It’s hard for Action Express Racing to get better after two successive championship years in what was then-the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
Yet their lineup for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, at least for the defending series champion Mustang Sampling-backed No. 5 Corvette DP, might be even better than what was already a stout lineup of Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais the last two years.
Bourdais is expected to join the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team for selected Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup rounds, although he has not been publicly confirmed.
Meanwhile Barbosa will have Portuguese countryman Filipe Albuquerque, the Audi factory ace, on to replace Bourdais. Scott Pruett, then, joins Action Express after his decade-plus-long stint with Ganassi for the opening two races, including the No. 5 car at the Rolex 24.
The combination sees two of the most successful drivers from IMSA, in its various iterations as the TUDOR Championship and the GRAND-AM Rolex Series, now united before the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season kicks off.
“To tell you the truth I wasn’t even expecting to have Scott Pruett as a teammate anytime soon,” Barbosa told Sportscar365. “I have raced against him for a long time, and there’s a lot of respect for what he has achieved.
“I was very surprised when my team called me, and asked what I thought about driving with Scott Pruett. I said, ‘Is that really a possibility?’
“But he can be a big plus for us, in seeking another win at Daytona. We try to have the best team we can get, and obviously Scott being a multiple-time winner, it’s great to have him on board.”
Pruett has five overall wins at the Rolex 24, and looks to break the tie he holds with Hurley Haywood this year before he heads to F Performance Racing Lexus program later in 2016.
Albuquerque, too, has a past win at the Rolex 24. A then-unheralded driver, Albuquerque emerged for really the first time on the North American scene when he shared with Oliver Jarvis, Edoardo Mortara and Dion von Moltke to win the 2013 Rolex 24 in the GT class, in an Audi R8.
This will mark Albuquerque’s Daytona Prototype debut, after the last two years he raced in the Prototype Challenge and GT Daytona classes with Starworks Motorsport and Flying Lizard Motorsports, respectively.
The 30-year-old Portuguese driver was a revelation during last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and looks to make a similar mark on the overall leaderboard during this 24-hour race.
“When we were looking for drivers to fill in for Sebastien, who unfortunately couldn’t drive for us next year, we looked around and saw what we could be a good fit,” Barbosa said.
“At Action Express we try to win and fill our cars with the best options available. Filipe did a great job in the test. He’s very good with prototype cars at Le Mans, and in the P2 cars. Him joining means I think we have one of the strongest teams out there.”
Barbosa has two overall (2010, 2014) and a third class win (2003) at the Rolex 24, while Fittipaldi also has two overall (2004, 2014) wins.
Collectively, the No. 5 car’s lineup features nine overall wins and several additional class wins.
The team’s No. 31 Whelen Engineering/Team Fox Corvette DP now has a year’s worth experience under the Action Express umbrella, with Eric Curran and Dane Cameron joined by Simon Pagenaud and Jonny Adam for the Rolex 24.