Grand Am Road Racing Media Conference
Topics: Grand Am Road Racing
July 30, 2009
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this week's NASCAR Grand-Am teleconference as we look forward to the next race on the Grand-Am Rolex Series schedule, the August 7th Crown Royal 200 at Watkins Glen International. Joining us today are Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli. The two drove to two victories in the Glen at 2005 when they won the Daytona Prototype championship.
Wayne Taylor, only four races remain in the 2009 Rolex Series season. We have three veteran championship-winning teams separated by only one point. You how important will next Friday's race at Watkins Glen be in the battle for the championship?
WAYNE TAYLOR: Like every event we go to, it's really important. Obviously now we're having the points so tight, it's not really just the three of us up front. There are two teams that are only 16 points behind. Going into this event, it's one of the events we love doing. Obviously Watkins Glen has been good to both Max and I. It's imperative that we win some races here because there's not a big points spread between first and second. Going on what's happened in the last couple of races, it always seems to be the same cars up front. We really have to do everything a hundred percent correct, pit stops, driver changes, everything. It's incredibly important that we leave Watkins Glen in the sort of area we are, hopefully ahead. Even if it is ahead, it's not going to be a lot ahead because the points spread is not very much.
THE MODERATOR: Max Angelelli, you won at both the long and short courses at Watkins Glen. As a driver, do you approach the two courses differently?
MAX ANGELELLI: Yes, a different approach. Actually, the car is going to be different. On the short course we will have a lot less downforce. In the long course, we will use more downforce, more corners, and different setup.
So for this race, we're going to have less downforce. At top speed, the car will be more difficult to drive. It will be quite a challenge to overtake. We really need to start up in front and stay there.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much. We'll now go to media questions for Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli.
Q. Wayne, a year ago at the end of the 2008 season, you stated that Brian Frisselle was going to be a big part of the future of SunTrust Racing. Did the events at Birmingham change your mind in that matter?
WAYNE TAYLOR: No, it didn't. You know, we all make mistakes, whether it's the mechanic or the engineer. And drivers are the same. They're all human beings. We've supported Brian. We watched him last year. Got pole positions, he won races. His role this year was to come in and do what he did the year before, but really to support Max and to support the team to try and win a championship.
He has done a really good job so far. He had a little issue at Birmingham, which obviously cost us. But at the same time we tested the day after. The car ran really well. He did a good job.
There's absolutely no change in our commitment to Brian.
Q. Max, it seems for a few years now you haven't had consistency with a co-driver. What makes Brian a good co-driver?
MAX ANGELELLI: A lot of things. He is really, really impressed in listening. He's a good team player. He's a good teammate to me. He works for the team, for the best results for the team, and not for himself. He's really keen in learning.
So we talk a lot. I can explain and share my experience with him. And I know he's listening. I can see he's using what he learned. It makes me really, really happy. I really honored to share all my knowledge to a guy that actually appreciate it and is putting in action right away.
Q. This upcoming race is a two-hour race. How much is there more desperation and margin for error in a race that's a two-hour race versus a six-hour race.
WAYNE TAYLOR: The thing about these Grand-Am events now, no matter what event you watch, I think you'll see that everybody is driving at ten tenths and everybody on every team is doing everything at ten tenths. The series is so competitive. I've never seen any series as competitive as this. The big thing is track position is everything. It is incredibly hard as Max said to pass cars in these types of races. So the track position is key. Where we start at the beginning of the race is key and our pit stops have got to be absolutely flawless.
Whether it's a two-hour, a three-hour, or a six-hour, we approach them all the same.
What do you think, Max?
MAX ANGELELLI: Yes, I do agree. We approach the same way. The difference is that if something goes wrong in two hours, you have a lot less chances to make it back up. So we actually put even more energy in being sure that everything will go perfectly well, overtaking, driver changing, like Wayne says, the preparation and everything.
Q. With the points race becoming now so tight, with only four races remaining, how do you go about developing strategies? Do you do it per race or are you trying to look big picture at all four together?
MAX ANGELELLI: Wayne, I think you should answer this. I'm very bad at strategy. I'm just listening and they tell me what to do (laughter).
WAYNE TAYLOR: You know, clearly it's the big picture you've got to look at. At the same time you have to address each weekend as a separate race. So that might sound conflicting, but in truth we go to the race with the intent on trying to win it. At the same time, we know there's three more races that will take us to the championship end, and we can't afford to make a mistake.
I would say we really have to look at the big picture. You know, I remember winning a championship in 1994, and never winning a race in the season. So you really do have to look at it as four races, especially the way we approached this year, which has been that the goal was to win the championship. So we will continue down the same road.
Q. Wayne, with your role as the overseer, operating the whole operation, do you at times get eager and say, I'd like to get back behind the wheel, see what I can do to make things different?
WAYNE TAYLOR: No, no, not at all. We need fast guys, guys that are totally focused on driving and winning. So we have Max and Brian to do that. My days of the passion, let's say, of doing that are gone. I love doing the 24 Hour. But for the race, no, I really never think about that, which is a great thing actually because when you've lived your whole life driving racecars, you normally can't imagine not doing it.
So I'm really happy to be in the place I am at the moment.
Q. Wayne, as a driver and now as a team owner, do you sense when all the parts seem to be coming together on a team or do things just sometimes kind of happen?
WAYNE TAYLOR: Well, Max and I set up this program in 2007, and we appointed Simon Hodgson to be our general manager and Trevor (indiscernible) to be our lead technical director. I really leave it to Simon for the day-to-day running of the program. It has taken us this long, I think we're in our third year, to really get the right mix of mechanics, engineers and drivers that all have the same goals and all want what we all want at the end of it.
I don't think anything just suddenly happens. There's a massive amount of work that goes on behind the scenes that anybody would really understand. When you think about it, we've got 15 people working permanently with one car, and we do 12 race as year. So it sounds like a lot of time. But there's an enormous amount of time and energy that goes into preparing the car, and also developing the car to make it more competitive.
I don't know if I've answered your question, but it takes a lot of work and it takes a lot of good people.
Q. Fans sometimes think that drivers are fearless. In your earlier experience, do you overcome fear or does experience do that for you? Are you born with something that the rest of us aren't?
WAYNE TAYLOR: Well, I don't think I can speak for Max. But clearly I don't think any of us would drive racecars if we were fearful because that just wouldn't work. There's never been that, you know. I think when you do get to that point, that's a clear indication that you need to get out of the racecar.
Q. Overcoming the fear, does the experience give you something?
WAYNE TAYLOR: I think if you're fearful in the beginning, the experience is going to make it worse. I don't think as a driver you're afraid at that point. If you are, it's definitely time to get out of the car.
Max, what do you think?
MAX ANGELELLI: I agree. I agree, definitely.
Q. Max, you're going into a track at the Glen which carries one of the fastest speeds. As a consequence, are you going to look at a downforce aspect or laying out the wing again?
MAX ANGELELLI: Watkins Glen, the short track is always a compromise. It's not that clear like Daytona. Daytona you go one way. You don't have many other options. At the Glen, you have different options.
All options are towards a low downforce. But the point is how low you can go, you want to go. So really we'll decide after the three practices, we'll see where we are, what we need. We'll check with other cars top speed and we will take that decision.
From my perspective, my experience, it will be great to go really low on downforce, have a top speed, and basically command the race. But in order to do that, we need to start in front and be leading the race.
Q. Mr. Taylor was talking about operationally how the team has progressed. You had a huge setback last year. Do you think you would be further ahead of the curve had that not happened last year with the trailer burning down?
WAYNE TAYLOR: Well, probably. But I would also like to say that there's not many teams that would have been able to have done what this team did because we literally lost everything. I believe a week and a half later we were racing at Watkins Glen and we got the pole.
These guys work day in and day out for this and for the championship. When we won last year the first time in the Dallara, which was at Sears Point, everybody's focus was towards the championship for this year. I don't think it would have made a big difference because these guys are just so good at what they do. So I think we're here in this position, and we would have been in this position whether we had that incident or not last year.
Q. Gentlemen, you race on some very historic racetracks. The 24 Hours of Daytona, Watkins Glen. Yet this year you raced on tracks like Barber, New Jersey. How do you personally feel? Is it just mechanical, you say, This is the place they gave us to race on, or do you sense the history at some places and the lack of it at other races?
MAX ANGELELLI: Wayne and I, when we go to the Glen, for example, we always stop when we go under the bridge, going on the track, and look at the blue rail, you know, the barriers. We're just telling ourselves they are still the same, the ones they were using in the Formula One days. We love history. We love talking about the old days, the NASCAR old days, the Formula One old days. So much history at the Glen, Daytona, the battle between Ferrari and Ford and Porsche, Daytona 24 Hour. Going to the Daytona, for example, we remind ourselves, think about 20 years ago, 30 years ago, what those people are doing. We are so proud to be part of that and remind ourselves.
But then when we go to Barber and other racetracks that are brand-new, I think we would like to make history. We talk about us when we were going to Barber 20 years back, and we are writing history at the moment, I think, for those tracks.
Q. Wayne, are you pleased with the progress of your sons Ricky and Jordan in their Daytona Prototype rides?
WAYNE TAYLOR: Well, that's a difficult question. I guess I am happy. I certainly didn't think that they would be in Daytona Prototypes as early as they are. But obviously we've all worked together to make these things happen for them. I'm incredibly proud of them, irrespective.
Yeah, it's really got a lot of new challenges for me because it's sort of allowing me to live my life over again. But overall I think given the positions they've been in, the equipment they've been in, they've done a really good job.
Q. Max, any comments on their driving?
MAX ANGELELLI: I think he should be a proud, proud daddy. I think this is English correct, I hope. Proud daddy, yes. They're doing a really good job. It's not easy. This championship and the drivers are terrible during the race. They are not giving you anything. So they have to make it happen. They have to go and get it done. It's not easy. And they doing very well. I'm sure they will do better and better.
Q. Wayne, when Jordan gets in a car like the Crawford which is distinctly different than a Riley or a Dallara, he feels challenged at times in taking that car on because it has a narrow window of opportunity of setup. What do you say to Jordan or Ricky to get them back in the proper frame of mind?
WAYNE TAYLOR: Well, I say a lot to them both, but I don't know if they listen to anything that I say. Obviously they've had very little experience in Daytona Prototypes. He's been able to get out after Riley and do a Crawford. Ricky was in a Crawford and got into a Riley, and also has driven the Dallara.
I think all of the cars, all the cars we compete with, have their ups and downs. I think they've got to adapt. They're young, 18 and 19. It's a lot harder for us older guys to adapt, because we wanted to adapt when we were younger. I think they've managed to do it simply because they're young and they're learning every time they drive a car, irrespective of what car it is.
Q. What do you see five years down the road for those guys?
WAYNE TAYLOR: What do I see? I well, firstly they both are at University of Central Florida studying mechanical engineering because I don't think it's possible to do what I've done or Max has done in our careers to make a living out of it in sports cars in the current format. If you look the drivers in North America or even outside North America, but if you look in North America specifically, the only drivers that are really earning money are the guys in NASCAR, and a handful of the IRL drivers, and even less in Grand-Am.
It's not because we are inferior or anything. It's just that our formula or our series is not that well-known. So the financial resources that are there for the NASCAR teams at this point are not available to Grand-Am. I think with the acquisition of Grand-Am by NASCAR, this is going to change. I'm certainly the eternal optimist with this. One of the reasons why I was okay with them coming into Grand-Am is because I feel this is where the future is of sports car racing. If I look down five years from here, I want them to be either driving together or driving for different teams and being paid to do it because I think they will have more than the average young driver because they've grown up in the racing world, not only with me but with Max. Max is like family to us. He's been together with us for 10, 11 years. They know everything that goes on from the technical side of things, and more importantly they understand the business of racing. There's not many drivers out there that do that.
Hopefully in five years they've done well enough to be paid and to be paid to do what they love doing.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Wayne and Max, for joining us. I'd like to thank the members of the media for taking the time to join us this afternoon. We appreciate your coverage.
WAYNE TAYLOR: Thank you, everybody.
MAX ANGELELLI: Thank you.
|Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library|