Albuquerque: “It’s not like super super busy”

Filipe Albuquerque will be a busy driver throughout 2019, with his not only dual but triple programmes in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, European Le Mans Series and FIA World Endurance Championship. caught up with him at Sebring, to hear a bit more about his busy year.

“It’s gonna be nicely busy. I’m very happy about the programme, because it’s still all kind of P2/DPi cars – it’s prototype cars. It’s busy, but because the FIA WEC is in off season, it’s not like super super busy, because WEC only starts in September for me, and it will be double weekend for me with the ELMS. When the ELMS is stopping, I basically start a new championship. So I just not gonna have a winter season for me, but I’m still fine with that, because it keeps me fit for Daytona and all that, and the other races.”

He will be racing for United Autosports #22 in both the European Le Mans Series 2019 and pending on approval, the FIA World Endurance Championship 2019/20. The last bit only needs the official confirmation on the entry list, since the organizers already have welcomed UA into the 2019/20 in press releases. But with FIA WEC and ELMS both running at Silverstone, with ELMS having a 4-hour Saturday race, and FIA WEC having a 4-hour Sunday race, there will be a lot of juggling between the two paddock areas at Silverstone.

“Yeah, it’s a bit like Corvette is doing here (at Sebring, editor) – they are doing exactly that, by doing the WEC and IMSA. Yeah, we will be very busy. So I think it’s more of a logistics way for United Autosports, to be in different paddocks, and we need to have another car, to coordinate everything, and to have a team taking care of us. But we will only be one car in the WEC, so I believe that we will be fine, and United Autosports is a very professional team, and I’m sure that they will do the job.”

Filipe Albuquerque
Photo: JJ Media

Silverstone FIA WEC and ELMS isn’t the only clash this year. The opening race in the ELMS at Paul Ricard and the third round of IMSA at Long Beach will also clash, so Albuquerque won’t be able to race in France, because the IMSA programme for Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5 has a higher status.

“Nothing is perfect, but fortunately that’s the only clash that I have, and it already happened last year, which stopped me going for the contention in the ELMS, but United Autosports is still happy to have me – they replace me with a third driver of the WEC, and they are happy for me to come back, and do the rest of the season, which is still five, which is most of the races.”

Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5 is part of the Action Express team, that also runs the Whelen Engineering Cadillac #31. While #31 was in the contention of the Daytona 24 Hours win in January, #5 was struck by a lot of electronics issues, which lost the team a lot of points. The team fought back at Sebring, by #31 winning the race and the #5 with Filipe Albuquerque, Joao Barbosa and Brendon Hartley finishing the race in third.

So it must be a good thing to have two cars running, opposite to some of the competition only running one car?

“Normally we are always very competitive here in Sebring. Our car is very good over the bumps. We were very competitive in Daytona – our teammates were nearly nailing it. It was a bit chaotic for every one, and for us it was even worse. That’s a good thing about having two cars. One car tries one thing, the other car another thing. Two years ago we finished second, led most of the race. Sebring is definitely one of the big endurance races in the world.”

Albuquerque has been at the Sebring International Raceway concrete many times, also when he was testing with Audi Sport Team Joest and their LMP1 programme, but never raced at the bumpy circuit in that car. He did one race with Flying Lizard Motorsports, when they were running Audi R8 LMS in the United Sports Car Championship 2014 (IMSA), where he finished fifth in the GTD category.

Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5
Photo: JJ Media

2019 is the second full season for Filipe Albuquerque in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5, where he will race alongside Joao Barbosa for the full season. They currently sits fourth in the overall championship, while they are third in the Michelin Endurance Cup, which runs for the longer races of the season.

It will be his third year for United Autosports in the European Le Mans Series, including racing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, which the team qualified for with their Championship in the Asian Le Mans Series 2018/19.

He only did one full season of FIA World Endurance Championship so far, back in 2016 when he was racing for RGR Sport by Morand in the LMP2 category. Prior to that, it was only the 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps with Audi Sport Team Joest, as a prelude to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He did have a one-off with Rebellion Racing in 2017 at the Nürburgring, when they needed a replacement for Nico Prost, who was on Formula E duties in New York.

The next race for Filipe Albuquerque will be with the Action Express team in their Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, on the streets of Long Beach on 13 April 2019, before he will back in the United Autosports #22 in the European Le Mans Series on 12 May at Monza.

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