Some 12 months ago, the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing and No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DPs provided arguably the best finish of the inaugural TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season.
Today, they’ll have a chance to match or repeat it from first (Action Express) and second (Taylor) on the grid for the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic.
But to set the scene, the front row takes on a greater significance because of what happened last year.
When battling for the lead on the last lap, Ricky Taylor and Joao Barbosa made contact. Barbosa’s car later incurred a puncture in the left rear, and that was all she wrote in terms of the race.
While Ricky Taylor was holding onto the car, brother Jordan was watching with baited breath from the pit box.
“Last year’s finish at Detroit was by far the most stressed I’ve been watching a race,” Jordan Taylor told Sportscar365. “I remember with about 10 minutes to go I went to the bathroom. I didn’t need to go to the bathroom, I just wanted to waste some time, rather than watch what was happening on track.
“When they started the last lap, I knew if the 5 had a chance, he was going to take it. When we went into the wall, my first thought that the race was over for us, and obviously the energy in the pit box dropped.
“When we realized the 5 had a tire going down, it was the biggest, and fastest swing in emotion I’ve ever seen and felt. The whole team went nuts.”
So did Action Express… but that’s because their shoe dropped on the other foot.
As team manager Gary Nelson related, both Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi had given it their all, with neither driver willing to give an inch in the battle to win.
“We had a sure second place finish coming, but that’s not us,” Nelson told Sportscar365. “If there’s an opportunity, we’re gonna go for it.
“The message we set was, we’re not gonna settle for second. If there’s a way to get to first, we’re going to do everything we can to get to first.”
So they tried, but alas, Barbosa’s cut tire dropped the No. 5 car to sixth.
That got Barbosa out of the way, but from there Taylor still had to hold off another Corvette DP, the then-Spirit of Daytona entry driven by Richard Westbrook, over the course of the final lap.
“When Ricky came out of Turn 11 with Richard right behind him, I knew if Ricky made it into Turn 12 in the lead, we had the race,” Jordan Taylor said. “Somehow, basically on three wheels (with all the damage we had), Ricky held him off and we got out first win as teammates.”
It marked a banner day for the Taylors. As mentioned, it was the brothers’ first win as teammates, the third straight for Jordan at Detroit, the last for Taylor before he cut his then-trademark mullet, and came only moments before all of them had to run to catch a flight to Paris for the Le Mans test day.
As Taylor related, at least he has experience with the mad dash between post-race commitments and getting to the airport.
“Having won Detroit the past three years and having to rush to the airport to catch my flight to Paris, I’ve at least gotten used to it,” he said.
“The first year I completely missed the podium, because the GT podium is after Prototypes. I just answered a few questions in the press conference, then got out of there.
“Unfortunately the traffic was so bad trying to get off the Belle Isle island, I had to walk off the island, across the bridge, and get a ride to the airport.
“The past two years, I’ve at least had the chance to enjoy the podium ceremony. Then from there, a rushed press conference, a Detroit TV news station usually does a live interview, then I have to get back to the truck and change. Then I get to get on a flight to Paris covered in champagne and sweat.”
He’ll have a chance to make it four years in a row doing just that, while from pole, the No. 5 car looks to halt the Taylor Detroit dominance in their tracks.