Joao Barbosa admitted that the new Mustang Sampling/JDC combination had initially only targeted scoring a few podium finishes in its entire first season together as a team, although now heads into the third round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season as potential title contenders.
The Minnesota-based team, which brought on ex-Action Express driver Barbosa, sporting director Christian Fittipaldi and title sponsor Mustang Sampling for the 2020 season, has produced third place results in both the Rolex 24 at Daytona and recent WeatherTech 240, with Barbosa and co-driver Sebastien Bourdais showing impressive pace and consistency.
The pairing, who won the 2015 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with Fittipaldi, head into this weekend’s Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring tied for second in the DPi points standings.
“It’s definitely a great start of the season,” said Barbosa. “When we were putting a plan together for this year, our goal was to get a couple of podiums during the season and we would be pretty happy and be consistently competitive.
“Starting with two podiums in the [Rolex] 24 hours and this last race was really good because we knew we were very competitive compared to pretty much everybody.
“We were one of the fastest Cadillacs and I think it was a great performance from the whole Mustang Sampling Cadillac JDC team.
“Things are going a little bit faster than what we expected, results-wise.”
Barbosa said the John Church-run operation is motivated to “attack more” and set their sights on making further inroads on the DPi competition.
“All of the effort is right there and I think we’re going to have some more great races this year,” he said.
“Definitely, when we started putting the plan together, we knew there are so many good, competitive teams and cars, and teams with a lot more experience with the Cadillac.
“I wouldn’t say it’s been a surprise but it’s been a good feeling to be able to competitive right way and I think there’s a lot more to come.”
Barbosa, who spent ten years at Action Express where he claimed three Rolex 24 wins and two WeatherTech Championship titles, has credited Fittipaldi in being a key figure in helping put their new deal with JDC-Miller together, along with Mustang Sampling owners Ken and Brenda Thompson.
While the car sports a near identical livery to last year, only Barbosa, Fittipaldi and tire technician Peter Tselekis made the move from AXR.
“Not a lot of people had transferred from one team to the other,” Barbosa said. “But JDC already had great people working with them. It was just a question of putting everyone in the same direction and with the same goal.
“Obviously Action Express was very successful and is one of the top teams in the series for sure.
“But I believe with JDC and the direction we’re going is also very good. I think now we’re just taking a slightly different approach of what we were doing at Action Express.”
Bourdais: “Every Weekend is Going to Be a Bit of Discovery”
Bourdais, who is set to take on his first full WeatherTech Championship season after previous Endurance Cup roles with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing and AXR, echoed Barbosa’s sentiments about the early season races.
“We knew the car was going be competitive it was just up to us to figure it out quick and elevate the game,” he said.
“You’ve got Wayne Taylor and the Action Express car; those guys have been working with that car for for quite some time and they’ve been strong they don’t achieve those results by luck, they definitely earn it.
“On the other side, you’re going up against Team Penske, which has full support from Acura and the Mazdas that are very much a manufacturer team.
“It’s quite a stable position and I’m glad that so far we’ve been able to do that.
“The first [race] was more [about] consistency, the team executing and nobody making any mistakes. Earning that podium was super sweet.
“A couple of weeks ago was a bit different but we got it.
“It was great to see the improvements we had on the car made a difference and allowed us to fight for something a bit more on pace.
“Every weekend is going to be a bit of a discovery.
“I certainly feel like Sebring is place, having gone testing and making some improvements for that particular track, that hopefully it translates into good pace and a result.”