The No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R trio of Jordan Taylor, Renger van der Zande and Ryan Hunter-Reay ended one of their team’s most challenging seasons to date with a much-neeed exclamation point as van der Zande’s dramatic pass for the lead two corners from the finish line brought home the victory in the 21st annual Petit Le Mans IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship endurance marathon at Road Atlanta.
It was the team’s only victory of 2018 and kept alive a streak of 15 consecutive seasons with at least one win since team owner and three-time sportscar-racing champion Wayne Taylor and his long-time business partner and former co-driver Max “The Ax” Angelelli first fielded the No. 10 Prototype in Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series competition in 2004.
The victory, the team’s second at the iconic 10-hour race since 2014, also solidified a third-place finish in the final championship standings after having clinched the 2017 championship at this event a year ago.
“I feel like I have never been more happy than I am tonight,” said team owner Wayne Taylor. “These guys, this team, our partners Konica Minolta, Cadillac, ECR Engines, everybody associated with this program, this was for them. It was a really tough weekend because we didn’t have the fastest car. We were five-and-a-half miles an hour slower than most of those other cars in a straight line. But, as usual, this team, when it’s time to do something and pull stuff out – our engineers and our drivers – they find a way to make it happen. Thank goodness because for all 15 years we’ve been doing this, we’ve never had a year without winning a race. And for the Petit Le Mans, it’s now three wins because I won as a driver and now twice as a team owner with Max. I can’t say enough about our chassis maker Dallara – it’s not only the technical side of everything they do with us, it’s the relationship we have with them. They truly, truly feel the pain with us and they win and lose with us, so I can’t say enough about them. We’ve got just really good partners. This year was a difficult year, but this is one heck of a way to make us feel good during the offseason.”
After struggling to qualify 12th for today’s race, victory might have seemed improbable for the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team, even though it has mastered the art of contending for wins in time and again in the series’ iconic endurance events at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta over the last decade and a half.
The 32-year-old van der Zande, who replaced Ricky Taylor as Jordan Taylor’s full-time co-driver at the outset of 2018, drove a patient opening stint in working his way into the top-10. He handed the car over to Taylor at the one-hour, 13-minute mark during the first caution period of the race, and lightning-quick work by the crew enabled Taylor to restart just outside the top-five.
Taylor and Hunter-Reay on their opening stints, and then van der Zande during his second stint, took charge over the next five and a half hours and, with the help of consistently quick pit stops and driver changes, kept the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R in and around the top-five. The Dutch driver first took the lead during a round of green-flag pit stops at the six-hour, 45-minute mark, and he and Taylor were able to lead 55 of the next 60 laps until just past the eight-hour mark.
Van der Zande took over with 92 minutes remaining in the race and would take the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R the rest of the way. He rejoined the race in fifth place and gradually worked his way toward the front during the initial fuel-and-tire run, leading the final five laps before making his final fuel-and-tire stop with 43 minutes remaining.
He resumed in third place behind the No. 5 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R of Felipe Albuquerque and the No. 22 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan of Pipo Derani. Van der Zande passed Derani with seven minutes to go in the race, and he carefully bided his time in chasing down Albuquerque for the lead as the team suspected the No. 5 Cadillac would not have enough fuel to get to the checkered flag.