Daytona Beach, Fla. (26 January 2014) – When the future came knocking, Action Express Racing was ready to answer the door as the team returned to Gatorade Victory Lane at Daytona International Speedway Sunday afternoon after scoring a victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona in a convincing team performance in the first-ever IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship event. The victory marked the second win in the world-class event in the team’s young history, and the strong team performance was underscored as both team entries finished on the podium.
Joao Barbosa (Portugal), Christian Fittipaldi (Brazil), and Sebastien Bourdais (France), all of whom reside in Florida, combined in the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP to take the win. It marked Barbosa’s second win with the team (2010) and his third career Rolex 24 victory. It was also Fittipaldi’s second win in the big event (2004, Bell Motorsports).
In partnership with Delta-ADR, Action Express fielded the No. 9 Action Express Racing/Millennium Corvette DP with American drivers Burt Frisselle and Brian Frisselle, as well as Frenchman Fabien Giroix and Aussie John Martin who teamed for a run to third.
In the dawn of a new era in sports car racing, Action Express Racing entered the Rolex 24 event well-prepared as the North Carolina-based team worked over 12,000 hours and completed 2,500 miles of testing in preparation for the 2014 TUDOR Championship season. That hard work paid off with a huge double podium result in the 52nd running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona as the team led over half of the 695 laps run.
Fittipaldi and Burt Frisselle opened the race from the second row with Fittipaldi slotting into third on the grid and Frisselle taking fourth on the grid. A nice clean start saw the duo run together, with Frisselle in third and Fittipaldi in fourth in the opening laps.
The two Action Express Racing Corvette DPs were a factor throughout the majority of the twice around the clock event and combined to lead over 350 laps over the 67-car combined class field.
Though dominant through most of the race, the win did not come easy as the No. 5 machine incurred an avoidable contact penalty with about six and a half hours remaining. The penalty meant that Barbosa had to bring the No. 5 Corvette to pit lane and remain stopped for 70 seconds. After sitting stationary on pit lane, the No. 5 fell a lap down, but working together with the sister No. 9 car, was able to click off quick lap times, return to the lead lap and continue to make forward progress.
As the race wound down into the final stages, Barbosa looked likely to take the win as he had developed an 18-second lead over the second place No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing car. But his advantage was erased when a full course caution was displayed with 20 minutes remaining in the 24-hour race which allowed the field to bunch back up for the restart. In a thrilling close to the history-making race, the field went back to green with less than 10 minutes to go as the No. 10 machine gave chase. Barbosa raced masterfully to the end to take the checkered flag just over 1.5-seconds ahead. The No. 9 Action Express Racing/Millennium Corvette DP, which was driven by Brian Frisselle in the closing stages, took third at the finish line closely behind.
“My first comment would be to congratulate the Wayne Taylor Racing group,” said Team Owner Bob Johnson. “If we didn’t have competitors like the No. 10 car guys this wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. Those guys are awesome and they give us a run for our money in every event, so a big congratulations to them. They really ran a good race today. Our first event in 2010 that happened to turn into a win, I was probably the one that expected that the least of anybody. But this one wasn’t unexpected. This one we expected to win. Our guys have all worked extremely hard to get the win and these guys did an awesome job as you all witnessed. So I am just as proud as can be that all of that hard work paid off.”
Action Express Team Manager Gary Nelson has had some very big days at the World Center of Racing, and was hard pressed to explain how significant this team victory was.
“Every win is so special,” said Nelson. “When I look at the Daytona wins in my past, and then I rank this one, I have to say that we put as much, if not more, effort and hard work into this one. Elton (Sawyer, Director of Team Operations) and his guys were out there, practicing pit stops at least an hour a day for the past week and some days it was cold, in the teens. That’s part of that preparation. We had thirty some “lucky” pit stops. We’re so proud of our drivers. When you look at our main cornerstone, Joao, our job is to provide other drivers that will help complement that skill. I don’t think we could have done a better job with Sebastien and Christian. They are both solid as a rock. Not only great drivers but just great people. That’s really rare to get both. Great people, great drivers.”
The result sees Action Express Racing lead the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup and the team aims to carry its winning momentum into the next event at the 12 Hours of Sebring on March 12-15 in which Burt Frisselle is a 2012 winner of the event.