In the span of four years, Taylor Hagler has gone from her first racing experience in Spec Miata to the podium in GT World Challenge America.
After years of showing horses, Hagler decided to use a gift certificate to the Skip Barber Racing School that her father had in 2015. The following year she did the advanced school, and at the end of 2017 started racing Spec Miata, which she carried through 2018. Because she was racing with Chris Haldeman’s X-Factor Racing, when Haldeman ventured into SRO’s TC America TCA category with a fleet of Honda Civic Is machines for 2019, Hagler jumped on board. A season of TCA racing, followed by a year in a Civic Type R TCR car in IMSA Pilot Challenge, led to an opportunity to participate in the Honda Performance Development GT3 Academy.
“The Honda GT3 Academy is a really great thing,” she explains. “It’s not really a beginner’s auto racing school — it’s more for people that are already in the sport. It helps you develop and hone your skills a lot more and teaches you more about communicating with engineers, driver changes, in- and out-laps, pit stops … it really focuses more on the endurance style of racing. And we are obviously able to drive bigger, faster cars at better tracks, and get used to driving a car that has all these little tweaks and things that drivers can mess with. I think it’s a really good thing that Honda is doing and since I was a Honda driver, it was their inaugural year and they wanted people that were already driving with them, I kind of had an in.”
Hagler is partnering with two other GT3 Academy graduates — former U.S. Formula 4 champion and IMSA Prototype Challenge veteran Dakota Dickerson and FR Americas veteran Jacob Abel — in the No. 93 Racer’s Edge Acura NSX GT3 Evo. Hagler and Dickerson scored two Pro-Am third-place finishes in their GT World Challenge America debut at Sonoma Raceway, but she and Abel had some struggles at Circuit of The Americas.
“We had a really good opening weekend at Sonoma with double podiums. The COTA weekend was a really big learning curve. The track wasn’t the same any day or any session, so I was able to learn a lot about the Acura. The first race was really good — to start dry then get a little bit damp to full wet while still on slicks, I learned a lot from that,” she says.
The GT3 Academy drivers are getting help on race weekends from factory pilots Ricky Taylor and Ryan Eversley. Not only is Eversley providing some coaching help, but last season he co-drove with Hagler in Michelin Pilot Challenge, where Hagler scored a pole and the pair a second-place finish at Mid-Ohio.
“From the first time we started working together a few years ago, Taylor impressed me,” Eversley says. “We did a test at Road Atlanta with a TCR car, and on her third flying lap she was flat through the Esses and I knew she was going to be a strong teammate. Although we’re now competitors in TCR, we’re still working together in SRO GT3 and she’s been gaining more and more confidence each race. I was so proud of her at Sonoma, where she got her first GT3 podium alongside Dakota Dickerson and showed what she’s capable of with GT3 machinery.”
Hagler says the coaching she has received from Taylor and Eversley has been invaluable. The drivers are helping each other as well — Hagler says she’s been able to work with Abel on some of the endurance aspects of the sport, and Dickerson’s experience in all sorts of machinery has helped her progress. She hopes to challenge for the Pro-Am championship this season, and wants to be a factory endurance sports car driver. The latter is a goal that she seems well on her way to achieving if early results are any indication.
“I’m looking forward to watching her develop this year,” says Eversley. “I’m really proud of the racer she’s becoming.”