Ricky Taylor believes that Chip Ganassi Racing’s expanded two-car Cadillac DPi-V.R effort could pose the strongest threat to their Rolex 24 at Daytona title defense, with Wayne Taylor Racing still having “some work to do” to solidify its chances of repeat victory.
Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Alexander Rossi head into this weekend’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener as defending race winners in their No. 10 Acura ARX-05.
The trio are joined by Will Stevens in place of Helio Castroneves, who has moved over to the sister Acura DPi squad from Meyer Shank Racing for the Michelin Endurance Cup races.
Taylor and Albuquerque claimed victory in last weekend’s qualifying race that has put the Konica Minolta-sponsored car on pole for the race, yet Taylor is not taking anything for granted given the pace seen by the Cadillacs and the fellow Acura during the Roar Before the Rolex 24.
The team is seeking its fourth straight Rolex 24 win, dating back to its previous DPi partnership with Cadillac.
“It’s always nice to come back when you’re the defending winners,” Taylor told Sportscar365.
“Obviously last year, the win was under odd circumstances with the 01 having a failure. We were just hanging on by a thread.
“Coming in this year, it’s like can we hang on again for 24 hours? We need to still develop and learn in order to have a strong chance to beat Ganassi.
“Even the 31 [car] was looking really strong last year until their issues.
“It’s nice but it feels like we’re going to have some work to do and it’s going to be a really hard race.
“That was [CGR’s] first [DPi] race, so you’d think that a big team like that’s going to have learned a lot and evolved.
“They were fast all year last year but they had a hard time putting races together.
“It’s hard to just jump in here and execute these long races. I’m sure they’ve done a lot of their homework and we’re not going to be able to rely on that to beat them.
“It’s going to be really hard.”
Taylor said he feels the team, which finished runner-up in the championship with three wins last year, is better prepared in its second season with the Acura DPi.
“We had a lot of information and a pretty good starting spot,” he said. “But the team learned a lot thought the year.
“We’ve got Will [Stevens] with us for the Rolex.
“The team is doing their thing. I don’t think we have any new tricks to use for the 24-hour but there’s little details that we learned throughout the year that will add up to hopefully something significant.”
Albuquerque believes the reduction to only two DPi manufacturers following Mazda’s exit could make things even closer in terms of Balance of Performance between the Acura and Cadillacs.
“I think it’s going to be easier to balance the performance for IMSA because it’s just two manufacturers,” he said.
“Not only Cadillac has more stronger lineups, which are really, really good, and I know the Cadillac is a simple car to drive.
“You look at Meyer Shank where they have a great lineup of new drivers. We are expecting them [to contend] again.
“Like we said last year, it’s only seven cars. But any of them can win. You can be P7 in the Roar but those guys have exactly the same chance to win the Daytona 24 Hours.”
Busy Year Planned in Acura LMDh Ramp Up
Taylor said he’s set for a busy year ahead with WTR “heavy” into testing Acura’s LMDh car, which will make its race debut in 2023 with the WTR and Meyer Shank Racing squads.
“We’ve got a lot of testing plans,” he said. “I don’t know when we get the first car. The shakedown will probably be in France and then we’re heavy into testing this year.
“It will be the busiest year of all of our lives probably.”
While testing is expected to begin in the late spring, Taylor said he’s excited at some of the developments going on behind the scenes at Honda Performance Development, which has increased its engineering department for the LMDh project.
“They’ve brought some heavy-hitters in, people with F1 experience, leaning towards LMDh,” he said. “There’s some really exciting stuff. There’s some really smart guys from Mercedes and all over the world. It’s pretty cool.
“I feel that Acura is the most quiet of all the [LMDh] manufacturers. It’s kinda cool to think we’re under the radar. But when you take a peek, the wheels are spinning fast.
“ORECA is flat-out on their side and HPD is revamping everything.
“Dr. Salters is really on it. He has good experience with hybrid technology in his background, so he’s putting together a really good team at HPD to do it properly.
“It’s going to be pretty cool.”