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LE MANS, France, May 29, 2012 – When 10-year-old Jordan Taylor first visited the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2001, the youngster immediately understood that this event was special. Now 11 years later, Taylor is returning to Le Mans – not as a spectator, but as a driver in the world’s most prestigious sports car race.
On Sunday, June 3, the 21-year-old college student from Florida will fulfill a lifelong ambition when he participates in the Le Mans Test Day with Corvette Racing. Taylor will be teamed with Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia in the No. 73 Compuware Corvette C6.R – drivers who have a total of seven victories at the legendary Circuit des 24 Heures du Mans. The rookie driver must complete 10 laps on the immense 8.5-mile course during Test Day to be eligible to compete in the storied 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 16-17.
The Test Day is crucial for the Corvette Racing team as well. It will be the only opportunity to run the new wide-body Corvette C6.Rs on the circuit before the start of practice and qualifying on June 13. The Corvette Racing engineering team is eager to see how the revised body design, enhanced aero package, updated suspension, and optimized Michelin tires perform on the high-speed course that combines purpose-built track sections with public roads.
“I went to Le Mans in 2001 and 2002 to watch my Dad drive in the race,” Taylor said. “I remember going around the track, seeing the cars at Indianapolis corner, watching the drivers parade, and taking it all in. I thought how amazing it would be to someday compete in the race.
“Le Mans seemed so massive,” he recalled. “We left the paddock and it took 20 minutes to drive to another corner. That was when I realized just how huge the track is.”
Along with undeniable speed and uncommon maturity, Taylor brings an impeccable pedigree to endurance racing. He is the son of championship-winning driver Wayne Taylor, who won the LMP1 class at Le Mans in 1998. Jordan, runner-up in the 2011 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series GT championship in a Chevrolet Camaro, made his debut with Corvette Racing in the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March. He took the lead in the GT class in his first stint in the No. 3 Corvette C6.R that ultimately finished second in the 12-hour enduro.
“I’ve been talking with Jan and Antonio about Le Mans since our first test in January,” Taylor said. “They’ve told me what to expect and given me advice on how to focus on the race. I’ve driven the track on video games and studied onboard camera videos to get up to speed. I’ve watched Steve McQueen’s Le Mans movie with my Dad, and he’s told me about racing in the rain and driving from daylight into darkness. All of this input is great, but it’s still going to be a whole new experience when I get to Le Mans.”
Taylor’s teammates are eager to teach their young co-driver about the intricacies of the race. “Le Mans has something different that every driver has to learn,” said Garcia. “After you do Le Mans two or three times, you get in the rhythm and everything flows. This is the perfect year for Jordan to come to Le Mans as a rookie. In previous years, we’ve gone straight into Le Mans race week, but this year the pre-race test will give him a bit more time.”
Magnussen agreed: “That’s the key, to try to help him to find his own rhythm,” he said. “I told him not to worry so much about lap time in the beginning, just find the rhythm and the speed will build.”
Along with the challenges of Le Mans, Taylor also will face a grueling travel schedule in June. After driving the Autohaus Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro in the Chevrolet Grand-Am 200 in Detroit on Saturday, June 2, he’ll fly overnight to Le Mans for the one-day test on June 3. Then it’s back to the U.S. for the next Grand-Am round at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on June 8-9, followed by another transatlantic dash to Le Mans for scrutineering (technical inspection) on Monday, June 11. After a week of preparation, practice, and qualifying, the 24 Hours of Le Mans will conclude at 3 p.m. local time on Sunday, June 17. Then Taylor jets back to the U.S. for a Grand-Am race at Road America on June 21-23.
Richard Westbrook also will be commuting between the U.S. and France. The Englishman will share the No. 74 Compuware Corvette C6.R in Le Mans with Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner. He’ll also compete in the Grand-Am series with the Spirit of Daytona Corvette Daytona Prototype.
Corvette Racing has a long list of items to check off during the eight-hour Test Day.
“With the new bodywork and suspension, we need to test the Corvette C6.R’s straight-line speed, evaluate the balance in braking zones and high-speed corner entries, and run through all of the different Michelin tire options,” Gavin explained. “Of course we want to be fast, we want to be quick, but there is a list of things we want to tick off – make sure the car is reliable, consistent, and comfortable for the drivers.
“You always think eight hours is so much time, but it just goes by in a heartbeat,” Gavin continued. “A lap at Le Mans is more than four minutes, so to do one timed lap you’re looking at 12 minutes with an out-lap and an in-lap. Every time you make a change, the time just runs like sand through your fingers. You’ve got to make every run count and make every single outing worthwhile.”
For Milner, the Le Mans Test Day will mark his return to the circuit where he scored his first victory with Corvette Racing last year. “Things always change in racing, but this year the team has taken the biggest step since the transition from the GT1 class to GT,” Milner noted. “The good news is that it’s still a Corvette, and we’ve seen in the first three rounds of the American Le Mans Series that we’re competitive. Everyone who works at Corvette Racing has a no-compromise attitude, and they will do everything they can to make the cars fast, safe, and reliable.”
Corvette Racing’s next event is the Test Day in Le Mans, France, on June 3, followed by the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 16-17.
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