ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Sunday’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race at Road America may not have been a work of art in some eyes, but to Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi, it was a masterpiece.
In a race slowed by six caution flags, the Action Express Racing teammates overcame a potential race-ending brake problem and a spin off-course and through the grass to win the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase.
The victory was the third of the season for the co-drivers of the No. 5 Corvette DP and points leaders of the TUDOR Championship Prototype class.
“I felt that we weren’t going to be able to finish,” Fittipaldi said, in regard to the seriousness of the problem with his car’s brakes. “At one point we almost pitted completely out of our window because it was too dangerous.
“What saved us was we were able to solve the brake problem in the pits. We found an oil leak in the left rear (of the car).”
The No. 60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian Ford EcoBoost/Riley DP shared by Oswaldo Negri Jr. and John Pew finished second, followed by the No. 1 Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-03b/Honda co-driven by Ryan Dalziel and Scott Sharp. Dalziel qualified on the pole position Saturday.
Barbosa took over the driving duties from Fittipaldi with about 58 minutes remaining in the two-hour, 45-minute race.
“Definitely those last couple of safety-car situations and extended yellows helped us on our fuel,” Barbosa said. “We were pretty much sure we were good, but it definitely helped us to be really safe and we were able to push all the way to the end. (Before) the last restart, I was having to save a little bit of fuel and so I was managing a little bit what was happening behind me. On the last restart we were able to push flat out all the way, I was able to do a couple of good laps and put a good gap behind me.”
The winning margin of victory was 2.240 seconds.
Fittipaldi seized the lead heading into the first turn moments after taking the green flag. He maintained the advantage over the first 52 minutes, but was shuffled back in the running order when he was hit from behind by Ricky Taylor’s No. 10 Konica Minolta Chevrolet Corvette DP going into turn three and spun off course.
Fittipaldi managed to get his car turned in the right direction and rejoined the fight, though in seventh place before working his way back up to third.
“There was only so much I could do,” said Fittipaldi, who won his first career IndyCar race at Road America in 1999. “I spun the car on the grass and put it into gear.”
Excellent pit stops helped Pierre Kaffer and Giancarlo Fisichella earn their first win of the season in the GT Le Mans class in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia.