by Larry Barnett May 6/18©
I recently learned that Brian Pillar works in Engineering for Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR). His Shop Duty is Technical Director and Pit Stop Duty is Race Strategy. WTR competes in the prestigious IMSA/WeatherTech Sportscar Championship. The shop is located in Brownsburg, Indiana is just north west of Indianapolis. WTR is the reigning champion and has been a very successful team! They won the Rolex24 at Daytona last year with retired NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon. Since taking over as WTR Technical Director in 2011, he has engineered the team to 23 wins, 45 podium finishes, 21 pole positions and two series championships (2013 and 2017) in seven full seasons. He’s also engineered victories at the most iconic races in the series – Rolex 24 At Daytona, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
In 2017, WTR finished 2nd at this year’s 12 Hours of Sebring (Florida) in March. In April, they earned another podium finish at Long Beach, CA. The team’s major/primary sponsor is Konica Minolta.
Brian is a good ol’ Ontario boy. He was born in Barrie and his hometown was Alliston. He is a Queen’s University (Kingston, ON) Mechanical Engineering graduate. Brian is 39, married and has 2 sons.
I researched WTR and caught up recently with Brian via telephone. I found Brian very smart, candid, friendly and open.
LB: Brian, thank you for agreeing to do this interview. How did you start in racing?
BP: No problem. I was on the Tech team at Alliston’s Banting High School which entered an electric car race at Queen’s University. Next, I attended Queen’s, where I joined their Formula SAE team. We designed, built, and raced a spec university open wheel racer. After graduating, I worked at a racing school in Quebec. Then, I worked for various teams, including Formula 2000, Pirelli World Challenge, etc. I joined WTR in December 2007.
LB: How did you land MY dream job?
BP: I worked for “peanuts” when I started. I persevered. I networked. I got an American work visa. It paid off. I’m really happy today.
LB: I’ve briefly met Wayne twice. Both times he was very affable. Wayne was a very successful sportscar racer and is currently successful as an owner. What’s he like as a person? As an Owner?
BP: In answer to both, he’s passionate, motivating, light-hearted, and excited to win. His perspective is to win! He has a great team! He is very well connected with manufacturers and sponsors.
LB: Briefly describe your duties in the shop and at the track?
BP: Shop: design (CAD) and troubleshooting.
Track: be time sensitive; work with drivers (feedback on the car’s “behaviour”); interpretation of telemetry data; preparation; be flexible; and make very quick decisions (based on weather; team input; driver input; competitor’s actions, etc.).
LB: Wayne’s oldest son and driver, Ricky, left before this season for the rival Team Penske. Wayne’s younger son, Jordan also drives and stayed. He is now teamed with Dutchman, Renger van der Zande. and Indycar’s American, Ryan Hunter-Reay (Daytona, Sebring, at the 10 hour, season finale Petit LeMans at Road Atlanta,in October). What impact has that had on this season?
BP:1st, the team is proud of Ricky. We were happy he got the chance to drive for Team Penske. Our team has no big egos. We are lucky with his replacement, Renger, who’s driving style is like Ricky’s.
LB: Is there a big difference between the previous Corvette Prototype, and the current Dallara Cadillac DPI-V.R prototype?
BP: The outgoing Corvette chassis design was 7 years old, and was getting long in the tooth. The new Cadillac has more downforce.
LB:What does the Cadillac DPI-V.R cost?
BP: The cost is capped. $600k USD for a roller (chassis, minus the leased engine).
LB: Describe some of its specs (HP; top speed; weight; etc.)
BP: The 6.2L Cadillac normally aspirated V8 engine is 530-600 HP, maximum/limited to 7,600 RPM. Limited speed at Daytona is 200 mph. Testing: we can reach 217 mph. Weight: 2050 lbs./930 kgs.; X-TRAC paddle-shift transmission. The series has a Balance of Performance. This limits things like horsepower and RPM’s. That’s why the racing is so close for the fans. We’re in the entertainment business.
LB:What is a typical 1 year budget of a WeatherTech Prototype team?
BP: I’d guess, between $3 and $4 million USD. We have 2 transporters, and 2 spare cars. It costs roughly $200 USD per lap to run the car, regardless of practice, qualifying, or racing.
LB: That’s close to $162,000 USD grand to complete the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and $70,000 USD for their win at Sebring this year!
LB: I assume our local two hour and forty-minute Mosport race (July 6-8/18) will be a busy week for you. Please describe it.
BP: We’ll be coming straight from the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen race. I’ll get the car ready, and focus on winning at Mosport.
LB: My advice the budding drivers: brings LOTS of money! In my day, my great crew worked for free entry to pro races; free food and beer. I once crewed for the late Mike Allen’s Lola CanAm team at Mosport. While I didn’t get paid, it was very rewarding…and exhausting “work.” You have a family to support. What advice can you give to a young, budding person who’d like to enter the sport in a support role as a career?
BP: Volunteer. Get your expenses covered. Develop your mechanical and engineering experience.
LB: NHRA’s John Force Racing is across the street. Why is WTR based in the Indianapolis area?
BP: Most North American racing teams are based there, or Charlotte, North Carolina.
BP: That’s where the resources are.
LB: How does the team get to most races? Obviously, the car is trucked.
BP: We fly to further events, and drive to shorter distance ones.
LB: I’ve been to five Rolex 24’s at Daytona. It is your only 24-hour event. I can’t stay up for the whole 24 hours, can you?
BP: Yes, both Wayne and I stay awake. It’s so intense! Adrenalin helps. So does caffeine.
LB: Thank you Brian for doing this interview! Have a safe trip this week to Watkins Glen, NY. You’re testing and preparing for the 6 Hour race there on Canada Day weekend. Good luck for the rest of this season, & especially at the Mosport round of the championship! You won there in 2015! Final question: Are you related to the Toronto Blue Jays’ centre fielder, Kevin Pillar?
• I’ll follow up on the WTR team’s 2018 progress, and results, monthly. As we go to print, Ricky Taylor just earned his 1st win for Team Penske! This took place at the Mid-Ohio sportscar track, near Mansfield/Lexington, Ohio. He co-drove with 3 time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves. WTR qualified fifth,. They brought home a solid fifth. Currently, they’re third in the championship. Next race is Detroit, on June 1-2, 2018. Then, Watkins Glen 6 hour-June 28 to Jul 01, 2018.
• I plan to attend the July 8, 2018 Mosport race.
Story and photo by Larry Barnett. Photos supplied by John Larsen-Photograffics, and Brian Cleary (WTR)