Q&A: Protoype Racing Star Jordan Taylor Talks Karting with K1 Speed
In his first ten years of sports car racing, 27-year-old Jordan Taylor has won his class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, has won overall at the 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring, and Petit Le Mans, and has scored three overall wins at Long Beach, two at Detroit, all in addition to several other victories.
With the exception of Le Mans (where he raced as a factory Corvette driver), Jordan shared every victory with his team owner and ex-racer father, Wayne Taylor, and teammate brother Ricky Taylor at Wayne Taylor Racing. Together, they also won the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Prototype Championship in the Cadillac 6.2L V8 DPi-V.R racecar.
2018 presents a unique challenge for the Taylor brothers as brother Ricky was drafted in to partner ex-Indycar racer Helio Castroneves in the new Acura Team Penske prototype effort, thus pitching the two brothers against each other for the first time in years.
Here’s our interview prior to the Long Beach Grand Prix weekend where we talked karting and car racing with the impressive young racer.
K1 Speed: When was the first time you drove a go-kart? Do you remember how old you were, and was that your introduction to racing?
Jordan Taylor: Yeah, it was. I think I was probably eight years old when I first got into karting. My brother and I shared a go-kart. We bought one that had full bodywork on it, it was really goofy looking. It didn’t fit in with the rest of the field, but it was fun for us. It was just a hobby to begin with, just to go out for a couple weekends a year. And once my dad retired from racing, we put some more focus on it. That’s kind of when we fell in love with it and got into some serious karting.
K1S: Do you remember your first professional kart race and how it went?
JT: Uhh, I don’t think it went well! (laughs) I don’t think the first couple of years didn’t go very well. When I first got into karting, I didn’t wear glasses. And we didn’t know that I couldn’t see where I was going. So it always took me about half a day to actually figure out where the track went, and then I was probably pretty erratic and probably pretty dangerous, but yeah, the first few years were pretty rough!
K1S: What were your biggest go-kart racing accomplishments?
JT: Karting? Ooh, there weren’t many. Nothing to brag about in karting. I had one national pole in Stars of Karting at Newcastle, finished second in the Florida Winter Tour (ROK Cup USA) in Rotax Junior. But other than that, I don’t think karting was the greatest for us.
K1S: Do you still race karts today, though, as a form of practice and to stay sharp?
JT: Yeah, I’ve got a shifter kart now, so I go out as much as I can. It’s still probably the best thing you can do for training for a racecar driver. I mean, you can go to the gym all you want, and you can go running or cycling, but nothing really trains you or prepares you as much as karting does. And not just physically, because it’s super demanding, but muscle memory, and getting yourself in sync with the kart. It helps you a ton for car racing as well.
K1S: Right, gotcha. So, you think those were probably the biggest takeaways from karting then as you progressed into the upper tiers?
JT: Yeah, I think it trains you and gives you the basics. You know, braking, shifting in a shifter kart, accelerations, cornering, and understanding how to maximize the tires and the limit of everything. So, you’ve gotta be pushing very hard in a go-kart to get the maximum out of it, and when you get into a racecar, it’s almost like you have to tone that down a bit you can’t be as aggressive with it. So, it teaches you to maximize that, so when you get into a racecar it’s actually a little easier because you have to calm yourself down a little bit. It’s not as intense and on the limit the whole time, so it’s a great training tool.
K1S: Now, we’ll step away from karting for some general questions. Let’s start with this: what’s your favorite track to race at?
JT: Cars, it’s Road Atlanta. Go karts, it’s a place called Shawano in Wisconsin.
K1S: If you could drive any racecar from the past, which would it be?
JT: I think the Intrepid GTP car in the early 90s.. (Chevrolet Intrepid RM-1 : no surprise here, as it’s one of his father’s ex-racecars)
K1S: Ah yeah, the old IMSA days..
JT: Yeah, those were probably my favorite era.
K1S: What is your daily driver?
JT: Uh, a truck.. and I just got a CTS-V, the Cadillac.
K1S: What’s your favorite vehicle in your garage?
JT: Well, I’d say the Cadillac. It’s hard to beat a Cadillac CTS-V. 640 horsepower.
K1S: Ha, exactly! Did you have any racing heroes growing up that inspired you?
JT: My dad, obviously. And then Max Angelelli was my dad’s teammate for all those years. We kinda grew up with him, so he was sort of as a mentor as well.
K1S: Yeah, definitely. Now what would you say to a young racer that’s just been to K1 Speed for the first time, who’s starting to get into it, and thinking that racing might be a career option – what would you recommend to them?
JT: I think just enjoy it, have fun, but at the same time use it as a training tool where you’re trying to maximize it. And understand all the fundamentals you’re going through with braking and cornering and understanding different lines, and how if you turn in early, how that’s going to affect your exit. If you turn in late, how it’s going to affect your exit. So, karting is the same thing we’re doing, it’s just on a different scale, but you can still learn the same exact things we’re doing out on the racetrack.
Jordan went on to race his brother Ricky on the streets of Long Beach at the same time on-track for the first time this season. After some intense wheel-to-wheel racing, Jordan came out on top in the final minutes and finished the race third, making it his fourth consecutive Long Beach podium in the IMSA event.