Opportunity Knocks for Jordan Taylor

Sometimes in racing it’s all about getting your foot in the door; being in the right place at the right time when opportunity knocks.

Over the winter opportunity – in the form of Corvette Racing – knocked HARD on Jordan Taylor’s door. The Apopka, Fla., resident was coming-off a superb 2011 season that saw him finish second in the Rolex GT Series on the strength of six top five finishes including a win at Virginia International Raceway. Now here was one of sports car racing’s most successful teams inviting him to join them for three races in 2012. And not just any three races, but Sebring, Le Mans and Petit Le Mans.

“This is definitely a huge opportunity," says Taylor. “When you think of sports car racing, or even racing itself, you think of Le Mans and all the success Corvette has enjoyed. Countless victories and championships, so to join them for Sebring, Le Mans and Petit Le Mans with Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia is for sure a big opportunity. It comes with a lot of pressure, but for sure I’m ready for the challenge."

Together with Tommy Milner (in his second season with Corvette), Taylor represents the American portion of a 2012 driver lineup featuring Denmark’s Magnussen, Spain’s Garcia, and England’s Oliver Gavin and Richard Westbrook. Being one of two American drivers on a team and brand synonymous with American sports car racing adds an extra dimension to Taylor’s opportunity.

“I don’t think there’s any more pressure, but I can be a little bit more proud of everything," he says. “For sure it’s very special to be one of the Americans with this iconic American brand in racing and on the road. I know the fans of Corvette racing are just unbelievable – you go to shows and races and the autograph lines wrap all around the place, just for Corvette. How passionate the American fans are, and as an American driver in the car I’m just looking forward to it."

While Milner teams with Gavin for Le Mans plus the full Corvette ALMS schedule (with Westbrook as the car’s third driver), Taylor joins Magnussen and Garcia as the third driver at the three premier endurance events. While there’s no denying the magnitude of Taylor’s opportunity, joining a successful partnership like the Magnussen/Garcia duo for just three races – let alone three races of such magnitude – carries its own challenges.

“I definitely don’t have the experience these guys have, so I’ve got to be on my game," he says. “On the weekends Magnussen and Garcia are the two lead drivers and will probably get most of the time to get the car set-up, and then I’ll get my time. But they’ve been very helpful, and I’ve been learning a lot from them.

“Of course, Sebring and Petit Le Mans count towards the main championship, both for Corvette and for the drivers. I’m going to be there helping them in their championship fight, so there’s definitely pressure not to hurt their chances for the championship, not just for Corvette Racing but for the Corvette brand, the manufacturers and drivers championship."

All that makes pre-season testing critical as Taylor gets up to speed with a new car, a new team, new teammates and a new series. Although readily conceding he is at the steep end of the proverbial learning curve, Taylor says it’s just a matter of degrees.

“I don’t think you ever stop learning," he says. “Even Magnussen, Gavin and Garcia would probably admit they never stop learning. So without a doubt I’m open to any feedback I can get. I’ve been watching plenty of on-boards on YouTube just to see if I can pick-up something, anything that can benefit me the next time I get in the car.

“But with these teammate and the Corvette team, you can not only learn things on the track but off the track – dealing with media, working with the engineers, the way they get and share feedback, how they talk about what the car is doing on the track and how they translate that to feedback that will, hopefully, help the car in the next session. … I’m always asking questions, always looking for answers – which is a good thing, no matter where you are in your career."

Speaking of getting up to speed, another aspect of Taylor’s introduction to Corvette Racing is the fact that he’s new to the American Le Mans Series. While he has enjoyed great success driving GT cars amongst the greyhounds of the Rolex Series’ Daytona Prototypes, he notes the speed differentials in ALMS take a little adjustment. And that’s not all.

“The cars are quite a bit different," he observes. “The GT2 car has quite a bit more grip, more downforce, traction control and the speed difference in the different classes of the ALMS is much larger. So when an LMP1 car comes by it really comes by quickly and you’ve really got to be paying attention to your mirrors."

The 60tth Anniversary Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida is still a couple of weeks away, so it may be somewhat premature for Taylor to discuss specific expectations for the coming season … but it’s not too early to explore his overall approach to his rookie year with Corvette Racing.

“Sebring and Le Mans will be the two toughest," he says, “because Sebring will be my first race for the team and Le Mans will be tough because it’s … Le Mans.

“I definitely want to do a good job for the team. There’s a lot of pressure on me because of the situation I’m in – which I’m grateful for. I definitely want to get the job done and do a good job for them. So I just hope to get through these races, not holding the team back at all, doing my job, keeping on par with my teammates, no mistakes, no issues, good runs, good stints in these races and coming out with some good results."

Of course, we would be remiss if we failed to note that, in addition to Garcia, Gavin, Magnussen, Milner, Westbrook and the rest of the Corvette Racing squad, Taylor has another voice of experience he can turn to at virtually any time, even when he’s far away from the race track. That would be his father Wayne who, not incidentally, has lots of hardware from Sebring, Le Mans and Petit Le Mans in his own trophy case.

“Like I said, you never stop learning and I’m always happy to hear advice from my dad, especially going into these races – Sebring, Le Mans and Petit Le Mans," says the younger Taylor. “He’s won all three of them, so it’s great to be able to pick his brain about things and how to get to the end of these races in a position to win them and always staying in contention in endurance events. He’s the perfect mentor and coach to have – and it’s great to have him in the next room anytime I have a question."

In other words, whenever opportunity comes knocking on Jordan Taylor’s door he can always go knocking on his father’s door for a little advice.

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