Tampa Bay Sports Day

Mustang Sampling Cadillac Takes History-Making Win in 56th Rolex 24 At Daytona

As the crow flies, it’s 2,850 miles from Daytona Beach, Florida to Lima, Peru.

That’s a shorter distance than the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R co-driven by Joao Barbosa, Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi covered over 24 hours en route to a history-making victory in the 56th Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Breaking a 36-year-old record, the No. 5 machine finished with a total of 2,876.48 miles completed, 808 laps around the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway to win the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opener.

The previous Rolex 24 mileage record of 2,760.960 miles was set in 1982 by John Paul Jr., Rolf Stommelen and John Paul Sr. in a Porsche 935 that completed 719 laps around what was then a 3.84-mile circuit.

The record for laps completed of 762 set in 1992 by Masahiro Hasemi, Kazuyoshi Hoshino and Toshio Suzuki in a Nissan R91 also was eclipsed by the No. 5 Action Express Racing entry this weekend.

In all, the top-15 finishers in the race broke the distance record in a race that had just four full-course caution periods for a total of 20 laps.

“This is a great endurance achievement and story,” said IMSA CEO Ed Bennett. “We are extremely proud of all the drivers, teams, manufacturers and IMSA officials who played important roles to achieve this together.”

Barbosa and Fittipaldi each claimed their third overall victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and first since 2014, when they teamed with Sebastien Bourdais to win in the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP. Barbosa also earned a GTS class victory in the 2003 Rolex 24, while Albuquerque added an overall victory to a 2013 GT class win in the Rolex 24.

“I think it’s huge,” said Brazilian driver Fittipaldi, who also won the Rolex 24 overall in 2004 and 2014. “Especially after what happened last year. It went the way it went, but obviously we didn’t swallow it that easily. It has been in our throat for 365 days. I remember going into the press conference and sort of mentioning, ‘Now, I have to wait another 365 days for a shot at it,’ and this is what we did.”

As Fittipaldi referenced, the win avenges the No. 5 team’s bitter defeat in the 2017 race, when late-race contact between Ricky Taylor and Albuquerque while battling for the lead in the final minutes of the race forced Albuquerque to spin and sent Taylor and his teammates, Jordan Taylor, Max Angelelli and four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon to victory lane.

“I think it’s one of those things that we start to think that the world is kind of fair in a way,” said Albuquerque, who along with Barbosa, hails from Portugal. “Last year, I lost it for very little in a controversial way, and this year, the engine was dying on us, or having problems, for six hours.

“Somehow, I don’t know how to be honest, it lasted with very high temperatures and we got the win. A lot of people thought that, ‘OK, we are candidates,’ but so many other ones are candidates. We did a remarkable race.”

The No. 5 took the lead for the final time during the race’s 16th hour and went on to win over its Action Express Racing team car, the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R – co-driven by Felipe Nasr, Eric Curran, Mike Conway and Stuart Middleton – by a margin of 1 minute, 10.544 seconds.

“There was a lot of drama behind closed doors that a lot of people didn’t really see,” said Barbosa, whose other two overall victories came in 2010 and 2014. “We had an issue, actually, on both cars that they were overheating. I was very surprised by so few yellows. The race pace was very, very high for the whole 24 hours, no rest at all. We were able to put some water in the car during one of those times under yellow and it didn’t really cost us any time.

“Unfortunately, the 31 had to do it under green and that put them back a couple of laps. The team was managing the situation in the best possible way, hoping that everything would be OK. Just a tremendous job from the Mustang Sampling Cadillac crew. They really put their heads together and they definitely are a big part of this win today.”

The No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA LMP2 car shared by Jon Bennett, Colin Braun, Loic Duval and Romain Dumas finished third and won Rolex watches for winning the Trueman Pro-Am Team Endurance class. The No. 54 machine also completed the full 808-lap distance.

Finishing fourth, four laps behind the winner, was the No. 32 United Autosports Ligier LMP2 car shared by Will Owen, Hugo de Sadeleer, Paul Di Rest and Bruno Senna. Rounding out the top five was the No. 78 Jackie Chan DCR JOTA ORECA LMP2 with co-drivers Ho-Pin Tung, Alex Brundle, Ferdinand Habsburg-Lothringen and Antonio Felix da Costa.

Prototype Notebook: The second-place-finishing No. 31 Whelen Engineering team came away from the Rolex 24 as the Round 1 winner of the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup. Action Express Racing has won every Patrón Endurance Cup to date with the No. 5 Mustang Sampling program. The No. 31 also posted the fastest lap of the race at 1:37.475 on Lap 331 by Nasr.

The pair of brand-new Acura ARX-05 DPi cars from Acura Team Penske both ran among the leaders through the first half before problems during the race’s third quarter removed them from contention for the victory.

Nevertheless, the new cars scored top-10 results with the No. 7 entry shared by Helio Castroneves, Ricky Taylor and Graham Rahal finishing ninth, one spot ahead of their teammates, Dane Cameron, Juan Pablo Montoya and Simon Pagenaud in the No. 6 Acura.

Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso’s first Rolex 24 At Daytona appearance produced a 13th-place class result in the No. 23 United Autosports Ligier LMP2 alongside co-drivers Phil Hanson and Lando Norris.

The car ran among the leaders in the first half before a braking issue forced lengthy repairs in the garage.

“Maybe the nicest thing was how competitive we felt,” Alonso said. “Because we entered the race with no high hopes because we were never competitive, and suddenly we picked up the pace and everyone was smiling in the garage. That was a nice feeling.”