In a step away from his usual Daytona Prototype, Ricky Taylor is set to make his FIA World Endurance Championship return this weekend with Larbre Competition.
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship star will race with the French squad for the next three WEC rounds, in its GTE-Am class Corvette C7.R.
This isn’t the 27-year-old’s first time in WEC, though. In addition to three appearances at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, he also competed in the Six Hours of Circuit of The Americas in 2014, with the factory Corvette squad.
“I can’t wait,” he told Sportscar365. “It’s obviously great to be back with Larbre and Corvette, and I can’t wait to go visit some new tracks and be back in the WEC.
“To be a part of the World Championship is a pretty cool experience and to go there and get to taste a different competition again, outside of Le Mans, is going to be pretty exciting.
“I think the package of the Corvette seems to be pretty strong with Larbre; they’ve had quite a few podiums and they’ve been pretty fast.
“We have a good package, and my team-mates seem strong. I’m excited to get there and see what we have.”
Taylor joins Yutaka Yamagishi and Pierre Ragues in the Larbre Corvette for the rounds in Mexico, Austin and Fuji, replacing Paolo Ruberti, who will likely be back for the final two races of the season.
The GM factory driver competed with the Corvette Racing squad at Le Mans this year, and although Larbre uses the 2015 car as per GTE-Am regulations, he is confident that it won’t be too different.
“I think it’s basically just aero,” he said of the differences between his 2016-spec car from Le Mans and the 2015 variant.
“The GTE-Pro cars have bigger diffusers and a bit more aero, but essentially it’s the same car, with all the same buttons that do everything the same.
“At Le Mans we were completely trimmed out anyway, so I don’t think there’s going to be much of a difference as far as driving it goes.
“I tested the car in that spec leading up to Le Mans this year as well, so it should be pretty familiar, I hope.”
It may be a whole different world going from his family-run Wayne Taylor Racing team in the WeatherTech Championship to a different class in WEC, but something Taylor is looking forward to.
“I know Pierre and the team, so it should be a smooth transition,” he said. “For the second half of the season now, we have a Pratt & Miller engineer coming on with the team, starting with Mexico.
“That’s a good showing of support from GM, having one of their guys on the ground with us. That should really help the program a lot.
“There aren’t many Corvettes racing over there in Europe, and so Larbre has been loyal to GM. Jack [Leconte, team owner] and the whole team are very well-liked within GM, and I think the support and results show [that].”
One particular challenge will be doing ‘double duty’ at COTA, with the WeatherTech Championship race just a couple of hours before the six-hour WEC race.
“We actually did it in 2014, when me and Jordan drove with Tommy Milner in the [GTE]-Pro class, and that was a very last-minute deal,” Taylor recalled.
“It will definitely be tough, and the cars are very different, with the GTE car compared to the Prototype.
“It’s especially tough because the quality of teams is so high that you want to put 100 percent effort into both championships. It’s going to be tough to split the time and really go for it, but I’m up for the challenge.”
Before COTA, however, he has the uncertainty of Mexico too look ahead to.
This weekend marks the WEC’s maiden visit to the 17-turn, 2.674-mile Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, so most drivers are faced with the challenge of learning a new track.
“It’s the first time I’ve been there and I’m trying to look up any research I can on the track,” he said. “The first time I’ll get a taste for it will be Wednesday afternoon on the track walk.
“It looks really nice. It’s Formula 1 standards, and it looks like it will be a lot of fun. Racing in the U.S., you have to do the same tracks over and over, so it will be exciting to go and learn a new track.”
Looking ahead further into the future, GTE is certainly an attractive option for Taylor, who is most excited about having the opportunity to keep a foot in GT racing.
“Being a driver, the career path in GT racing is a very secure place to be,” he said. “I think it’s definitely good to be in the arena and showing your face, and being relevant.
“I would like to do as many races as I possibly could. These three for this season are going to be nice, and hopefully I can do a good job and support the team as best as I can.”