What do Nelson Mandela, Gary Player and Wayne Taylor have in common? At first glance, a revolutionary political leader, a nine-time major golf champion and a wildly successful IMSA driver and team owner may not offer up many similarities beyond significant accomplishments in their respective fields, but this Sunday Taylor joins the other two, and other previously enshrined inductees, into the South African Hall of Fame.
Taylor’s accomplishments, honors and victories as an IMSA driver and team owner will be celebrated Sunday as the Hall’s sole 2019 inductee. The South African Hall of Fame was established in 2016 to enshrine forever those natives of the country who have accomplished greatness in sports, entertainment and in one special case, politics. During his racing career, Taylor was a three-time IMSA champion and won 21 races. As a team owner, he has added 30 victories, with two Rolex 24 At Daytona wins, including last month, two MOTUL Petit Le Mans victories and a win at Sebring. Those are Hall of Fame worthy credentials, and in fact, Taylor also was inducted into the Sebring Hall of Fame back in 2014. He’s one of 56 inductees since that Hall of Fame was formed in 2002. “As you know, I was inducted into the Sebring Hall of Fame, which I could understand, because it was racing, and maybe the results,” Taylor said. “But to be inducted into the entire South African Hall of Fame is pretty overwhelming and almost intimidating, to be honest, because when I asked them who’s been inducted in the past, they talked about Jody Scheckter, Nelson Mandela and Gary Player. “And then when I asked how many people were being inducted on the same evening, they said only me. Then, the guy said, ‘This is a real big deal.’” Such a big deal, that Taylor struggles to even fathom what it means. “Quite honestly, for the first time, I don’t have the words to describe this, and I know I’m going to have to stand up on stage,” he said. “Normally, I can stand anywhere and talk about racing, but this is bigger than anything else that I’ve ever got. “Obviously, South Africa was my roots, although I’m now living in America. I’ve been told there’s about 300 people coming to this function, which will be held at Sun City, which is about 90 miles north of Johannesburg. It’s a spectacular place.” Among the attendees will be his wife, Shelly, as well as his sons Ricky and Jordan, and several others. “I’ve got my parents and family flying in from all over the country,” Wayne said. “I’ve even got one of my mechanics that ran my car when I won the South African championships in 1986, so I haven’t seen him for almost 30 years. He’s coming. There are a lot of people putting in a lot of effort to be there.” The Hall of Fame induction ceremony comes less than a month after Taylor’s team won its second Rolex 24 with co-drivers Jordan Taylor, Renger van der Zande, Kamui Kobayashi and two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso in the No. 10 Cadillac DPi. In fact, the team has won each of the past two WeatherTech Championship races, as Jordan, van der Zande and past IndyCar and Indianapolis 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay won the 2018 season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. “It’s going to be nice, because we’re coming from a high,” Wayne said. “It’s going to be really nice for my family, especially my mom and my aunt, and it’ll be nice for Ricky and Jordan.” Taylor will be the fourth racing driver – joining 1984 Rolex 24 At Daytona winner Sarel van der Merwe and F1 racers Ian Scheckter and Jody Scheckter – to be inducted into the South African Hall of Fame. He’s the fifth motorsports personality, alongside the three previously mentioned drivers and F1 car designer Rory Byrne. His racing accomplishments are nothing short of impressive as he co-drove to victory twice in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, and also was a winning driver at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts and the Motul Petit Le Mans. His sports car racing career began in 1987, on the heels of taking the open-wheel South African National Drivers Championship a year earlier. Taylor’s team won the 2013 GRAND-AM Daytona Prototype title with Max Angelelli and his son, Jordan. They also won the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype title, with Jordan and his brother Ricky, as co-drivers of the team’s No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. “I got invited to South Africa at the end of last year to meet with all the motorsport people, and they were talking about who was the most successful racing driver that had left the country,” Wayne said. “I didn’t think anything of it, but I was the person they claimed. “But that was a private function and a private home. Literally, the same week, I got called by the Hall of Fame to say they’d like to induct me. They said, ‘It’s not just your race driving, it’s owning your own team and building a business out of this.’ Really, the fact is that this whole ‘living the dream’ my entire life, it all started in South Africa.” The induction ceremony will be emceed by Graham Duxbury, who was one of van der Merwe’s co-drivers in that 1984 Rolex 24 victory. It will include a four-minute video chronicling Taylor’s racing career, as well as remarks from both Jordan and Ricky. “Then, I’ll just get up and say what I have to say,” Wayne said. “I’m not sure what I’m going to say after that because I’ll say that everything has been said already. “It’s pretty exciting and overwhelming for me, to be honest. I’ve never in my life in racing ever even thought about being inducted into a Hall of Fame. It was never part of what I thought of. I guess I just don’t feel worthy of such an honor.” Taylor’s record as a driver and team owner, however, suggests otherwise.