When Wayne Taylor climbs atop his pit box for a race in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, he's under more pressure than most.
There's stress enough overseeing the No. 10 SunTrust Chevrolet Daytona Prototype that sits second in the standings and has Wayne Taylor Racing on the upswing. But when your son is behind the wheel in your car competing against his younger brother, not to mention some of the finest road racers in the world, it's a much different story.
``You have the added pressure of your son in the car,'' Wayne Taylor said. ``It never ends. I love it, sick bastard that I am.''
And why not? At age 22, Ricky Taylor is a rising star.
``There's a lot of expectations,'' Ricky said. ``Regardless of my dad, just how good this team is puts a lot of pressure on me. I have to perform, and it's expected that a top team is going to have to be at the front. I don't want to be considered as one of those drivers' sons. I don't want everybody to think I'm just here because he's my dad. I want to earn it.''
Most certainly, he has.
Taylor captured six straight poles this season, falling one shy of the series record set four years ago by Jon Fogarty, and he's led 16 straight races in DP competition, a series record.
``He's quite good. He just learns really quick,'' team manager Simon Hodgson said. ``He has the right balance of aggressiveness and patience. He knows when to put his nose in there and when to wait for the next corner. He's going to be the full package. He's the future of the team.''
Still, barring a miracle next week in the season-finale at Mid-Ohio, Taylor and teammate Max Angelelli will finish second for the second straight year to the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates duo of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas.
It seems, however, that it's only a matter of time before there's a changing of the guard.
``I think he's doing a fantastic job,'' Pruett, the only driver to win three DP titles, said of Ricky Taylor. ``It's tough competition, it really is. You need to step up and we certainly have seen that from him. By what we've seen with his qualifying and with the six-hour race he had (at Watkins Glen International), I think there's a bright future for him, for sure.''
And for Wayne Taylor's other son, 20-year-old Jordan. He and Autohaus Motosports teammate Bill Lester have their No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro at the top of the Rolex GT class.
And to think that Wayne Taylor never steered his sons to the sport he loves when they were growing up.
``I certainly didn't want them to race when they were kids,'' Wayne Taylor said. ``I just didn't want them to live in this difficult world of motor racing. I just thought I wouldn't want to go through this all over again.''
Wayne Taylor grew up in South Africa dreaming of Formula One and becoming another Sterling Moss.
``We didn't have any money to do it, so I begged, borrowed and worked hard to try and make it,'' said Taylor, who drove Formula Ford and Formula Atlantic, winning one title. ``But I realized at a certain point that that was becoming almost impossible, and I had given up everything else in my life to race. I looked at sports car racing thinking, you know, maybe there's a longer time that you could compete.''
With an offer to race in the United States, Taylor moved here with wife Shelley and 1-year-old Ricky in 1990 to keep chasing that dream. Jordan was born a year later.
``We had no family, nobody here,'' said Wayne Taylor, who won three sports car championships and twice captured the Rolex 24 at Daytona before retiring from driving four years ago. ``We started from nothing and got into this business, and so we spent all these years, just the four of us together. We're a very close family, and the two of them are incredibly close and incredibly competitive.''
And on a steep learning curve.
``We went karting for quite a few years when they were like 8 and 10, and they loved it,'' Wayne Taylor said. ``I could see straightaway that if they wanted to do it they could, but they never seemed that interested. As soon as they'd get back home, they'd be kicking the soccer ball and doing other stuff, so I was happy.''
Everything changed in a heartbeat.
``In 2003 it just clicked for me. It was all I wanted to do,'' Ricky said. ``Up until then, I was playing soccer, hockey, whatever. Not interested. It was so weird. I guess it was just the difference of doing it every now and then for fun and then thinking this is actually what I could do for a living.''
Following dad's wishes, both brothers are studying mechanical engineering in college. And when they're not hitting the books they're glued to the seat of a racing simulator, so it's probably no surprise their rise in the sport has been exponential.
``Every year it just gets bigger by multiples of 100,'' Wayne Taylor said. ``I look at their age and I look at where I was at that point, and they are so far ahead it's unbelievable.''
Ricky had to pay his dues, spending time with Beyer Racing and Doran Racing before his dad dared make an offer.
``We're a team that obviously has big commercial partnerships, so there's always that much more pressure,'' Wayne Taylor said. ``At the same time, I wasn't going to put him in a car if I didn't feel he was ready because I have a responsibility to everybody. It was pretty tough thinking, what happens if this doesn't pan out?''
Ricky Taylor made a breakthrough of sorts on a rainy day in June at the Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen at Watkins Glen International. Coming off a win at Lime Rock, Taylor won the pole, started the race and was in the cockpit at the checkered flag with the imposing Pruett barely visible in his rearview mirror. The only downside on the day was that Ricky's hard driving deprived his brother of a shot at his second win of the season (Jordan finished second in his class).
``Ricky feels he can take on Pruett now. Up until that point, he didn't know,'' Wayne Taylor said. ``I always felt that they have the ability to do this at the highest end because if I didn't I wouldn't have taken the risk. I was just surprised how quick it happened.''
``We knew the potential and the fact that he is such a good listener helped him a lot,'' Angelelli said. ``He is open to comments and advice. He listens.''
For all his initial fears, Wayne Taylor faces a much more enjoyable dilemma now.
``What's made this worse in the quick transition that they've made is that now we can't stand coming in second. It's a freaking pain, but it's been a dream, really. Incredible,'' said the proud father, who even toys with the idea of NASCAR. ``The big thing now is where do they go from here? That's the million-dollar question, I guess.''

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