By: Ashley McCubbin
Following a win in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and a fourth at Sebring, Ricky Taylor heads to Mid-Ohio SportsCar Course as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship points leader.
The defending race winner recently shared his thoughts with NEWS FROM THE PITS.
ASHLEY MCCUBBIN: What are your thoughts going into Mid-Ohio?
RICKY TAYLOR: I think it’s really exciting. We’ve had a really great history there with Acura and specially the Acura ARX-05 in particular. I think this year is obviously our first year going back with Wayne Taylor Racing and the Acura and it’s kind of different combination of classes for this year, which is a new variable in the mix.
But I think we have a good shot. The team has been performing really well. We had a little issue at Sebring, but I think Mid-Ohio should be good.
ASHLEY: What’s the toughest part of Mid-Ohio?
RICKY: I’d say traffic management. The track is obviously very technical from the driver’s perspective. The combination from turn five to Thunder Alley is very technical, the carousel is a very difficult corner there.
But I think for our form of racing, the traffic management getting through slower class cars cleanly and efficiently is super difficult with the narrow, flowing nature of the track. It doesn’t lend itself well to passing so it makes for some excitement as you have to force you way through at some point. It’s not as straight forward as a place like Daytona where you have banking, long straights to make some passes happen.
ASHLEY: A win at Daytona, fourth at Sebring. How beneficial is it to have the momentum early this season?
RICKY: It’s big. Last year we went into Mid-Ohio trailing a bit and we were kind of chasing the rest of the year, which is fun, but you always want to be in control . I think the biggest thing is for us is to be out front and have the momentum as you can lose so many points early in the season.
So to be riding the momentum and also have the first pit stall, it sets us up strategically well for the race at Mid-Ohio in jumping out of the pits in front of our competitors, and then just riding the confidence wave of having a couple strong races – the mechanics, drivers, engineers can kind of not feel the sense of urgency that we need to win a race this year and get things going.
ASHLEY: That said, where do you feel you and your team need to improve to be stronger?
RICKY: I think we just need to keep developing the car. Obviously, the car has been out there three years with a different team and Filipe, my teammate, has only does these two races with this car, so he’s obviously adapted really quickly. But I think the team needs to continue to keep the pressure on and making the car faster and faster each week, but we have a couple really strong competitors like Ganassi that are going to keep learning.
Even though it seems like three years is enough for development, we just have to keep ahead of that and keep the pressure on them to make this car stronger at all these different styles of tracks.
ASHLEY: You mentioned Ganassi. What do you think of the DPi competition level this year?
RICKY: It’s so high. The driver line-up – if you look at the entry list, you can’t pick a weakness in any car. If you look at the championship, there’s not one driver that’s not a champion in SportsCars or a past IndyCar driver. It’s really a high level, and even though the car count isn’t quite what it’s like it used to be, I think the quality of the series is the highest that it’s ever been, and highest SportsCar racing series of the world. It puts the pressure on and you really can’t afford any little mistakes. It makes it difficult.
Going to Mid-Ohio, that level of not being able to give an inch makes for plenty of intense racing because every session becomes important at that point. You have to qualify well to put yourself into a good position for the race. If you don’t quality well, it will be a long difficult day.
ASHLEY: The family influence has a huge part in your involvement in motorsports, but why do you love racing and what keeps you motivated?
RICKY: Honestly, it’s nice being in a family environment when we go to the race track and it’s something that we all love together and share. But for me, I just love competiting. The great thing about motorsports and competiting is that you can always do better, and you are always pushing your team to move forward – not just the driver, but the entire team that needs to work together especially in endurance racing where it’s not just about drivers or one engineer, or just one mechanic but a combination of everybody.
That’s really what I love most about it is just pushing everybody to do better and racing in such a high level series that when you do win, it’s such a high level accomplishment.
ASHLEY: What’s been the most memorable moment of your career?
RICKY: My most memorable would be the opportunity to drive for Acura and Team Penske. It was a great period of my career and aside from that, winning our first Rolex 24 in 2017 alongside my brother (Jordan) driving for my dad. Those two things are at the top of my list.
ASHLEY: SportsCar is pretty much where we’ve seen you spend your entire career. Is there something else that you’d like to get behind the wheel of?
RICKY: I get that question quite often. Everybody assumes that you want to go IndyCar racing or Formula 1. But for me, F1 was always out of the options as at 17, I was already on the wrong path. But to me, I just love SportsCar Racing. There’s still a lot to do. I’d love to go back to LeMans and have a chance to win that race, and then I think working with Acura in the IMSA Series and endurance racing as well. I think we’re approaching a really promising time with the introduction of the LMPh class, a whole new class of cars.
I think with the influx of new manufactures and teams and drivers, I think everybody wants to come to America especially when that all gets kicked up and going in 2023. So for me, I’m really focused on that and can’t wait for it all to get started.
ASHLEY: For someone who wants to get involved in SportsCar racing down the road, what would be one piece of advice you would want to give them?
RICKY: For me, SportsCar racing specifically, I think try and pick the best people to be around whether it’s your teammate or who you are with. If you have the luxury of choosing a driver, I find a lot of people try and find someone that makes them look good, but at the end of the day, you want the best people with you to try and win as many races as possible, because at the end of the day, nobody cares who ran the faster lap time, but success that you can bring to the team as a group.