There’s a revolution taking place. You might have heard of it, and have probably played an active part in it. That’s right, we’re talking about the social media revolution; the ability to broadcast to the world what we think and see in real time, made possible by popular apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Periscope.
Social media is playing an ever-greater role in the way modern-day motorsport is consumed, with fans now able to tune into drivers and team’s official feeds for unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to their heroes. You’ll know the score by now, but when it comes to acing social media, few have hit the Holy Grail in quite the same way as Corvette Racing’s Jordan Taylor.
In many respects, the Orlando 24 year-old is everything the modern generation’s racing driver should be, marrying success on track with a dedicated social media following off it. From raising over $13,000 for kids summer camps by cutting off his 18-month old mullet, amusing his Instagram followers by making up stories about his many travel companions using #JTFacial, starring in music videos and taking requests on Snapchat for popular music to lip-sync, Taylor has perfected the art of engaging with fans in a manner that helps motorsport remain relevant to a new generation of consumers.
But ask the man himself, and Taylor is typically modest about the impact of his social media persona.
“If you had asked me five years ago whether I’d be this outgoing with things, I would have said no way, it’s just not like my personality,” he says. “I think if people meet me in person, they’ll find me to be way different than I’m seen on social media. I’m a lot quieter and actually pretty shy, but I think it’s a good way to show the fun side of someone and what they’re like away from the racetrack. I try to show people more of my home life and I think they really appreciate that because they can relate to it a lot easier than if I just posted race car pictures all the time.
Indeed, one of the stars of the show is his faithful companion, Fonzie, who helps indulge Taylor’s impressively active imagination.
“They’re almost always spontaneous, if I try to think of something it never comes out as good,” Taylor says. “Recently I had a guy unfollow me on Twitter and say goodbye to me, so I started writing the response in my head and five minutes later I had a new post – that’s usually how it happens, it just comes to my mind and the rest is history.”
Since becoming the final Grand-Am series champion in 2013 before its merger with the ALMS, Taylor has stepped up another level in his driving and played a key role in Corvette Racing’s eighth triumph at the Le Mans 24 Hours last June alongside team-mates Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner. This on-track success, Taylor argues, is reflected in the growth of his social media reach, which now encompasses over 17,000 Twitter followers and a further 13,000 on Instagram.
“When I won the Grand-Am championship, it was the first major thing I’d won in my career; I’d finished second at the 24 Hour of Daytona, second at Sebring, second at Petit Le Mans and second in the GT championship in 2011, so it was such a relief to finally win something and get that down on my CV,” he says. “After that was kind of when my social media started going more positively, because I was a lot more easy-going and more relaxed around the racetrack, which translated into a lot of things in my personal life as well.
A photo posted by Jordan Taylor (@jordan10taylor) on
“The Le Mans win was probably a bigger deal though – especially since we only had one car in the race, all the eyes were on us. It was a huge undertaking for the team to all get behind that one car, it’s never been done before, so to come away with the win was hugely emotional – I’ve never really been emotional after a race before, but Le Mans is the only race I ever dreamed about as a young guy, so to win it at somewhat of an early age was a little overwhelming.”
Next on Taylor’s bucket list is the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, a race his father Wayne won on two occasions in 1996 and 2005 and the first race on the newly re-named Weathertech SportsCar Championship calendar. Gunning for outright victory in the Wayne Taylor Corvette DP, Taylor will share with younger brother Ricky and veteran Max Angelelli, who was part of the victorious SunTrust Racing line-up in 2005.
“I remember saying to dad, we won Petit Le Mans a couple of years ago, we won Le Mans last year, the next two on my list are Daytona and Sebring, where I’ve finished second twice in both of them,” says Taylor, for whom 2016 will be his ninth crack at winning a Rolex.
“Everybody has to be on their game the whole time – you can get in the car at 2am on cold tyres and you’ve got to be ready to go, you need your team behind you on the radio and your spotter keeping you up to date with everything that’s going on. It’s a huge team effort.
“You work for months for this one race and the smallest thing can take you out of the race; a mechanical failure, a driver error, a mechanic error, someone else on the track, it can be anything. I think in the past three years we’ve done every lap and not gone behind the pitwall, so we’ve had a good run going and hopefully the team can keep that going. We know the car will be reliable and hopefully Max, Ricky and myself can have a clean drive as well.”
Oliver Gavin on Jordan Taylor, the racing driver
Jordan is a fantastic character to have in the team. He brings an awful lot of young, bubbly energy and he has a very fun, jokey way about him, but I think one of his real strengths is he knows when to switch that off and focus on the job in hand. He has a good brain, he’s a really bright lad who can pull himself away from doing one thing to being serious and focusing on what the team needs to do to achieve results.
When Jordan first came to Corvette Racing, you could see he was thrown in at the deep end a little bit with not much experience at Le Mans; he had an incident where he crashed the car on the test day and for the next couple of years, he really was working hard to wipe away the memory of what happened on that day. I think last year was when we saw the real Jordan, who could deliver every time he got in the car and who didn’t have any of that baggage left over from that accident. That can be the real challenge of Le Mans – you can have an incident or a crash and as a driver it’s about being able to wipe that from your mind and continue to compete there at the highest level.
Jordan has a really good skill-set, and I think that’s one of the reasons why Corvette Racing have seen him as a future star; I say future, but he’s a star right now in his own right. As he grows into his role at Corvette Racing, I’m sure he’ll be somebody in and around the Corvette Racing setup for a very, very long time.