Alonso: Very proud of what we achieved with Wayne Taylor Racing

Fernando Alonso was quick to praise Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) and teammates Jordan Taylor, Renger van der Zande, Kamui Kobayashi after taking the #10 Minolta Cadillac DPI to a famous victory at a treacherous Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The double Formula 1 World Champion delivered a stellar performance, shining brightest of the four stars in the black car that was declared winner when the race ended under the red flag on Sunday.

Alonso said afterwards, “I’m very, very proud of the job that we achieved today, but it was not a one‑day job, it was a one‑month job. For me, in December we started preparing for the race and receiving all the documents, how the Cadillac works and how Wayne Taylor Racing works, some procedures that maybe are different compared with other teams.”

“We tried to have a quick integration, Kamui and myself, trying to learn as much as we could from the team in the Roar [Before the 24 test days] and then, on the race itself, it was very, very difficult. Conditions were changing all the time, quite a shock sometimes.”

“You had to survive every lap. It wasn’t a matter of lap times or anything like that. It was a matter of crossing the line, putting the lap together and at the end, it worked.”

“I think the last five or seven laps of the race were not, I think, right for anyone that we were on track because the visibility was nearly zero. I was calling the team for a safety car immediately because I could not see anything.”

During the first red flag stoppage, Alonso alighted the car and approached the safety car to chat with the driver, he said of the incident, “I think the last five or seven laps of the race were not, I think, right for anyone that we were on track because the visibility was nearly zero. I was calling the team for a safety car immediately because I could not see anything.”

“I went to talk to him because he nearly crashed. I was following him, and he had a massive moment of hydroplaning. Immediately after, he called red flag. I think he was a little bit scared in that moment, and when I jumped out of the car and I went to the safety car to see him, he was not there anymore.”

“They called to the driver, and I said: Are you OK? You nearly crashed. Conditions are tricky. He said like: It’s not my call or something like that.”

Teams waited nearly two hours before IMSA called the race 10 minutes before the scheduled conclusion. It marked the first time rain prevented the Rolex from going the full 24 hours, and it was the first time in race history the event was stopped twice for red flags for rain.

Alonso was sitting under a blanket on the Taylor pit stand when the race was called and said, “It’s too bad we didn’t get to race the full distance, but we led the race in night, day, dry, wet, so I think we all kind of deserve this one.”

Taylor, Van der Zande, Kobayashi and Alonso led 249 of 593 laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile superspeedway road circuit from the sixth qualifying position earned Thursday by Taylor, who equaled the two career Rolex 24 victories earned by his three-time sportscar-racing-champion father and team owner Wayne Taylor, and helped his teammates each earn his first career Rolex 24 win.

Alonso, in fact, became just the third Formula 1 World Champion to win a Rolex 24, joining Phil Hill and Mario Andretti. The Spaniard also scored a first career victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans last June.

Team boss Wayne Taylor, a two times Daytona 24 Hours winner himself said, “I can’t even put into words how great this win is for us. I want to thank Rick Taylor, Michael Mathe, everyone at Konica Minolta, Mark Reuss at GM, Steve Carlisle at Cadillac, all our commercial partners for believing in us and making all of this possible.”

“Everything has to come together to win one of these, on and off the track. And to do it with this particular group of guys, it’s going to be a racing memory I will never forget,” added the WTR chief.

The team reported that after struggling to crack the top-five all through practice and qualifying in lead-up to Saturday and Sunday’s twice-around-the-clock endurance marathon, it took little time for the #10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R to find its way to the lead.

Taylor’s ultra-conservative opening stint yielded just one lap led during a round of green-flag pit stops. But once Alonso got behind the wheel for his first race stint just shy of the two-hour mark, he promptly powered his way into the lead, and logged 44 laps led before turning the car over to van der Zande just past the four-hour, 30-minute mark.

The 32-year-old Dutchman, who most recently brought home a thrilling win for the team on the last turn of the last lap of last year’s season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, played it relatively conservatively during his opening stint and led 18 laps before handing the car back to Taylor in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

The #10 car remained strong through Taylor’s second stint, in which he led 45 laps before turning things over to Alonso just short of the 15th hour of the race.

But, shortly after Alonso took over, expected rain showers finally arrived, and varying degrees of precipitation would remain through the rest of the day. He led 49 laps in all during the mostly wet stint, which included an almost two-hour red-flag period for extreme wet conditions through the track at the 16-hour, 43-minute mark.

Alonso continued for a short time after the race resumed at the 18-hour, 31-minute mark, leading several more laps before handing the car back to Taylor just short of the 19-hour mark. Taylor’s final stint of the weekend netted 17 of 43 laps led through very wet conditions.

Then came the final stint for Alonso, who resumed in third place and carefully bided his time before positioning himself to take advantage when Derani’s teammate Felipe Nasr ventured off course under pressure, in Turn 1 and giving the #10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R the lead for good at the 21-hour, 54-minute mark.

The race was red-flagged three laps later as Alonso and most of the rest of the field reported near zero visibility under heavy rains just short of the 22-hour mark.

Officials waited for a chance to restart the race until the 23-hour, 49-minute mark before waving the checkered flag, and celebration ensued in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R camp.

Taylor senior continued, “I think it was an interesting race with the conditions changing, very tough, but I think, like everyone else says, everyone did their job. All four drivers led in their own right and drove to the lead, different parts of the race, and it was all about survival.”

“You saw a lot of guys taking a lot of risk early in the race, but we waited with the game plan of running our own race and not getting caught up in anyone else’s battles. I think it was the right game plan. We stayed out of trouble, no car damage, no one went off the track.”

“That’s the way you win these 24‑hour races, and we kind of came into the grid thinking almost every single car can win the race, and you see guys making little mistakes here and there, and this team has now done six out of seven years finishing on the podium without issues. I think it’s a huge testament to Wayne Taylor Racing.”

Dutchman Van der Zende added, “I’m super happy. Fantastic. I think I said before the weekend, I think to the team, Wayne and Max [Angelelli, co-team owner], fantastic that they put such little pieces together. It’s a big puzzle and it comes together in this victory here right now. Thanks a lot to my teammates, the whole team, and I’m very happy to bring home a [Rolex] watch and a lot of victory feelings. What more to say?”

EX-F1 driver Kobayashi became a first-time winner of the legendary even on his first attempt, “I’m so happy to be here, and obviously I think. like the 24‑hour race, it’s never easy even when you have a good car or whatever because you have so many issues, problems.

“I think today we had really extremely difficult conditions. I think all the team guys, the drivers, did a great job. I think the team did a really, really good job, and obviously the car was really good,”

The next round of the 2019 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship takes place on 16 March where Alonso will line-up with Kobayashi in their regular World Endurance Championship ride with Toyota Gazoo Racing, whereupon they will do duty in the #8 Le Mans-winning car, the #10 Cadillac will be a rival team on that weekend.

With victory at Daytona, Alonso joined Phil Hill (1964) and Mario Andretti (1972) as F1 champions to also win the most prestigious sports car event in North America. Alonso, who has two F1 titles, retired from that series in November.

The Spaniard now has won the Rolex, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Monaco Grand Prix. The next big event on his schedule is the Indianapolis 500 in May, the one victory he needs to complete motorsport’s unofficial version of the Triple Crown.

Sources: Wayne Taylor Racing Media, Associated Press