DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The revelation came with powerful and searing clarity when Wayne Taylor decided to partner Michael Andretti on his championship-caliber sports car team.
During an off-season test of the new hybrid prototype, which will make its debut in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, 91 people (between his team and Honda Performance Development) attended the #10 Acura ARX-06 .
As Taylor strolled through the pit lane at Daytona International Speedway, he saw similar armies working wildly on high-tech, big-budget cars representing competing brands (Porsche, BMW and Cadillac) and impressive teams (Ganassi, Penske, Rahal). .
Taylor called Andretti after the test and had the frame done by Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport within a week.
“Michael approached me early[in 2022]about meeting up and I felt the timing wasn’t right at the time and we’ve continued to talk throughout the year,” Taylor told NBC Sports. “And once we started getting the cars and the components and saw what everyone else was doing, I realized we had to go to the next level to have a partnership with someone who could bring a lot.
“I thought this would be a great partnership that could work. Michael has been so good at this so far. And its two directors, Rob Edwards and JF Thormann, it’s like we’ve been together for over a year and have access to all the tools and technology they have. They don’t just do IndyCar, they do Formula E and many, many other things around the world. Being a part of that brings a lot of value to us at Wayne Taylor Racing, HPD, ORECA and everyone involved.”
The new deal filled a void for Andretti, who is open about his ambitions to field cars in virtually every major racing series in the world
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“There is no secret that one thing has been missing from our racing portfolio and that is racing in IMSA,” he said. “It was the perfect time to get involved. The question is how to get involved. We were just very patiently looking for the right opportunity. I got the call from Wayne, (and) you can’t get into the sport better than a team like Wayne Taylor Racing, so it’s one of those marriages made from heaven. There was a lot of fun. We are very excited about this program and its future and expansion.”
As announced on December 28th, the renamed team officially made its debut last weekend when Michael Andretti competed in the Rolex 24 Qualifier and returned for the race. But its real effects will be very gradual.
Taylor’s operation will remain in its Brownsburg, Indiana store for at least the next two years before moving to Andretti Global’s new 525,000-square-foot headquarters, scheduled to open in 2025.
Taylor said Andretti will primarily provide equipment and technical support in the meantime without impacting WTR’s day-to-day operations.
“The great thing is that they’ve kept saying they want us to continue doing it the way we’ve done it,” Taylor said. “Whatever help we need, we ask and we get it. You don’t want to try to reinvent the wheel. So they come to the roar and the race, but they let us do our job.
“We will be leaving our premises for ’23 and ’24 and when their new facility comes in 2025 we will move into this store and then of course be much closer. But we are already working with them, with machines and people. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes.”
WTR could use some help in the GTP era, but there’s no question about its success at IMSA to date. The team has won the Rolex 24 four times in the last six years and has finished runners-up in the DPi category for the last three seasons after winning the first title in 2017. It has also won the prestigious endurance races at Sebring Raceway and Michelin Road Atlanta.
But No. 10 WTR driver Ricky Taylor (whom RACER reported will soon be given an IndyCar test with Andretti) could see his father’s organization would benefit from a broader knowledge base and technical capability.
“As we entered the new GTP era, the level of competition had gone up like crazy from Porsche Penske to BMW to Cadillac,” Ricky Taylor told NBC Sports. “Everyone upped their game. Just like Acura and HPD and WTR have always been very good at pivoting and adapting to change and revolving around new rule sets, new strategies, new tires, new cars. And to add to what Wayne Taylor Racing does very well, partnering with Andretti Autosport, such a long-established and experienced organization, is very exciting from a driver’s perspective.
“We will be surrounded by the best. Wayne Taylor Racing brings a lot with it in terms of its sportscar racing heritage, but from many other angles, Andretti Autosport also brings a whole new level. It all seemed to be happening very quickly, but at the same time it’s very exciting to have this kind of security and resources in such a large organization. The mix of the team has been really smooth so far.”
Wayne Taylor hinted ahead of Rolex 24 Qualifying Sunday that targeting Andretti increases the likelihood he will field a second Acura in GTP next year.
“Of course, Michael’s group and we will discuss all of these things,” he said. “Our motivation is very clear to be a two-car program next year. There is no doubt about that.”
But if such a move happens, it won’t have been a Honda-biased decision (as has been the case with many rivals whose agendas are pushed by manufacturers).
“HPD really had nothing to do with it,” Andretti said of partnering with Taylor. “We made the deal and then later we told HPD. We’ve been looking at sports cars for the past three years (and wondering how to get inside), and this opportunity has arisen. It was just child’s play. Coming with a team that has won so many times, what a great way to get straight in. Our plan is to let them do their jobs and just be here to support.”