Though this weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona is the start of a new era with the first event of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Action Express Racing still feel like they’re in familiar territory.
“We will approach the Rolex 24 just as we always have,” explains team manager Gary Nelson. “We have a 24 hour plan that we have used for many years. We have put together two solid cars and I’m really happy with the progress that we have made over the off season.”
The team will run two Chevrolet Corvetta Daytona Prototypes in the race (January 25-26). The first, the #5 will be shared between Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi, who will serve as drivers for the full season, joined by Sebastien Bourdais. The sister car – #9 – will be driven by the Frisselle brothers, Burt and Brian, with Frenchman Fabien Giroux and Australian John Martin completing the team as part of the partnership forged with FIA World Endurance Championship team Delta-ADR for the Rolex 24.
Both Fittipaldi and Barbosa are past winners of the race, while the team are veterans of four previous Rolex 24, a history that began with a surprise win in 2010 – something not to be forgotten as the race offers a number of unknowns for all the teams. The Frisselle brothers both have 10 Rolex 24 starts while Bourdais – currently and IndyCar driver – has the same number of starts at the 24 Hours of Le Mans under his belt.
“Action Express is a great group of guys,” enthused Bourdais. “They have the experience you need to win long races. I am sure we will be contenders in this year’s 24. Even more than usual in this race patience will be rewarded. I think that with so many cars on track, during the first 20 or so hours, the goal will be to stay out of trouble and hopefully we can be fighting for the once it settles down and traffic gets lighter towards the end.”
Though experienced sports car pilots, with Le Mans starts to their name, both Giroux and Martin will be making their Rolex 24 debuts this weekend.
“I think if we play our cards right the chances of us winning the race could be very good,” said Martin. “You certainly don’t come here to finish second.”
“I certainly believe this team is capable [of winning]. I am really looking forward to it. This race is one I have wanted to do for a number of years. I have done Le Mans twice and since I have been involved in the endurance side of things I’ve known about the Rolex 24 for a long time and I am so excited to be here and take part in the race.”
The team were among the pace setters in testing, both at the end of 2013 and at the Roar Before the 24 earlier this month when Fittipaldi’s 1:38.630 topped the three days of running, leaving them confident for when preparations for the race begin with the first practice sessions on Thursday (January 23).
“We feel great – I think we learned a lot in every session at the Roar which helped add to our positive preparations for the race,” said Bob Johnson, the team owner. “We wanted to learn a lot and get better and build on our endurance strategy and make sure all of the equipment is working as we want it to for the 24 Hours.”