t slow down.
“We’re [track] testing and going to a k-rig [K&C testing]. We’re working with new technical partners to go faster.
“We’re not stopping at all. I want to win ten races and then we can’t wait to go racing against Roger Penske if he shows up [next year]. We need to be ready for that.”