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Published Wednesday, March 14, 2012
SEBRING — Corvette Racing is banking on two young drivers in Saturday’s 12 Hours of Sebring who have known their way around Sebring International Raceway for much longer than they have been driving on it.
Both Tommy Milner and Jordan Taylor are the sons of longtime sportscar figures and both live in Central Florida.
So going into this year’s 60th anniversary of the 12-hour classic, both have an appreciation for its history far beyond their years.
“I’ve watched it for 15 years so I’ve learned a lot from watching it but … I think it’s going to be a lot different when there are 64 cars on the track,” Taylor said last week.
Taylor, 20, is a student at UCF, when his racing schedule hasn’t taken him away. “I could be there for 15 years,” he said.
And, perhaps a reflection of how important sponsorship is in auto racing, he’s not an engineering major like many in racing but a business marketing major.
“Engineering was going to be way too hard,” he says.
Racing, and in particular Sebring, comes much more naturally for Taylor. His father, Wayne, owns the SunTrust team in the Grand-Am series. As a driver, the elder Taylor won the 24 Hours of Daytona twice and the 12 Hours of Sebring once, in 1996 with Jim Pace and Eric van de Poele.Milner, 26, is the son of longtime sportscar team owner Tom Milner. It took the younger Milner a bit longer to get into racing.
“When I was 15 my dad got me (into) a go-cart school out in California and from the first session I was hooked,” he said.
But his dad wasn’t so sure.
“If you ask him now his first reaction was, ‘Ah, there’s no future in this,’ ” Milner says with a laugh.
But Milner earned a spot in the Formula BMW series in 2004, where he competed against current IndyCar drivers Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe.
Rahal’s and Milner’s families go back a long way. Graham’s father, former Indy 500 winner and three-time CART champion Bobby, drove for Tom Milner in sportcars in the 1980s.
“Tommy and I had a lot of fun,” Rahal said last week at IndyCar testing in Sebring. “Tommy drove for my dad (in sportscars with Rahal Letterman) and I was teammates with Tommy here one year and at Petit Le Mans.”
Milner, a native of the Washington area, now lives in Lake Mary. Taylor is a Florida native living in Apopka. Both have built impressive credentials in their short sportscar careers.
Milner, who will drive the No. 4 Corvette C6 ZR1 with Oliver Gavin and Richard Westbrook, won the GTE Pro division last year at the 24 Hours of Le Mans alongside Olivier Beretta and Antonio Garcia.
Taylor, sharing duties in the No. 03 Corvette with Garcia and Jan Magnussen, was second in the Grand-Am series’ GT championship last year.
And both young drivers, though they have had experience with stars from all forms of racing, say they’re happy where they are now.
“If I had to pick today having — maybe — the opportunity to go to IndyCar, or staying in sportscars a long time, I would stay in sportscars a long time,” Milner said. “I would pick that in a heartbeat.”
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