Ricky Taylor Scores Pole for Tudor Long Beach With Four Record-Breaking Laps
Ricky Taylor put the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Dallara-Corvette on the pole for the Tudor United SportsCar Championship Tequila Patron Sports Car Showcase at Long Beach with a series of increasingly quick laps, each faster than the old track record.
Taylor’s effort broke a multi-year qualifying drought. In 2011 he scored eight poles, most of them consecutive; then he seemingly lost his qualifying mojo. Wayne Taylor, Ricky’s father as well as team owner, trusted his son to qualify at Long Beach, a track where overtaking is tough and being on the pole really matters. Ricky certainly rewarded that trust with his string of record-setting laps.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve had a pole,” Taylor told IMSA Radio’s Jeremy Shaw. “Man, we’ve got a great car here. Our [Dallara-] Corvette’s really fast. I’m glad we could get the most out of the car right there at the end.
“I’m just very excited—especially here at Long Beach, track position is so important. This bodes well for the rest of the weekend.”
Speaking of winning his first pole since 2011 Taylor said, “It means a lot. That year we were on a really good streak and now after having such a drought of poles, not having poles it makes me really appreciate this one. This one goes out to the team; it’s nice to do it for those guys.”
Young Versus Old
Prototype class qualifying came down to a head-to-head battle between young and old in North American sports car racing: 55-year-old Scott Pruett, five-time Rolex Series champion who has raced every type of car known to man, versus 25-year-old Ricky Taylor, twice runner-up in the Rolex Series and once in the Tudor Championship.
Taylor ran ten laps; he started with a leisurely 1:16, but soon got serious. Halfway through the 15-minute session he laid down a lap of 15.291, breaking Scott Pruett’s 2014 record of 1:15.325.
Pruett wisely waited until the rest of the field finished warming up before emerging from the pits to start his run. Two laps after Taylor’s record-breaking run, Pruett pushed his #01 Ganassi Riley-Ford EcoBoost around the 1.97-miles Long Beach street course in 1:15.255.
Taylor responded with a 1:15.114.; Pruett upped the ante with a lap of 1:15.094. Taylor tried to beat this, but overcooked it into Turn One and had to use the escape road.
This was a bit of veteran thinking from the young driver. In the Tudor Championship cars must start the race on their qualifying tires; if Taylor had locked up brakes and flat-spotted his tires trying to make the corner, he’d have had to drive the first stint of the race on ruined rubber.
Instead, the 25-year-old saved his tires, took a cool-down lap, and readied himself for an even greater effort. Pruett, quickest so far but knowing he’d need more, also took a slow lap, resting his tires and waiting for traffic to clear.
Pruett launched first, turning in a 1:15.094. Taylor crossed the line a minute later with a lap of 1:14.907, the first driver to break 1:15. Pruett went again, lapping in 1:15.048. He crossed the finish line 20 seconds before the end of the session and went out for one more try.
Taylor, half a lap back, didn’t have time for one more; he had to make it happen with the run he was on and he did, pushing his time down even further to 1:14.790 at 94.729 mph. Pruett had no answer to that.
Christian Fittipaldi in the #50 Action Express Coyote-Corvette qualified third at 1:15.274—a time which would have won him pole a year ago, nearly half a second off the pace this year.
The Tudor United SportsCar Championship Tequila Patron Sports Car Showcase at Long Beach will be streamed live on IMSA.com on Saturday, April 18 starting at 7:05 p.m. ET and will be broadcast Sunday, April 19 on Fox Sports 1 at 4 p.m. ET. Timing and scoring is also at IMSA.com.