Ricky Taylor feels that he’s returning to Wayne Taylor Racing as a “more complete” driver and that both parties have “grown as much” as each other in the three years since their last program together.
Taylor is joining his father Wayne’s eponymous team for the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and will share the No. 10 Acura ARX-05 DPi with fellow new signing Filipe Albuquerque. Both drivers were announced in their roles earlier on Monday.
It marks a return to WTR for Taylor, who won the IMSA prototype title with the team and his brother Jordan in 2017 before heading to Acura Team Penske for three seasons.
As part of his continued role with Honda Performance Development, reigning IMSA DPi champion Taylor will be supporting WTR’s switch to Acura DPi machinery from the Cadillac DPi-V.R package that Taylor handled in his first stint with the team.
Despite coming back to familiar family-led surroundings, the 31-year-old feels that the situation is different from when he last worked with the Indianapolis-based squad.
“It’s a fantastic team and a big part of the decision to go away, from a lot of the team’s perspective, was that ‘Ricky needs to grow and learn’,” Taylor told Sportscar365 during a video call with reporters.
“I had only driven for one or two teams. The opportunity to go to Team Penske is every driver’s dream, to get to learn from all that experience.
“Going away for three years, learning, growing and now getting to come back, and not just be a driver who just gets in and drives the car now – I feel like I’ve got some more input to bring and some more experience. Hopefully, I’m a more complete driver now.
“I’ve got to drive with seven different drivers who I didn’t have experience of driving with back in 2017, so the more drivers you get to see and learn from, you just continue to grow and become a better driver and team member.”
Taylor added that in addition to his own personal development, he’s been impressed by the progression of the WTR organization over the last three years.
“I think it was surprising to come back so soon,” he said. “I think Wayne Taylor Racing has grown as much as I have since I’ve been gone.
“They were delivering some of the spares and cars the day after Sebring and I was like, ‘where have all these transporters come from?’ They had four transporters at the track!
“Wayne Taylor Racing are in a position where they’re hiring new people to do different jobs and do things better. It’s really exciting, and I think everybody is extremely pumped up and excited to get to Daytona.
“I’ve always had loyalty [to the team] and obviously it’s family. I think everybody who is a part of Wayne Taylor Racing feels the family team feeling. Everybody has input and a voice in decisions.
“That sometimes makes things difficult, but it has that family feel and you don’t get that in every team you drive for.”
Albuquerque Relishing Full-Season Return
Taylor’s new co-driver Albuquerque says he’s “super thrilled and motivated” to be rejoining the IMSA grid on a full-time basis after switching to an endurance-only role with Action Express Racing for 2020.
The Portuguese driver hopes that his LMP2 title-winning form with United Autosports in the FIA World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series this year can be carried through to his first campaign at the wheel of the Acura DPi.
Despite being the only member of WTR’s extended four-man lineup without prior experience in the ARX-05, Albuquerque is well-acquainted with the car’s Oreca 07 base.
Indianapolis 500 winners and Acura Team Penske DPi regulars Alexander Rossi and Helio Castroneves will supplement WTR’s lineup for the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.
“One of my goals was to come back to full-time IMSA,” said Albuquerque.
“When this opportunity came with Acura and the factory project, it made complete sense. I’m super thrilled and motivated, especially having [experience in] the Oreca, a car that I’ve been learning and been quite successful in this year.
“This year was amazing for me, winning two championships and Le Mans, so it gave me a lot of confidence to go into that and keep working the new chassis. I have a lot of ideas to bring to the team.”
Albuquerque also hopes to continue with a full-time role in the WEC in addition to his new full-season IMSA program.
Two date clashes with the ELMS make a full season there unlikely, but the WEC schedule fits in with the dates on IMSA’s ten-round DPi calendar. United Autosports team co-owner Richard Dean has previously spoken of a desire to keep Albuquerque on board.
The only date conflict between IMSA and WEC concerns the series’ planned races at the joint ‘Super Sebring’ event next March.
“I would like to continue to do WEC next year, which does not clash,” said Albuquerque.
“In the next two weeks we will know more, once everything has settled down.
“My main project is the Wayne Taylor Racing team with Konica Minolta and Acura, and of course secondary would be the WEC again and to win it again if it’s possible.
“That would be my desire, but we need to wait and see.”