GRAND-AM 2013 Rolex championships were shared by veterans, youth, newcomer and privateer.
Jordan Taylor and Max Angelelli didn't win all the races during the 2013 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series season.
It just seemed that way – particularly when the championship was on the line.
The pair proved that while consistent finishes can pay dividends, victories – five in all – can erase sub-par performances.
And that's exactly what the drivers of the No. 10 Velocity World Wide Corvette DP did. The pair broke out of what had been a tight, multi-driver and multi-team battle that included former Rolex Series champions Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty by winning the season's final three races at Kansas Speedway, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Lime Rock Park.
Their final points tally was 13 over the defending titleholders Pruett and Rojas, who captured the DP team title for the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Riley/BMW. Ganassi's team recorded its seventh GRAND-AM title – a record set to stand forever with the sanctioning body's merger into the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
"This is bittersweet," Pruett said. "You hate to see it end – even though there's a new beginning ahead. At least no one can break our records."
The Ganassi outfit was the season's most consistent – two wins and seven podium finishes over the year's 12 races.
Pruett and Rojas won the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, sharing the No. 01 car with Ganassi's IndyCar drivers Charlie Kimball and Juan Pablo Montoya. Taylor and Angelelli, paired for the first time in 2013, came in second with 2012 IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay's able assistance.
As the series moved to Texas for its first visit to Circuit of The Americas, the Wayne Taylor outfit learned that there was no direct route to the head table at the Champions banquet at New York's Gotham Hall. They ran 10th in Austin, rebounded with a victory at Barber Motorsports Park, were sixth at Road Atlanta and topped the podium once again at Detroit's Belle Isle street circuit.
Mid-summer brought frustration: sixth at Mid-Ohio, 10th at Watkins Glen, 15th at Indianapolis and seventh at Road America – obviously a journey in the wrong direction.
Taylor changed the conversation by holding off the veteran Pruett in a nail-biting final stint at Kansas then repeated the feat in Monterey. He and Angelelli, who won the 2005 title with Jordan's father, Wayne Taylor, went to Lime Rock with the lead and posted the organization's fourth DP win at the 1.5-mile, seven-turn road course. The victory was the 26th for Angelelli.
"It all came down to the team," said Taylor, at 22 years of age the DP category's youngest champion. "Every time we won a race … they got us out of the pits with great track position. All we had to do was keep everyone behind us."
And for three magical weekends, that's exactly what they did.
While a veteran team prevailed in DP, the opposite occurred in the GT class where Scuderia Corsa and Alessandro Balzan went from pre-season obscurity to the championship. The Beverly Hills, Calif.-headquartered team, a frequent Ferrari Challenge entrant, ran just two Rolex Series events in 2012.
And unlike DP, the championship was a come-from-behind affair decided by 10 points.
Scuderia Corsa, down four points to 2012 North American Endurance Champion Magnus Racing entering the Lime Rock round, ran a solid second with Balzan and Leh Keen sharing the controls of the No. 63 Ferrari 458 Italia. Magnus' No. 44 Porsche GT3 fell behind solving mechanical issues due to contact early in the race and finished 13th – a bitter pill after Andy Lally and John Potter scored a dramatic victory weeks earlier in Monterey.
"This is crazy for me to get the championship in the first year for Scuderia Corsa," said Balzan. "And (to win) in the last year of the Rolex Series is really magical."
Balzan won just once – in Kansas – but finished all but one race sixth or better. The team was fourth in its first Rolex 24 and posted podium finishes six times including seconds at Barber, Belle Isle and Lime Rock.
Veterans John Edwards and the UK's Robin Liddell can only look back on a season that might have been save for a pair of 15th-place finishes at Daytona and Circuit of The Americas. The pair proceeded to reel off three consecutive victories – and four out of five – in the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. They finished 11 points off the championship in third, unable to secure a podium after running second at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in late July.
A new class – GX– was created for the 2013 season. It boiled down to a battle between the Porsche Cayman of BGB Motorsports and a pair of SKYACTIV-D Clean Diesel Mazda6 sedans fielded by veteran Mazda partner SpeedSource.
Dr. Jim Norman won GX's first three races at Daytona, Circuit of The Americas and Barber then finished with nine consecutive second places to capture what will be the class's first and only championship.
SpeedSource's Joel Miller was second, 13 points behind Norman with five wins on the books while co-drivers Sylvain Tremblay and Tom Long were third, also 13 points behind Norman but only four wins this season.
"We ran hard in every single race," Norman said. "BGB Motorsports is a small team and we went out and beat the factory team. It was really an honor to race against Mazda – they're a class act."