IMSA: The Axe Announces Curtain Call; Angelelli To Retire After Rolex 24

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Max Angelelli has announced his retirement from sports car racing following this month’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. (Richard Dole/ LAT Photo USA for IMSA photo)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Veteran sports car driver Max Angelelli announced Friday that he will retire after the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona.

A longtime stalwart with Wayne Taylor Racing, Max “the Axe” is back with the same team, along with full-season drivers and brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor, as well as four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon, who is making a special Rolex 24 appearance and co-drove with Angelelli in 2007.

Angelelli, 50, could go out on top – Wayne Taylor Racing is considered a favorite, based in part on extensive pre-season testing.

However, the Italian admitted that it took a lot of nudging from longtime team owner and former teammate Wayne Taylor before he agreed to come back for one final ride at the track where he was victorious 12 years ago, during the 2005 Rolex 24.

“I wanted to do it earlier,” Angelelli told Sportscar365. “Wayne convinced me to do Daytona for the very last time because he knows me very well and he knows how much I’m attached to Daytona as a race, as a track, as everything.”

“This is where everything started and this is where everything will end for me as a driver. I made my name here, starting in Daytona, and now I’m going to greet the people and say goodbye in Daytona. I think it’s good. I thank Wayne for pushing me to do Daytona one more time.”

Angelelli will remain active with the team as a a co-owner, as well as a link between WTR, Dallara and Cadillac, the manufacturer for the team’s new DPi program in 2017.

“I don’t know of any other driver pairing that’s lasted as long as Max and I did, even though he was the most difficult teammate! We get on so well, I’ve put up with his nonsense!” Taylor told Sportscar365. “Not only did we drive together but he became a partner in the program and has helped a lot with the kids. He will still be working with us and be [a link] between Cadillac and Dallara. He’ll still be at all the races.”

Taylor said he has yet to finalize the team’s third driver for the Twelve Hours of Sebring fueled by Fresh From Florida, alongside full-season pilots Ricky and Jordan Taylor.

Angelelli got his racing start in 1987, driving in the Italian Formula Alfa Boxer series. He won his only professional championship in 1992, topping the Italian Formula 3 Series before moving through Europe and Asia, eventually landing in the American Le Mans Series from 1999 to 2002.

The Axe first linked up with WTR in 2004, competing full-time for a full decade in the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series and winning two championships (2005, 2013) in the premier Prototype class.

In all, Angelelli has 27 victories and 73 podium finishes in 143 North American sports car starts between 1999 and 2016.

He also has five 24 Hours of Le Mans starts on his professional resume, with a best overall finish of ninth in his final Le Mans start in 2002.

Angelelli competed with Wayne Taylor during the final season of the Crown Royal International Race of Champions (IROC) series in 2006, marking the first time that two drivers had attempted to win the IROC championship as a pair and only the second time in series history that sports car drivers were invited to participate in the 12-car field.

IMSA Communications contributed to this report.

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