Filipe Albuquerque’s rapidly expanding sports car racing portfolio will now take on his latest new opportunity, as an integral part of the new RGR Sport by Morand program for the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship season.
The 30-year-old Portuguese driver adds the Ligier JS P2 Nissan to the Audi R18 e-tron quattro and Jota Sport Gibson 015S Zytek as recent prototypes he’s driven in international sports car racing, between the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the European Le Mans Series.
In America, he’s raced the Rolex 24 at Daytona in three different cars and classes the last three years, between an Audi R8 LMS GT car, an Oreca FLM09 PC car and most recently a Corvette DP for Action Express Racing.
With the diversity outlined, it seems weird – and strange – to note that 2016 will mark Albuquerque’s first full-time crack at the FIA WEC season.
But with co-drivers Ricardo Gonzalez and Bruno Senna both suitably experienced veterans and in Gonzalez’s case, a past Le Mans and series class champion, the opportunity to join the new Mexican team was too good for Albuquerque to ignore.
“It’s impossible not to say yes to such a project,” Albuquerque told Sportscar365. “I mean you’re driving a Ligier, and driving with an experienced gentleman driver as Ricardo Gonzalez is, who’s so relaxed and fast. Then with Bruno Senna with his experience, it’s the whole package.
“After two years of ELMS, the WEC is the ultimate goal to be driving. It’s where we want to be. Especially after not driving, and not being with Audi in Le Mans this year, in such a competitive car in P2 you want to go to have a chance to win.”
As noted, the withdrawal of Audi’s third factory car for 2016 for Spa and Le Mans left Albuquerque sidelined, and won’t be with Jota for another season.
He’ll have a closed cockpit coupe to work with instead of the venerable Gibson chassis in the WEC, as the Ligier JS P2 heads into what is already its third season of competition.
“It’s getting to be natural. I’m a fast learner on the car. The first laps, I know straightaway if I have a hard time or not,” Albuquerque said.
“I’m still looking forward to driving an LMP2 car that’s closed, because it’s different completely than the open top. Going from the wind to a cockpit, your head changes a bit. But you get used to it quickly.”
The team will have one test before the Prologue to get acquainted with each other and with the new car. Albuquerque noted he could use simulators to prepare if need be.
Having Senna in the team also creates an unexpected reunion for the two drivers.
“We were teammates with Arden in GP2 in 2007. I was only there two days, and now it’s been nine years!” Albuquerque said.
“And now, we come back again. He’s a nice guy and for sure he’s a good team player. He’s done Le Mans and endurance racing before.”
Next year’s LMP2 grid looks a fair bit different from 2015, but still has several contenders. Albuquerque said the team would need to gel first before worrying about the competition.
“My plan whenever I arrive to a team is to focus on us and myself,” he said. “Whenever I find something, on the car or on the track. I focus on what’s the best for us, and not on the other guys.
“I know it will be competitive in the WEC with many cars, many good lineups. I know that if we get to the limit together, I know we’ll be a tough team to beat.”
His passion for driving has only increased following his wife’s birth of their new daughter earlier this month.
“I have so much more passion to do everything, and do more and more,” he said.
“I want to spend time with my family… and then I want to be even faster than what I was before! It’s kind of weird.
“When I was going to Daytona, I was so happy to have my family there. And knowing I was racing with the proper car and chance to win, it just makes me more happy.
“Every time I get in the car, I think I can find more.”