Action Express Racing Leads TUDOR Championship and Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup

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Denver, N.C. (28 March 2014) – After two big performances to open the 2014 IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, Action Express Racing has established itself as a title contender in the new TUDOR Championship. The North Carolina-based team not only leads the 2014 overall championship with 67 points, but also sits atop the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup (NAEC) standings.

Action Express leads the No. 10 Corvette DP entry by nine points in the TUDOR Championship. The No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP of Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi, and Sebastien Bourdais combined to score victory in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona and followed up that effort with a third place result in the 12 Hours of Sebring.

The North American Endurance Cup is a championship within the TUDOR Championship which incorporates the four longest races on the 2014 schedule: the Rolex 24 At Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring, 6 Hours of the Glen, and the 10-hour Petit Le Mans event. The team finished second in last year’s inaugural NAEC and is ambitious to go one better this year.

The NAEC utilizes a unique scoring system which awards points to cars based on track position at certain stages of each of the four races. This creates an added twist to the strategy for the team, which has to not only consider the best strategy to win the race, but also the best way to maximize each scoring possibility during the race. With the first two rounds completed, Action Express holds the lead with a one-point advantage over Chip Ganassi Racing.

It will be important for the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette to be running in strong position at both the half-way point and the finish of the Sahlen’s 6 Hours as well as at the 4-hour & 8-hour marks and finish of the Petit Le Mans to maintain its championship lead. Action Express Racing has traditionally run strong at the Glen and targets a third consecutive victory in the Sahlen’s 6 Hours of the Glen after having won the historic event in both 2012 and 2013.

“Our goal is always to be running up front,” said Team Manager Gary Nelson. “Our team has delivered two very good results in the first two races which have put us in the position to lead both of these championships. We know that this is a very competitive series and we’ll continue to do what we always do, focus on the next race ahead. The plan is to keep our heads down and continue to work hard.”

Action Express Racing has completed the most laps of any TUDOR Championship team, and is one of only two teams to have finished every race lap so far this season. The No. 5 and No. 9 Action Express Racing Corvettes were two of only three cars to finish on the lead lap in the season-opening Rolex 24 and went on to also have both cars finish on the lead lap in Sebring for a total of 7,125.08 miles of racing.

Further underscoring the hard work and preparation of the team, Action Express has also led more laps than any other team so far this year.

The Action Express Racing squad will be back in action in two weeks as the TUDOR Championship takes to the streets of Long Beach, California for the Tequila Patrón Sports Car Showcase At Long Beach.

Successful Return to Brazil for Ozz Negri

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Sao Paulo, Brazil (24 March 2014) – Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian driver Ozz Negri made a much-relished return to racing in Brazil this weekend as he was invited to race in the high-profile season opening event of the hugely popular Brazilian Stock Car series at Interlagos. The weekend marked his first time racing on the Formula 1-grade track after some 23 years.

It was a quick turnaround for Negri after finishing in the top-10 just the weekend before in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

Racing as an invited co-driver as part of a star-studded field, Negri joined 2008 Champion Ricardo Mauricio and the Euroforma RC squad in the No. 90 Eurofarma car to tackle the 2.677-mile track.

The historic circuit also holds special meaning for Negri as it is in his hometown of Sao Paulo and provided two very important firsts for him: his first time in a race car and his very first race win (both in Formula Ford). The Eurofarma car started the event 22nd after what Negri termed a bit of an “ill car” in qualifying, but fought forward through some challenging conditions during the race. Unfortunately, contact from another car cost the effort critical track postition, but Negri was able to bring the car home 15th at the finish in the 33-car field.

While he had been hoping for a podium return at the fabled and fast facility,  Negri still counted the race and the weekend as a success.

“I had an amazing time here in Brazil,” said Negri after the race. “So many fans and family came out to see me, it was overwhelming. Stock Car racing in Brazil is extremely competitive and there are so many super high level drivers, I was happily surprised. I wish we could have brought home a better result, especially for the many fans that came out to Interlagos to support me, specifically my family members. But Ricardo Mauricio, Max Wilson and Dean Canto were amazing teammates and I felt at home just like if I was at (Mike) Shank’s. In the end, that is racing and it was still a great time here in Brazil.”

Negri now looks forward to a short one-week break in racing before heading to Long Beach, California to re-join the Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian team to contest the Tequila Patron SportsCar Showcase on April 12th in the TUDOR United Sports Car Championship.

“I’m really happy to have had this experience and to race again at Interlagos,” said Negri. “It was a great weekend and I cannot wait for Long Beach.”

Rum Bum Racing Fights to Ninth at Sebring in IMSA TUDOR Debut

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Sebring, Fla. (17 March 2014) –Racing in front of a record crowd on one of the toughest tracks in the country, Luis Bacardi’s Rum Bum Racing impressed in its first ever outing in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida on Saturday.

The Florida-based team led the race early, but saw the team’s chances at a podium thwarted first after an issue with the fuel pump set the team back in the pack, and then subsequently when IMSA penalized the team, costing the effort two laps.

The championship squad, which was once again steered by Joe Varde with technical support from the accomplished Wright Racing organization, fought to earn the laps back and finish the race in ninth place with drivers Madison Snow, Hugh Plumb, Jan Heylen, and Matt Plumb combining to score a top-10 finish for Rum Bum Racing in its first-ever IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race.

“I think it just came down to a mechanical issue that we just didn’t have a whole lot of control over,” said Matt Plumb, who also took a top-10 finish in Friday’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge event. “The guys just kept fighting to get everything back. We were close; the whole first half of the day seemed to be going our way. All it takes is something little (to go wrong). It always amazes me that more stuff doesn’t go wrong with all of these moving pieces. Big thanks to Luis and Jennifer Bacardi for being here to witness the whole thing. I hope we can do it again some time.”

wdmp_140312_7513Sebring has long been known for beating up drivers and cars alike in its 61 previous runnings, but the 2014 edition proved to be unusually tough with a record number of cautions. The team’s efforts were also further thwarted by a procedural penalty that saw the No. 13 lose two laps while held on pit lane.  While race officials then apparently subsequently rescinded the penalty, but the time, and nearly seven miles to the leader, was already lost. Using speed and strategy, the team worked hard to make up the lost ground, but ran out of time to move further up the field as the group once again impressed in tough circumstances, operating smoothly at the highest level.

“It was a harder race than Daytona,” said Snow, who with Heylen had opened the season with a run to third in the Rolex opener. “We had a couple more issues here but we kind of knew that going in. It’s a bumpy track and it takes its toll on cars and drivers. We know we have the speed, and we’ve proved that. But we still pulled off a pretty good position, which is a pretty good place to be after 12 hours.”

A last-minute decision by IMSA officials about the continually evolving driver rankings saw Hugh Plumb drafted into the effort on short notice. But the experienced GT pilot slotted in seamlessly as he picked up on where he left off after first joining the team in Daytona.

“It was amazing,” said Hugh Plumb. “My hat goes off to the Rum Bum guys, who did a great job. We came into the pits in the lead twice in my two stints. Had it not been for this fuel pump issue, we would have been right there for the podium. It’s unfortunate, but it’s good. This was a brutal race and to come in and finish after that setback and compete in this GTD class with the speed that this team showed just underscored how strong Rum Bum Racing is. A huge thanks to Luis Bacardi for inviting me to be a part of it this weekend.”

wdmp_140312_6343“We came into the weekend a little bit behind from the test, but this team did an amazing job and it was great to work with everyone,” said Heylen. “We really had a perfect race as far as the job the drivers did and the effort from the team. We just had that one problem, and that was it. So it cost us a better finish but that is racing. Our car was very strong at the end and the performance was there, so I was really pleased. Now on to the next one!”

Rum Bum Racing will be back in IMSA action at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on May 3-4.

Michael Marsal Delivers Big Performance at Sebring

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Sebring, Fla. (17 March 2014) – Racing on one of the toughest tracks on the continent, Michael Marsal delivered a huge performance this weekend for 8Star Motorsports.

After opening the season with a run to second place in the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January, Marsal once again teamed with the 8Star Motorsports squad as he made his Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring debut in round two of the 2014 IMSA TUDOR SportsCar Championship.

The New York City resident has been training regularly and intensely, and he got two big opportunities to put that training to use this weekend.

After posting a huge four-hour stint behind the wheel on Saturday, Marsal was back at home on Sunday morning to complete his first-ever half-marathon in New York City to round off a very busy weekend.

Dagys__2014_254189Competing in the LMPC category, Marsal co-drove in Sebring with his Rolex 24 teammate Tom Kimber-Smith as well as Sean Rayhall and Eric Lux. Starting on the LMPC front row, Kimber-Smith opened the race behind the wheel before turning the car over to Marsal just 30 minutes into the race.

Racing on the same track where he got his first taste of Prototype machinery in a test with Dyson Racing, Marsal posted a highlight-reel of a stint.

Returning to the fray 49th in the overall order, Marsal had a traffic jam ahead as he looked to return the car to podium position. With four different classes all doing battle for the same stretch of bumpy Florida pavement, it took both speed and patience to make progress. Fortunately, Marsal showed both in equal measure and an hour and thirty minutes into his stint,  had moved up to 32nd overall and fifth in class. 30 minutes later, more upward mobility was in store as he was back to third in LMPC and ran as high as 18th overall.

Lap after pounding lap, Marsal kept the pace and the effort on track as he muscled through nearly four hours of consecutive driving, turing the car over from third in class as he was greeted by a hugely enthusiastic and supportive 8Star Motorports crew recognizing the outstanding effort that had put the team in position for another big result.

“That was incredible,” said a pumped-up Marsal.  “I can’t believe I was out there that long. Dagys__2014_252096The car was pretty good and it was just all about being smart and picking your spots (to pass). It can be hard to be patient but you can see (by other cautions) how not being patient can hurt. I know I am going to be tired tomorrow afternoon, but right now I feel great!”

That racer’s high was unfortunately soon let down after Marsal’s teammate suffered a crash in traffic shortly after taking over the car, compromising the effort as the team had to make repairs to the LMPC. The foursome fought to the finish, taking a fifth in class result after 271 laps of racing.

Up next for Marsal will be a West Coast visit as the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge heads to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca May 3-4.

Action Express Racing Takes Podium Finish in 12 Hours of Sebring Debut

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Sebring, Fla. (16 March 2014) – Action Express Racing once again showed its strength in the second round of the 2014 IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship as the No. 5 Corvette DP of Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi, and Sebastien Bourdais raced their way to third in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida. It was the second podium result in as many races for Action Express Racing, which followed up the team’s big Rolex 24-winning effort in January.

Bourdais claimed the pole on Friday and delivered Action Express Racing’s first-ever pole position as the effort that first started with a test at the track in November continued to deliver results.

Barbosa opened the 12-hour race from the point and led the 64-car field into the history books as the first-ever TUDOR United SportsCar race was staged at Sebring.  The No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP immediately gapped the field in the opening laps as Barbosa developed a three-second advantage over second place.

From there, the race went according to plan with Barbosa handing the car to Bourdais who then turned it over to Fittipaldi as the trio rotated through the first half of the race. The No. 5 was a strong contender throughout the event, leading the race for nearly one-third of the laps run.

Another rotation of the driver cycle through the second half of the race saw Bourdais set to take the No. 5 Corvette DP to the finish. After 12 hours of challenging, grueling laps, Bourdais ran second and cut the lead car’s advantage from 19 seconds to seven with great race pace. But a late-race caution changed everything for the No. 5 team.

“Just before that last caution we were feeling pretty good about our chances,” said Team Manager Gary Nelson. “We were running second and had been saving fuel for several hours. We had saved enough to go to the finish with one less stop than our competitors. That yellow would not have changed things for us had it come out one lap sooner or 3 laps later. It just hit at the worst time for us. When you don’t get the breaks and still finish on the podium it shows Action Express is a great team. We congratulate Chip Ganassi and his 01 team for their historic win.”

In hot pursuit of the second place car of Ryan Dalziel following the restart, Bourdais closed the gap but ultimately took third in the sprint to the checkered flag.  The result is the second strong points earning effort for the team, which continues to mark itself as a group to watch.

“I thought it was an outstanding effort,” said Team Owner Bob Johnson. “This team just keeps going and going and going. They’ve proved it again, they work hard and they get results. I’m very, very happy with the result. We would like to have done better, obviously. But to have a podium finish here at Sebring, quite frankly, is a good result. So, not disappointed in that regard – this is a very tough race.  I’m really happy for the guys, for the crew, for the drivers. Everybody just worked hard and got a good result.”

The 12 Hours of Sebring event was expected to be one of the most challenging events on the 2014 race schedule, and it turned out to be even more so for the No. 9 Corvette DP drivers of Burt Frisselle, Brian Frisselle, and Jon Fogarty. Brian Frisselle completed just an hour and 20 minutes of track time after becoming ill during his morning stint and was not cleared by IMSA to compete in the remainder of the race. Burt Frisselle and Fogarty were then tabbed to each triple stint in the car on the very physically demanding circuit.

The duo was up to the challenging task with extra long stints for Fogarty and Burt Frisselle, and the pair stayed clean throughout the race and avoided the vast amount of attrition on the tight confines of the tricky 3.74-mile circuit that saw a record amount of yellows (11) in the 12-hour endurance event. The No. 9 Action Express Racing Corvette DP completed the ‘longest day in racing’ with an eighth place result.
Action Express Racing will now focus forward to the next race which will be held through the streets of Long Beach, California and marks the first sprint race of the season on April 12.

DRIVER COMMENTS:
Joao Barbosa, No. 5 Corvette DP: “A third place finish is a great result for Action Express today. We had a very good race. We were always in contention for the win. Unfortunately, the last yellow was surprisingly very long and I really don’t know why it was so long. It was all about track position on the restarts. And there was very little time left when we went back to green. Third place is a very good result. The entire team did a tremendous job.”

Christian Fittipaldi, No. 5 Corvette DP: “It was a good points day for the championship. Our lead is a little bit bigger now because the No. 10 car didn’t have such a lucky day today. It was a little bit of luck for the Ganassi team, they are an outstanding group of guys but luck went their way a little bit more than it did for us today. The No. 01 car had a very, very strong car. I’ll take third and points in the championship and we’ll move on to Long Beach. Congrats to Action Express and to Chevy because our car was absolutely flawless.”

Sebastien Bourdais, No. 5 Corvette DP: “I really thought we were stronger in pace than the lead cars on that final restart. I think it looked that way for most of the race. Until they (first and second) showed their hand. There was nothing I could do. That was a bit of a shame but that’s racing. And then the No. 01 cycled to the front after getting that lucky break, they pitted before the yellow flag. Sometimes you need a bit of luck in your hand. We did everything we could. We came in clean. We didn’t make any mistakes.”

Burt Frisselle, No. 9 Corvette DP: “It was a tough day. Obviously it’s disappointing that Brian wasn’t able to continue but we’re a team and Jon (Fogarty) and I just did what needed to be done. Triple stinting on a track like Sebring was very difficult but we ran a pretty good race. The team made no mistakes. The car was clean and running well. Action Express Racing put together a good car for us. It was really competitive out there so I’m happy to finish in the top-10 but we would have liked to be a little further up the order today.”

Brian Frisselle, No. 9 Corvette DP: “I’m just really bummed that I didn’t get to compete as much as I would have liked today. After visiting the medical center I felt better and wanted to get back out in the car but IMSA did not clear me to drive. This race is one of the toughest ones we do, but I have to say that sitting on the sidelines was much harder than any of the racing that went on today. That said, it was really special to be a part of this big and historic event and to be here competing alongside my brother and to have both of my parents here with us at a track that has some great family memories.”

Jon Fogarty, No. 9 Corvette DP: “It was a long day. Obviously, Brian (Frisselle) got sick and then the rotation changed so we started pushing our stints longer than we had planned and you lose a guy in the rotation. In that aspect it’s challenging. But this course and this race is challenging.  The level of competition in this series is so high. We had little issues with fatigue so we just couldn’t quite fight for the top. The guys did a great job as usual. To finish in the top-10, finish on the lead lap with all the adversity we faced is encouraging but not the result we came for at all. I’m ready to get to the next round of the Endurance Cup because we saw with the No. 5 car today that Action Express is probably the best team in this paddock at endurance racing.”

Photo Credit: José Mário Dias

Small Setback Costs Visit Florida Racing Big Finish in Sebring

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SEBRING, Fla. (15 March 2014) – After leading the race early in the event, Visit Florida Racing finished the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida 10th in class on Saturday with the No. 90 VISITFLORIDA.com Corvette DP. Drivers Richard Westbrook, Michael Valiante, and Mike Rockenfeller shared the driving duties in the 12-hour enduro. The result came as a disappointment for the team after having had an encouraging start to the event, leading early before suffering a mechanical setback that cost the group crucial time.

The race marked Visit Florida Racing’s first-ever competition outing on the fabled Florida circuit as IMSA staged round two of the 2014 IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

After qualifying seventh on the 64 car combined-class field on Friday, Westbrook ran in the top-10 in the opening segments before turning the car over to Valiante on a lap 42 pit stop. The Canadian improved to circulate in the top five before moving to the lead on lap 76, holding the point through a yellow flag restart and then continuing in the top-five before turning the car over to Rockenfeller, who rejoined in third place as the race entered the fifth hour.

Unfortunately, the effort suffered a significant setback as Rockenfeller coasted to a halt on the back stretch shortly thereafter, bringing out a yellow and necessitating a stint back at the team transporter. The crew diagnosed the issue, which was an electronic element connected to the throttle controls, and set about making repairs. The team turned the car around quickly, but the effort still cost the team over 15 laps to the race lead.

Determined to make the most of the outing, and knowing that there were still lots to learn and accomplish over the course of seven more hours of racing, Visit Florida Racing continued to log laps and fight to the finish for a hard-earned top-10 finish.

“There are so many new components on these cars, and even though we had the 24 and some testing, we are still finding the limit with some of these components and that caught us out today with the VISITFLORIDA.com car,” said team owner Troy Flis. “We had a good car, led the race and we were hoping for a whole lot more. But after that, our race was all about just doing laps and getting to the finish. We had an awesome group of VISITFLORIDA.com guests here and we were hoping to have them see us celebrate with some Orange Juice in victory lane. Our performance was good, but it just wasn’t our day with that one issue.”

“We were hoping with two huge races in Florida, being in the Visit Florida car, to get a bit of home luck,” said Westbrook, who won the event in 2013. “The car was decent but we had a problem with the fly by wire which is no fault of the team or anything like that. It’s just one of those things. It’s a new part and that  put us out of contention. There wasn’t really much we could do apart pray that people drop out! But the attrition rate wasn’t the normal for Sebring, in the Prototype cars anyway. We got some points but we’ve got to just forget about this weekend and get back to our winning ways. But it’s been a really tough week for us. It’s given us something to think about. We’ve got to work hard and bounce back strong in Long Beach.”

“I don’t think we had the car to win today but maybe top-four,” said Valiante, who also competed in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race held on Friday at the track. “We raced well early but just had that part fail and that was the end of our day competitively. We just kept working on the car though and we got enough laps in to come out with a top-10. That’s not what we were hoping for, but the team did a great job all week and getting the car back out there to keep going. We were flawless after that. So we will just focus ahead now.”

Visit Florida Racing will be back in race action across the country as the team looks forward to the high-profile Long Beach Grand Prix April 11-12.

Need for Speed Race Wrap: Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian Sebring 12 Hour Race

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Sebring, Fla.  (15 March 2014) – On one of the toughest days of racing there is, Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian fought back to take a lead-lap finish in the 62nd Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida on Saturday.

Drivers John Pew, Ozz Negri, and Justin Wilson teamed to deliver strong and consistent performances in a race that saw a record 11 caution periods.

The team started the race on the back foot—or more accurately the back row—after not getting the chance to have Negri complete his night laps in practice on Thursday. That engendered a back of the pack start per the regulations. But the quick Brazilian knows the track better than anyone else, and was rapidly up in contention as the green flag flew under perfect conditions. Turning the car over to Pew after his rapid escalation in the ranks, Negri knew the Need for Speed car was in good hands.

Pew hadn’t been to the track in several years, but the memories were clearly not too diminished as the Florida resident was on the pace and kept the team motoring in the top-10 through a race that lacked a rhythm in the early stages. After Pew moved up to fifth, he turned the car over to Wilson to take the controls.

Looking like the recent Sebring regular that he is, racing in podium position as the race entered the four hour mark. With Pew taking over through a disjointed section of yellow flag running before a setback struck the team just past the halfway mark.

An electronic issue had mechanical ramifications, but quick change of ECU meant that the transmission was working once again. Despite the quick fix by the team, the stop unfortunately happened under green flag conditions, which had been rare up to that point. Losing laps forced the team into an alternate strategy to fight back and make up the two laps lost.

Working the traffic, the pace, and the caution periods that were far less frequent in the second half of the race, the team managed to do just that, getting back to the lead lap and ready to fight to the finish when the final green flag flew with just 20 minutes to go.

Unfortunately, the Need For Speed Ecoboost-powered car just didn’t have the pace and track position to move any further forward, with Wilson bringing the car home ninth at the finish. With a record nine cars on the lead lap completing some 291 laps, it was one for the books.

Mike Shank: “What a long day! We fought from our heels the entire time. We definitely could have finished better than that but we had an ECU problem on our gear box that really hurt us; put us down two laps. We fought from 60th to third, we fought from two laps down back on to the lead lap… it was just one thing after the other. I’m happy for Chip Ganassi Racing and Ford. This is a big deal for Ford to win this race and I’m proud to be a part of their program and proud for their win.”

Ozz Negri: “The car felt good. We’re still missing that dive plane; we got understeer through the fast parts. They asked me to save fuel, but at the same time go fast! I was able to save the fuel that they wanted by managing the revs. We were able to get the fuel mileage that we needed. This race is tough. It’s one of the toughest races I have ever done. But I tell you what, if we had a little better luck with a yellow, we had a car for a podium finish.”

John Pew: “There was a really long yellow during my stint so there was a lot of pick up on the tires. It took me quite a few laps after we went green to get that all off and get the grip back. But after that it started to get better. Then at the very end of the stint, the rear tires were starting to go. I was passing a GT coming out of the Water Tower and we both bobbled a little bit and I spun the car around. I’ve done that a lot in the night in that same spot. I know how to not hit the wall really well! I didn’t hit anything this time either so I was able bring it back to the pits to give it to Ozz. It was still pushing in all the high speed stuff and little loose on turn in to some of the slow speed but other than that the car wasn’t bad.”

Justin Wilson: “Like Barry (Waddell, spotter) said, we started half a lap down and we finished half a lap down. We had that problem with the gear box. I don’t know what they did (with the repair); they messed around at the back of the car and then it worked again! I don’t know if there was a piece of rubber that got in there and stopped it from shifting.  We were just trying to recover from that and get our lap back and we finally did it but we couldn’t quite get to the front. It was fun. A long, tough day, but we’ll try again next year.  I knew we had a chance if we could get back toward the front. I guess it wasn’t our day. Things never quite fell the way we needed them to. We always seemed to be right on the tail end of that lead lap and fighting to stay ahead.”

Sebring Proves To Be a Handful

Taylor Brothers, Angelelli Survive Grueling 12 Hours, Finish Seventh
Despite Being Plagued with Triple-Whammy of Misfortune

Date: March 15, 2014
Event: 62nd Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring (Round 2 of 12)
Series: Prototype division of the Tudor United SportsCar Championship
Location:  Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway (3.74-mile, 17-turn road course)
Start/Finish: 3rd / 7th (Running, completed 291 of 291 laps)
Winner: Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas and Marino Franchitti of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (Ford)

It may be only half as long as the traditional season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, but Saturday’s 62nd renewal of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring proved once again that America’s oldest endurance race has to be the most difficult.

Such was the case for brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor and their veteran Italian co-driver Max “The Ax” Angelelli, whose No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype for Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) performed flawlessly in finishing a solid second at each of the last two Rolex 24s but had their hands full seemingly all day and night long during today’s once-around-the-clock endurance classic.

The Taylors and Angelelli were flirting with a podium some 75 minutes to go before the checkered flag, but the team’s third and ultimately decisive incident of the race plucked the No. 10 Corvette out of contention for good, leaving it to settle for a seventh-place finish.

It was Ricky Taylor’s turn to play the role of closer, and he found himself in third place at the 10-hour, 45-minute mark behind Memo Rojas in the eventual race-winning No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Ford Riley, and David Brabham in the eventual runner-up No. 1 Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-03b Honda. But Taylor’s windscreen was oiled up in a big way by the No. 25 LMPC-class Oreca, bad enough that Taylor ventured off-course at one point and didn’t even realize it. The WTR crew called him into the pits immediately to clean the windscreen and top off the fuel tank, putting the No. 10 Corvette off-sequence from the race leaders in ninth place.

The caution flag flew some 20 minutes later, and the race didn’t go back to green until another 31 minutes later, negating any potential advantage the No. 10 Corvette might have owned by being on its own fuel strategy. The top two finishers happened to pit under green just before the yellow, and the remainder of the field pitted during the yellow to set up a final 21-minute sprint to the finish. Taylor restarted in seventh place, and was only able to hold his position until the checkered flag.

“There seemed to be no passing during that last run,” said Taylor, who qualified the No. 10 Corvette third late Friday afternoon. “I think it was because the pace was just so high and I think everybody was in the position they belonged in after racing for almost 12 hours. I feel really bad that we had to make an extra pit stop because of the oil. I don’t know if anybody else had that problem out there. That was frustrating. But when I had a clean windshield, the car was the best it’d been all day at the end, there. Finishing seventh is kind of ho-hum when you look at it. It was a long race. I’m just happy we got through the middle because it was so difficult to keep the car on the track and stay out of trouble. Jordan gave me the car in a really good position for the end of the race. The first time it got oiled up, I couldn’t see a thing and I actually went off and didn’t even know it. It was very fortunate that I didn’t hit anything. We had to come in and clean it off at that point. Then it got oiled up again. It wasn’t as bad but I couldn’t see quite well enough to be able to maintain the pace I might have needed to pick up positions. But it is what it is. This was our first time here. It’s a tough race and all. I think we’ll just lick our wounds and move on to the next one. It could have been a lot worse, I guess.”

Approaching the midpoint of the race, at the five-hour, 50-minute mark, Jordan Taylor averted disaster when he had to venture way off course to avoid two cars that collided heavily right in front of him in a high-speed section of the 3.74-mile road circuit between turns 15 and 16. The off-course excursion left the radiator grill of the No. 10 Corvette caked with dirt and other debris, necessitating an unscheduled pit stop to clear it. He resumed in 10th place after that incident.

Later in the race, Taylor took over from Angelelli in the fourth position and kept the No. 10 Corvette in the top-five for the remainder of his single stint before handing it over to his brother in second place.

“That was the toughest race I think we’ve ever had, and to come out with seventh place probably doesn’t do justice to all the hard work everybody put into it,” Jordan Taylor said. “But it was just a matter of not being able to bounce back all the way from the few issues we had today – the early penalty, my having to go off with cars spinning and colliding in front of me in the middle of the race, and Ricky getting his windscreen oiled up and going off, which necessitated another pit stop toward the end of the race, there. All in all, I think we might have had a solid podium car, at best, despite all the things we had to deal with. But we brought it home in one piece both at Daytona and here at Sebring, and we’re still sitting second in the points, so we’ll head to the early sprint race part of the schedule and try to build some serious momentum.”

The penalty Taylor referred to was a serious blow at the time – a stop plus 60 seconds in the “penalty box” for entering a closed pit at the three-hour, 21-minute mark. Angelelli was running second when another prototype went off course and was stuck in a tire barrier. Before race officials called for the caution flag, the team called Angelelli into pit lap for tires and fuel. As Angelelli was making his way across the commitment line at the entrance to pit road, officials finally called for the yellow. Angelelli proceeded to his pitbox and the fuel-and-tire stop was executed. Officials issued the penalty some 24 minutes later, just after the race went back to green. Angelelli served the penalty and resumed in 11th place and fell off the lead lap.

Another caution 14 minutes later for an accident approaching the start-finish line enabled Angelelli to take advantage of a wave-around the pace car and put the No. 10 Corvette back on the lead lap, where it stayed the rest of the race.

“To win races like this, you have to be good, but you also have to have things go your way,” Angelelli said. “Call it luck, or coincidence or whatever. Our car definitely was maybe a fourth-place car. With a little bit of luck, maybe a podium finish. If I had to put my finger on one thing in particular, I think we underestimated the heat in the track and what it did to our car from a setup standpoint. That’s my opinion. This is a great race and we would have loved to have had a better result. You know, the positive is we didn’t damage the car, we didn’t hit anybody because of us – that’s two of the most difficult races we did not hurt the car. With all of the traffic and everything here and at Daytona, that says a lot. If you don’t hit anybody and bring the car back in one piece, that’s a big key to success. But we just had enough other things set us back today that a win or a podium finish just was not going to happen.”

Despite the seventh-place finish, the team held onto second place in the provisional point standings, albeit nine points behind the Rolex 24-winning No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette, which finished third today, and one point ahead of the No. 01 Ganassi Ford.

“The team did a great job, again,” team owner Wayne Taylor said. “We got really unlucky with the accident that led Jordan to have to go off the track, and then having to pit to clean up all the debris off from that, which put us in the back. We went a lap down early in the race, but we recovered from that. Then we were up to second or third late in the race, but then Ricky got covered in oil and we just couldn’t fight our way all the way back. The cars are so close out there that there’s isn’t much of a margin for error. Points-wise, we’re very much fighting for the championship, which is our ultimate dream. So, overall, I’m OK with this result. Seventh in the race today, second in the points heading to Long Beach, I’ll have to admit I’m happy.”

FOX Sports 1 will televise a three-hour highlight show recapping today’s race at 8:30 a.m. EDT Sunday.

Round three of the 2014 Tudor United SportsCar Championship will be part of the traditional Grand Prix of Long Beach (Calif.) IndyCar Series weekend Saturday, April 12. The first street race of the year will be broadcast live by FOX Sports 1 at 6 p.m. EDT.

Action Express Racing Captures First-Ever Pole Position for the 12 Hours of Sebring

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Sebring, Fla. (14 March 2014) – Action Express Racing was back out front at Sebring International Raceway on Friday after Sebastien Bourdais delivered the team’s first-ever pole position during qualifying for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. The No. 5 Corvette Daytona Prototype posted the quickest time of the 15-minute afternoon session with a fast lap of 1:51.917-seconds on the 3.74-mile circuit.

“It was a good run,” said Bourdais, who will share driving duties with fellow Rolex 24 winners Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi. “This morning we couldn’t put a lap together because traffic was a big difficulty. It was very hard to get a read on the car in practice because you couldn’t do three consecutive corners without encountering traffic so it’s tough to know exactly what the balance of the car is and to get in the rhythm. It’s not going to be any easier tomorrow during the race but at least we have a definite read on how the car is in qualifying. We could put some laps together and I guess we were pretty spot on. Overall the car was quite enjoyable to drive and I just took my time and put some laps together. I’m very happy for the Action Express and Corvette team. We’re in a good place to start after Daytona. The pole is very satisfying but we’ll reset for tomorrow and see where we end up in the race.”

Jon Fogarty, who joined the Action Express line-up for the 12 Hours of Sebring, was tabbed to qualify the No. 9 Corvette DP and posted the 10th quickest time to line up on the outside of Row 5 for the start of the 12 hour race. He will team with brothers Burt and Brian Frisselle in the No. 9 Corvette machine.

“Qualifying started out well and the car felt good,” said Fogarty of the run. “We were one of the first cars out and we were able to put in a good time. We just had a hard time with grip and it took a while for it to come back to me. By that time, everyone else had already put in their good times and just didn’t have it. I think I could have gotten a little more out of it for sure. I definitely have a little bit of a gap to my teammates so I want to research that and try to get that understood and use that to our advantage during the race tomorrow.”

Action Express Racing will look to become the fifth team in history to win both the Rolex 24 and 12 Hours of Sebring in the same year.

“Obviously we are very, very pleased,” said Team Owner Bob Johnson. “This is a tremendous result. I thought Sebastien did a phenomenal job because every lap just got quicker and quicker even though there was a lot of pressure coming from behind. He was really cool and kept it together and did an outstanding job. It’s great to come from victory lane right into the pole position here at Sebring. It’s really special to have that here at Sebring because this is a difficult track.”

Bourdais will lead the 64 combined-class field to the green flag tomorrow morning with the race set to begin at 10:15 AM ET.

FOX Sports 1 will feature a live broadcast of the first three hours of the race and www.imsa.com will have video streaming available throughout the entire race.

MRN Radio will also broadcast the 12-hour race in its entirety at www.mrn.com.

Photo Credit José Mário Dias

Rum Bum Racing Set to Start Seventh in 12 Hours of Sebring

wdmp_140312_2810Sebring, Fla. (14 March 2014) – Rum Bum Racing will make its debut in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida Saturday at Sebring International Raceway with the No. 13 Porsche GT America and will start from the inside of the fourth row after Jan Heylen posted a fast lap of 2:04.561-seconds during Friday’s 15-minute qualifying session.

In what has proven to be a stout GTD field in the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, Heylen’s qualifying time was just three tenths off of the pole position time. He will share the No. 13 Porsche machine with co-drivers Madison Snow, Hugh Plumb, and Matt Plumb as the group looks for a strong finish at the 3.74-mile road course.

“I’m a little bit frustrated with myself because we were so close to the pole and I know the car had it in it,” said Heylen. “I know the qualifying doesn’t mean much for the race but, hey, that’s what we’re here for right?! We’ve had very little track time compared to the other teams so we’re just playing catch up. But man the Rum Bum guys have just done an amazing job in qualifying compared to where we were yesterday and this morning. Today the car was so much better and I feel good about the race tomorrow. It’s too bad we just missed the pole but we’ll do better tomorrow.”

The qualifying effort marked the end of a busy day for Rum Bum Racing as the team also competed in Round 2 of the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. The team looked poised for another podium finish after another great strategy call from Joe Varde, but a trivial officiating call from IMSA saw the team fall a lap down before fighting back to take a disappointing 10th place result at the finish.

“As far as the Continental race, as a team we functioned as well as we could possibly function,” said Team Manager and driver Matt Plumb. “We suffered the effects of a strange pit lane call by IMSA. But the good news is that our crew is up to form for the race tomorrow and the car is good, it is where we need it to be and we’re ready to go.”

The Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring will go green tomorrow at 10:15 AM ET. The first three hours of the race will be televised live on FOX Sports 1 with the entire race streamed live at www.imsa.com.

The Continental Tire race will air on FOX Sports 1 on Wednesday March 19th at 1:00 PM (ET) and again on FOX Sports 2 on Sunday March 23rd at 7:30 PM (ET).