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Grand-Am: Maiden voyage yields podium for Suntrust


For the third time in the last four editions of the Rolex 24, the familiar colours of SunTrust Racing appeared on the podium at Daytona, but only after a stirring fightback drive.

Run for the first time by Wayne Taylor Racing, the SunTrust Riley-Pontiac came from five laps down in the early going on Saturday to feature in a lead-lap fight for the race win - only for brake problems with just 38 minutes remaining to relegated it to a third at the flag.

WTR only assumed responsibility for carrying the SunTrust Racing banner less than three months ago, but applied the experience gained over past Grand-Am Rolex Series campaigns to put the distinctive blue machine at the head of the field after qualifying. However, as is often the case for most runners bar the eventual race winner, the #10 was forced to deal with adversity throughout the 24-hour marathon.

"I felt really good for SunTrust, and really good for the team," South African team boss Taylor said, "These races are really difficult to win, and people who have been doing it for so many years know that so many things have to go the right way. Look at what Ganassi did today - all they did was change drivers and tyres and add fuel for 24 solid hours. That's what wins these things. But the way we came back from so far down says a lot about the potential of this new team and that, in itself, is exciting."

Having consistently recorded the fastest overall laps in group test days at Daytona in November and earlier this month, the #10 team arrived as one of the pre-race favourites, and SunTrust regular Max Angelelli didn't disappoint as he qualified second on the 70-car grid. The Italian then pushed the car into the lead by the third lap and kept it there until handing the car over to Taylor at the end of the first hour.

The road got a little rocky from then on, however, as Taylor immediately found himself battling power steering problems that caused him to lose positions. Soon afterwards, just short of the two-hour mark, the owner-driver was forced to the outside wall by a slower competitor entering the backstraight chicane, causing him to check up and get hit from behind by the #11 SAMAX?CITGO Riley, flattening Taylor's right-rear tyre and forcing an unscheduled pit-stop that cost a lap.

The most devastating blow in the early going, however, was an engine misfire that arose at the two-hour mark. The team replaced the ECU and the nose of the car, which had also been damaged in the contact with the #11 car, before Taylor handed over to Jan Magnussen, now five laps off the pace and down in 22nd place.

The Dane's first stint was, by comparison, relatively uneventful, and he was able to get the #10 to within three laps of the leader by the three-hour mark, when he handed the car over to NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon, who continued the recovery. When Angelelli took over from the American, however, the clutch failed, and the team was hit with the reality of having to push-start the SunTrust car out of the box after each and every pit stop for the next 19 hours.

Unbeknownst to Angelelli at the time, he would be behind the wheel for three consecutive stints, fighting his way back into the top ten by the seven-hour mark, and all the way up to sixth, just two laps off the lead, when he handed the car over to Taylor shortly after nine hours.



Related Pictures

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Max Angelelli / Jordan Taylor. GRAND-AM Championship Weekend Presented by BMW at Lime Rock Park. 2013 Grand AM Rolex Sports Car Series
Max Angelelli / Jordan Taylor. Continental Tire Sports Car Festival. Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. 2013 Grand AM Rolex Sports Car Series
Action. VisitFlorida.com Sports Car 250 at Road America. Grand AM Rolex Sports Car Series [Pic credit: Grand AM]
Starworks Motorsport BMW/Riley duo Brendon Hartley and Scott Mayer celebrate their first Grand AM Rolex Sports Car Series victory at Road America [Pic credit: Grand AM]
Max Angelelli and Jordan Taylor drive the #10 Velocity Worldwide Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette Daytona Prototype to victory Saturday, April 6, 2013 in the third race of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevrolet)
Max Angelelli and Jordan Taylor drive the #10 Velocity Worldwide Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette Daytona Prototype (left) to victory Saturday, April 6, 2013 in the third race of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Alex Gurney and Jo Fogarty, drivers of the #99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP (right) finish in second place. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevrolet)
John Edwards and Robin Liddell, drivers of the # 57 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro GT.R., race to victory Saturday, April 6, 2013 in the Grand Touring (GT) class of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevrolet)
Juan Pablo Montoya, Memo Rojas, Scott Pruett and Charlie Kimball, co-drivers of the #01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates TELMEX/Target Ford BMW Riley celebrate their win in victory lane at the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on January 27, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Rolex Series action [Pic credit: Grand-Am]
Alex Popow and Sebastian Bourdais, drivers of the #2 Ford Riley, celebrate in Victory Lane after wininng the Grand-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2012, in Indianapolis, Ind. (Photo Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Alex Popow and Sebastien Bourdais, drivers of the #2 Soloson Ford Riley, celebrate after winning the Grand-AM Rolex Sports Car Series inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2012, in Indianapolis, Ind. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)
The winning #60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Ford Riley car is brought into victory lane after a gruelling 50th anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona. [Picture Credit: Daytona International Speedway]
Action Express win the Rolex 24 [Pic credit: Grand Am]
Derek Johnston [Pic credit: Grand Am]
Vic Elford, the 2010 Rolex 24 At Daytona Grand Marshal (Photo credit: Motorsports Images and Archives)
The No. 09 Spirit of Daytona Porsche Coyote that will be tested by 2009 Radical European Masters Champion Derek Johnston at Virginia International Raceway
Max Angelelli and Brian Friselle win at Daytona [Pic credit: Grand Am Media]
Alex Gurney/Jon Fogarty - GAINSCO Bob Stallings Racing Riley-Pontiac   [pic credit: Grand-Am]

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