Joao Barbosa will be looking to continue two different winning streaks when the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship returns to action this weekend at Mid-Ohio.
Sunday’s Acura Sports Car Challenge marks the return of IMSA competition to the historic Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the first time since a GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series race in 2013.
When the green flag drops, Barbosa will not only be looking for his second consecutive WeatherTech Championship victory and third in four races this season alongside co-driver Filipe Albuquerque he will also be chasing his second straight Mid-Ohio win, after taking the GRAND-AM win in 2013 alongside Christian Fittipaldi in Action Express Racing’s Corvette DP. (pictured above).
“I’m really looking forward to going to Mid-Ohio,” Barbosa said. “It’s a great racetrack. Obviously, it was a shame when the track got out of the schedule. I think a lot of drivers really like to go there. It’s a place with a lot of history. It’s very technical.
“It’s really, really good to go there, especially with these new cars. It should be really fast there. I’m excited to go back to Mid-Ohio this year.”
As will be the case at a majority of events this year, Filipe Albuquerque’s first as a full-time driver in the WeatherTech Championship, this weekend will mark the ex-Audi LMP1 factory driver’s first visit to Mid-Ohio.
That seemed to work out okay for him in the most recent WeatherTech Championship race, the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach last month, which he and Barbosa won.
His approach heading into this weekend’s race will be similar.
“Joao and Christian and the team tell me all about it, that it’s a great track,” said Albuquerque. “Doing IMSA, I know there are many nice tracks around and I’m super happy to be doing this championship to know these tracks.
“I’m going to do some laps on a simulator. Obviously, it helps like it did to come [to Long Beach]. I have a great team to support me and to tell me what I should do and to be aware of critical points on the track.”
Barbosa is expecting close racing and tough competition on the 2.238-mile, 13-turn road course.
“It’s going to be very challenging, especially with all the different classes and a lot of cars on a pretty narrow track,” Barbosa said. “There’s not a lot of room to overtake, so the GT traffic is going to play a key role in how we’re going to manage traffic and how the race is going to go.
“It’s going to be very challenging because of that. I think it might decide the race, the way different cars manage the traffic. Historically, the GT guys don’t give you a lot of room. At Mid-Ohio, it’s very easy to block, so it’s going to make for an interesting race, for sure.”
Along with working on extending their winning streak, Barbosa and Albuquerque also will be looking to extend their lead in the WeatherTech Championship point standings.
With three races in the books and seven more to go, they lead their AXR teammates, Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr, by five points, 91-86.
“It’s important to be consistent and to get as many points as possible,” Barbosa said. “We know it’s not going to be easy for the rest of the year. Competition is very strong in every race. It’s not because we’ve won two races that we think we’re going to win the rest.
“We’re still working as hard as we did before winning the races. The plan is to win more races, but we have to keep working as hard and harder to keep up with the competition and to make sure we can win more races in the future.”