BRASELTON, Ga. (AP) — Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor needed only to start the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta to win a second consecutive GT Le Mans sports car title. Neither expected a terrifying crash would spoil the celebration and turn the 10-hour endurance race into an emotionally draining day for Taylor’s family.
Taylor was at the wheel for Corvette Racing on a restart around the four hour mark Saturday when cars ahead of him stacked up in traffic — he said three actually stopped on track — and he couldn’t avoid slamming into one at 110 mph in turn 10B of the 12-turn, 2.54-mile circuit.
He immediately thought his back was broken. And yet that wasn’t his main concern: Ricky Taylor was leading the race at the time of the crash and Taylor knew his older brother would be concerned as he drove by the crash site. Ricky Taylor was racing for the overall IMSA championship in the Daytona Prototype international for Wayne Taylor Racing, the team owned by their father.
“My dad and my brother are at the racetrack competing and it was the first time one of us had a big accident, and it’s always a fear for a family member to get injured,” Taylor said. “I knew Ricky was in the car and he was going to drive by this mangled Corvette and he was looking for a thumbs-up. I knew he’d be freaked out. So it was kind of an emotional moment, to be honest.”
Taylor was able to get out of his car on his own and when he stood on the pavement he knew his injury was likely muscular and not a broken back. But he was still required to take an ambulance ride to the care center for evaluation — all while his father was in tears on pit lane worried for one son as the other was locked in a tight championship race.
“I saw him probably an hour-and-a-half later and he was still crying,” Taylor said. “I mean, I hated watching him race for the same reasons and I can’t imagine what it’s like for him to watch his kids every day.”
It was the fifth IMSA championship for Garcia, of Spain, and the fourth for Taylor, of Apopka, Florida. The duo teamed for four wins and four runner-up finishes this season, which started with a strange victory in the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona: Garcia tested positive for COVID-19 during the race and had to lead the speedway before the finish.
“The Corvette was super strong,” said Garcia. “But for sure now I will remember this championship because of what happened today.”
Bobby Rahal’s expansion in motorsports will continue in 2023 when BMW Team RLL will field two prototypes in the new LMDh hybrid category of MSA sports car racing.
BMW Team RLL also will enter two BMW M4 GT3s in the new GTD Pro category next season. Rahal said he’d only race in the GTD Pro category next year, and then focus on the LMDh program when it debuts in 2023 and attempt to qualify for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“For me personally and professionally, this is a dream come true,” Rahal said. “To first run a brand-new car like the BMW M4 GT3, and after that make the next step with BMW Team RLL to race for overall wins in the LMDh class is a direction we definitely wanted to go. I’m so pleased, so proud, so thankful that we’ll be able to do it together with BMW M Motorsport.”
Rahal’s team is the fourth to commit to the new LMDh platform, which will replace the current DPi class in 2023. Five manufacturers have announced intentions to participate in the hybrid-based category.
Rahal has been partnered with BMW in sports cars since 2009; he runs Honda’s in IndyCar and this year began preparations for a new full-time third entry in 2022. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing also is building a new shop in Indiana that will house all the racing programs when it is completed in 2022.
Chip Ganassi Racing suffered a setback even before the race started when star driver Kevin Magnussen was pulled from the lineup because of illness.
Magnussen qualified the Cadillac and was scheduled to start the race but never made it to the track. He was replaced by Earl Bamber in the lineup.
The Ganassi team did not disclose what was ailing the Danish driver.
Magnussen is moving to the Peugeot sports car program next season, and Bamber already has been announced as one of three new full-time drivers to join Ganassi’s team in 2022.
More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports