Ricky Taylor Looking For Le Mans Crown Jewel

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Ricky Taylor is looking for his own crown jewel when he travels to France for the 24 Hours of Le Mans this week. (IMSA Photo)
Ricky Taylor is looking for his own crown jewel when he travels to France for the 24 Hours of Le Mans this week. (IMSA Photo)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – His father won his class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1998. His brother won his class at Le Mans in 2015.

Making his sixth appearance in the 24 Hours of Le Mans this weekend, Ricky Taylor is looking to add to his family’s legacy of success in the prestigious French endurance race. He should have a good shot at it, too.

He will be competing in the LMP2 class. With a 20-car entry list, it’s the largest of the four competing classes, but the Jackie Chan DC Racing team for which Taylor is driving has enjoyed recent success at Le Mans.

In 2017, the LMP2 team swept the top two positions in class and very nearly took the overall victory. As it was, the team’s No. 38 ORECA finished on the overall podium in second, followed by the No. 37 Jackie Chan DC Racing entry in third place.

This year, Taylor is sharing the No. 37 with David Heinemeier Hansson – a GTE Am class winner at Le Mans in 2014 – and British driver Jordan King, who last month competed in his first Indianapolis 500. King and Heinemeier Hansson also teamed up with Will Stevens to win the grueling FIA World Endurance Championship’s (WEC) 1,000 Miles of Sebring in March, which also bodes well for his and the team’s chances.

“Le Mans is such a complex event, as all sports car races are,” Taylor says. “But Le Mans is such a tough one. Being that it’s on city streets, you never get to test there. The race weekend goes in so many different ways. The track conditions are always changing. You get very limited laps with how long the track is.

“So, every year, regardless of how competitive your equipment might be, every year you’re gaining knowledge and gaining experience and it helps you each year after that. So, having quite a few years under my belt now, I feel quite prepared. I think we’ve got all the pieces in place as far as the team and the car, mechanics, drivers, I think we’ve got everything ready to go hopefully win this thing.”

This weekend’s race will mark five races since Ricky’s younger brother, Jordan, co-drove the No. 64 Corvette C7.R to the GTE Pro class victory at Le Mans with Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner. Ironically, that was the only year since 2013 that Ricky didn’t compete at Le Mans.

It’s also 21 years since his father, Wayne Taylor, took the LMP1 class victory at Le Mans with co-drivers Fermin Velez and Eric van de Poele in a Doyle-Risi Racing Ferrari 333SP. Ricky was eight years old when that happened.

Le Mans is the one crown jewel of sports car racing that has eluded Ricky to this point. He’s won at Daytona, Sebring, Motul Petit Le Mans and many others. So, he’s eager to check that Le Mans box.

“Le Mans is a massive event,” he said. “I think any driver in the world, if you win the race – regardless of which class you win it in – it goes right at the top of your résumé. There’s a number of American drivers going, but to be able to come back to America with a trophy would be an absolute honor.”

In addition to representing America, Taylor heads to Le Mans among many representatives of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. As full-season co-driver of the No. 7 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 DPi with Helio Castroneves, Taylor is in the midst of a tough 2019 DPi championship battle, which reached its halfway point with the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic at Detroit’s Belle Isle Park on June 1.

He and Castroneves are currently third in the DPi standings, trailing points co-leaders Pipo Derani – who also is competing at Le Mans in the GTE Pro class in the No. 89 Risi Competizione Ferrari – and Felipe Nasr by six points, 152-146, and teammates Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 6 Acura by one point.

Taylor feels strongly that the close competition he faces with regularity in the WeatherTech Championship will benefit him at Le Mans.

“The LMP2 class at Le Mans is always very competitive and there’s a lot of very good cars,” he says. “I think coming from the WeatherTech Championship, we’re used to battling head-to-head. The way our races go with the full-course yellows, you’re always fighting somebody tooth and nail. That’s something that they don’t have as much of over in Europe.

“So, I think maybe we’re a little bit more accustomed to the head-to-head battling, whereas in Le Mans, you’re racing against the clock every lap, which is a challenge on its own. But I think coming from America, we’re used to this head-to-head, every lap matters sort of racing, and I think going there, we’re always fresh and on our toes.”