To make it to the Sebring finish line, let alone emerge with a trophy, teams and drivers have to contend with a dense mix of traffic, frequently changing track conditions, the challenge of racing from the morning into the night, as well as the 50-plus competitors who are all chasing that same top step of the podium.
For the last four editions of the 12 Hour, Mustang Sampling Racing has been up to that challenge—completing every one of the 1,217 laps of the 3.7-mile circuit and earning three podiums including a 2015 victory. Unfortunately, that incredible streak came to an early end on Saturday after the team was knocked out of contention by a competitor.
Mustang Sampling Racing drivers Filipe Albuquerque (PRT), Christian Fittipaldi (BRA) João Barbosa (PRT), who opened the 2018 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season with a run to victory at Daytona International Speedway, were classified with a 10th place class finish after rallying back from a significant collision past the midway point of the race.
Barbosa was behind the wheel as he exited the tricky turn 17 corner when another Prototype machine turned and slowed abruptly in front of him and the two made contact at high speed. The incident caused significant damage to the Mustang Sampling machine as it was forced behind the wall for repairs.
But the team delivered a smart response to the setback with a massively quick turn-around of the Cadillac Prototype, returning to the track to race to the finish as the drivers looked to emerge with as many championship points as possible.
The team will look forward to a return to sprint competition in April as the IMSA championship heads West to Long Beach, California on April 13-14.
Filipe Albuquerque, No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R:
“Today was not our day, even if the plan was going well. It was very hard in the beginning, so we were waiting for the end to pick a pace. Late the race, the car was in position and we were actually in a close fight with the leaders and in the end, the car was alright. But during the race, we had too much contact, and the final contact was a big crash. It’s a shame, because we want to fight for the championship, so if we can’t go for the win, we want to go for the podium. The team did great to try to recover the car and we still finished the race – P16, we get points for the championship and minimized the damage. Bring on the next one, we have a great team here.”
Joao Barbosa, No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R:
“I had a really good run into Turn 17,” Barbosa said. “I saw Eric (Curran) and the other car fighting it out on track and I had a good run out of the corner. I don’t know what he (38 car) was doing, maybe he was coming to pit lane. But I was already there and he was blocking the track and I hit him. There was nothing I could do. I am not sure if he just lost it or was coming to pit lane. I had a really good pace on the track and I was saving fuel and just running a good pace. We were in good shape for a good result. Unfortunately, the incident happened and now we are just trying to get to the end.”
Christian Fittipaldi, No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R:
“We were fighting to go all the way to the end,” Fittipaldi said. “We need all of the points we can get for the championship for the end of the year. We have won championships by a few points and lost them by a few points, so it is important to finish every race.”
Source. Sunday Group