Joao Barbosa is a well known name in the sportscar paddocks around the world, and Racing24-7.net caught up with him at Sebring, to talk a bit about the past, present and the future.
The Portuguese driver first came to many people’s knowledge, when he raced for Martin Short in the Le Mans Series and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The pair did a total of five seasons together, with various teammates, with the 2007 edition of the 24 hours race being their best result. They got an overall fourth place, being the best privateer effort behind all the works cars from Audi and Peugeot.
Then he went off to focus more on the American side of racing, competing in Grand-Am with Brumos Racing, and then later on with Action Express Racing, which is his current team now. He was paired up with Christian Fittipaldi for seven years, before Christian decided to retire from full time racing at the end of 2018. Now he is teammates with Filipe Albuquerque in the Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5 for the full season, having Christian in as third driver at the 24 Hours of Daytona, and Brendon Hartley at the 12 Hours of Sebring.
He did, however, also race in the American Le Mans Series for teams like Level 5, so he was really busy in America, leaving no room for European Racing, bar a few one-off’s at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
But has he completely closed the European chapter of his career?
“No no, definitely not! But my priority for the last three years has been racing here, and be the most consistent, and putting everything I have into racing in the US. I’ve been with this team for a long time, and that’s where I feel the best right now, but definitely I would love to go back and race in Europe. That’s why we didn’t close any doors. But I have to admit that I put a lot more effort into racing here, than I trying to pursuit any other opportunities in Europe. I did that for many years, but if the right opportunity would show up, I wouldn’t say no, for sure!”
It can be tough competing in both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the European Le Mans Series, since there is a clash between Long Beach and Paul Ricard, with that happening in both 2018 and 2019.
“Yeah, there is a couple of clashes. A full season in Europe would be very tough to do. But if something happens, or if there is an opportunity there, or if some drivers missing out of the calendar or whatever, I would definitely think about it. I miss driving Le Mans, absolutely! It’s a great races. I did five races with Martin (in Rollcentre Racing, editor) and a two years with Krohn Racing in the Ligier LMP2 not that long ago. I would definitely love to go back to Le Mans. It’s an awesome racing, one of the best in the world – I mean, who wouldn’t want to be back at Le Mans again?”
Love it or hate it – the points rule in the IMSA championships is that as long as you take the green flag at the start of the race, you will score points in the race, no matter if you finish the race or not, which is completely opposite to the FIA World Endurance Championship rules, where you have to cross the finish line, at the end of the race – or you will get zero points, even if you had been leading all the way. So even when the team had a bit of a rotten Daytona 24 Hours, they still collected a good amount of points.
“Absolutely. We are definitely not out of contention. We were still running the car, still on the track, and getting as many points as we could, and that’s what we did, and we still made a few extra points with some people dropping out. It might important in the future, we don’t know, and we are looking forward for the rest of the year.”
The Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5 currently sits fourth in the overall Championship, and third in the Michelin Endurance Cup, which consists of the endurance rounds in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. That’s because they finished third in the 12 Hours of Sebring four weeks ago
Joao Barbosa will be back in the car again this weekend, when the Bubba Burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach will run for 100 minutes of racing, with DPi and GTLM cars only, due to a combination of the density of the paddock and the tough narrow track, not really suited for the gentlemen drivers in the series.