DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — As long as he doesn’t get Andretti Global onto the Formula 1 circuit — which seems like a distant goal at this stage — Michael Andretti has turned his attention to other areas to expand his racing sports.
First up is Andretti Autosport’s debut at this weekend’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. Teaming up with IMSA stalwart Wayne Taylor Racing gave Andretti a top GTP class grid position in North America’s most prestigious sports car race and an eventual chance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“We all know that one thing that’s missing from our racing mix is IMSA sports car competition,” Andretti said ahead of the two-season enduro race that begins Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.
The partnership with Wayne Taylor was announced in December and although both teams say talks were quick and the deal closed, it was a bit of a surprise considering Andretti has been focused on building an F1 team. His failed attempt to buy the existing F1 team in 2021 led Andretti to petition the governing body, the FIA, to widen the grid to allow him access to two cars.
Existing teams have strongly opposed Andretti’s request, and F1 has only repeatedly stated that Andretti is not the only one interested in forming an F1 team. Andretti’s latest positioning is a deal announced with General Motors that will pair him with the top U.S. automaker.
The partnership with GM and Andretti’s name theoretically make Andretti’s bid more attractive as F1 hosts three races in the United States in 2023
But while he waited, Andretti continued to build his empire. Late last year, he broke ground in Indiana on the state-of-the-art facility that Wayne Taylor will move into.
Andretti is off to a busy year at Daytona Speedway as his father, Mario Andretti, becomes only four drivers in history to win both the Daytona 500 and Rolex 24 one. Michael Andretti has driven a Rolex three times in his career; Taylor has won a Rolex twice in his career as a driver and four times as team owner, most recently in 2021.
After the Rolex wraps up, Michael Andretti will move to California next week for IndyCar testing as IMSA plans to expand the Andretti brand to seven different racing series in 2023. That figure doesn’t include Andretti’s young son, who was developing the program for the late Dan Wheldon’s two racers.
This weekend alone, Andretti will send 12 different drivers to the Rolex race at Daytona and two drivers to the Formula E race in Saudi Arabia.
Is there such a thing as spreading too thin? Andretti shook his head vigorously when asked by The Associated Press if he had been in too many series.
“I don’t believe that,” Andretti said. “I believe if you have the right people in the right positions, it will only help the overall effort. I think a lot of what they’re doing here will help our IndyCar program and our Formula E program and vice versa. Of course.
“I just feel like we’re strengthening ourselves and not spreading ourselves too thin. If you try to use the same people on every project, you are, but we’re looking for the right people.”
An Andretti representative estimated that the motorsport program currently has 157 employees, with Wayne Taylor adding 30 through the merger. As IMSA transitioned to hybrid power this year, Taylor focused on Andretti resources.
Taylor had some initial conversations with Andretti, but he picked up the pace of the conversation when he saw other teams during testing of the new car.
“I was walking up and down the pit and thinking, ‘What the hell am I going to do here? We need to take it to the next level. I called Michael and said, ‘I think I’m ready for this partnership, ‘” Taylor said. “We just feel like we need a partnership with someone who can bring a lot of benefits. Even though we’ve been in sports car racing longer than them, they have a major asset that will help us and help us in terms of people and technology.
“And, it’s been really great working with Michael and the rest of the guys and drivers so far, and really excited about the long-term future.”
Part of the goal of merging the two organizations was to help Taylor expand into two-car factory teams — Wayne Taylor Racing and Michael Shank Racing ushered in a new IMSA era of hybrid engines, with factory Acura teams each having one car — and gaining Le mango. The GTP class was overhauled this year to allow teams to qualify for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but Acura has said it won’t be ready until 2024.
Still, that’s exactly where Andretti plans to be as soon as possible. Both he and his father were on the podium at Le Mans, while Taylor won the class as a driver, noting that this is a major race that WTR as an organization has yet to win.
“One hundred percent. Le Mans is definitely our target,” said Andretti. “With our new partnership with Andretti global, our aim is to participate in every major motorsport event in the world. Obviously, Le Mans is one of the big companies. So in the future, we definitely want to be a part of there member.”
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