Championship target to close 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar season
Braselton, Ga. (4 October 2017) – With another IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race victory as the target and the 2017 Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup (TPNAEC) on the line, Mustang Sampling Racing will be back in race action this weekend at Road Atlanta for the 20th running of the Motul Petit Le Mans (race broadcast opens at 10:30 AM Saturday with live coverage on FS1).
The team won the previous IMSA endurance event earlier this season with drivers Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi, and Filipe Albuquerque co-driving the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R into victory lane in the 6 hour at Watkins Glen International, and will work to close out the 2017 IMSA season with a similar result. Podium finishes in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and Sebring 12 Hour have the team holding the lead in the TPNAEC standings ahead of the Road Atlanta event.
With 10 hours of racing, four classes of IMSA WeatherTech cars on track, and a lightning fast lap that includes significant elevation changes in both the first and final turns, the 20th edition of the Petit Le Mans is a highly anticipated event by IMSA fans.
Those same challenges also make a race victory in the event all the more satisfying. The 2014 Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta saw the team secure four different championships in one day (IMSA Driver, IMSA Team, TPNAEC Driver, TPNAEC Team) as the No. 5 raced out front for 123 laps on the way to a second place race finish. Starting from the front row in 2015, Barbosa and Fittipaldi, along with Sebastien Bourdais, brought the team a victory in the prestigious event to cap off another multi-championship season. 2016 marked a third consecutive TPNAEC triumph for the squad, which will look to continue that legacy with a 2017 title.
“Road Atlanta has been a special place for this team through the years and it is a track that you really look forward to competing on,” said team manager Gary Nelson. “Our goal is to win this race. We work hard to get stronger as the season goes on, and we hope to see the results of that hard work this weekend.”
Albuquerque has finished on the lead lap in every one of his NAEC starts thus far, while Fittipaldi and Barbosa lead the field with eight lead lap finishes this season.
“I am excited that we have the chance to get another championship,” said Fittipaldi. “I have always enjoyed racing at Road Atlanta, it is a cool track. We are going for the win in the race, and hopefully it works out to take the championship as well. If you think about how this (TPNAEC) championship is all about the long races, it shows how strong the team is at preparing the cars to not only be able to finish the races, but to be fast through them as well. Cadillac has done a great job this year and we owe a lot to the effort they put into this car.”
“It is very important to have your car working well and to be capable of fast laps, because you have to capitalize on the times that there isn’t traffic – which is not often!” smiled Barbosa. “The traffic is a very important factor at Road Atlanta. There are a lot of cars, and every class of course has different speeds. It gets pretty crowded and there aren’t many overtaking spots. We’ve had some very good races there. We are leading the TPNAEC so that is our goal on Saturday and the best way to achieve that is to have a clean and good race and finish first. It would be great to finish the year on a high to get ready for 2018.”
The team suffered some cruel fate with a cut tire in last year’s race, and hopes to avoid any bad racing luck this Saturday through what should be several hundred laps of the 2.54-mile circuit in rural Georgia.
“We were in a good position last year but we had a puncture with three hours to go and that lost us a lap,” said Albuquerque, who will race the Mustang Sampling entry full time in 2018. “We will have to stay away from problems, and Road Atlanta is a narrow track so that can be a challenge! I am really enjoying racing the Cadillac DPi, it is a very sophisticated car with good grip and power so it is a very good car to drive and hopefully it will help us navigate the traffic and stay out of trouble this weekend.”
The event will open with three practice sessions on Thursday including a night session, as the grid will be determined with 15 minutes of qualifying at 5:35 PM (stream live at www.imsa.tv) ahead of Saturday’s 11:05 AM race start. Follow the team with updates on https://twitter.com/ax_racing and Instagram.
2017 Motul Petit Le Mans Schedule:
8:30 AM – 8:50 AM – WeatherTech Warm Up
9:45 AM – 10:45 AM – WeatherTech Grid Walk
11:05 AM – 9:05 PM – Petit Le Mans