When it comes to the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, no IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship team in the Prototype class can match the record of Action Express Racing.
Beginning in 2012, when Joao Barbosa and Darren Law co-drove the team’s No. 9 Corvette DP to the victory in what was then a GRAND-AM race, Action Express has four overall victories in the six-hour race. Three of those victories – 2013, 2016 and 2017 – included co-drivers Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi.
Last year’s win also included Filipe Albuquerque, who filled out the team’s Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup lineup in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R. And every year since 2012, at least one Action Express car has finished on the podium in the Six Hours.
“I don’t know,” replied Fittipaldi when asked what it was about The Glen that works so well for the team. “Us as professionals, we’re supposed to treat every race exactly the same, either being on the team side or the driver side. But sometimes, I have to admit, there are some tracks that maybe fancy the teams and the drivers a little bit more than others.”
He’s hoping the track will fancy a somewhat different-looking lineup in the No. 5 Cadillac DPi this weekend.
Fittipaldi has moved from being one of the full-time drivers to the role of sporting director for the team, while also serving as the endurance driver in the No. 5 car.
Albuquerque has effectively traded roles with Fittipaldi this year, becoming a full-time driver alongside Barbosa.
However, Barbosa was recently injured in a bicycle accident and will not be able to compete this weekend at The Glen, so the team has enlisted the services of IndyCar driver Gabby Chaves, who last raced a WeatherTech Championship Prototype car in 2015, to join the lineup this weekend.
“It’s not ideal, what we’re going through,” Albuquerque admitted. “It’s a shame for Joao not to be contesting with the experience that he has, but we’ll deal with the situation. It’s good to have Gabby now in the car. He knows Watkins Glen from IndyCar and he just needs to get used to the DPi.
“I think he will manage that quite easily, because it’s not miles away from an IndyCar. It’s still an aerodynamic car and it responds very well to the ride heights and the wings that we have on the car. Christian, obviously, is pretty fast there at Watkins Glen as well. Gabby is using the same seat insert as me, so it’s going to be even easier. How we are improvising, I think we are in good shape.”
Although he’s now going it alone, so to speak, Albuquerque is in very good shape in the Prototype championship standings.
The Portuguese driver is currently tied for the lead with teammates Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi, as the second half of the season kicks off this weekend.
“I wasn’t expecting us to be so close after half a championship,” Albuquerque said. “It’s very interesting that the whole team has great momentum and a great level. In my experience, normally in a team you don’t have two cars so well positioned, but Action Express is doing a tremendous job by having two cars with a really high level up there with great pit stops and great strategy.”
Both Albuquerque and Fittipaldi agree that it’s going to take all of that to keep the team atop the leaderboard, and to continue its run of success at Watkins Glen.
“Definitely, we need to try and score as many points as possible,” Fittipaldi said. “In order to score as many points as possible, the best solution is to win the race. So, for sure we’re going to try our very best, but competition is going to be very fierce, as it has been since the beginning of the year.
“Everyone that has tuned into IMSA racing this year has seen that, since we got the green flag in Daytona, it’s been really competitive. We’re going to try our very best. Our motto hasn’t changed. ‘Expect to Win’ is still the motto, and let’s see what we can get out of it this weekend.”