Action Express Racing took a simple motto into the inaugural TUDOR United SportsCar Championship: “Expect to Win.”
The team came out ready to go for pre-season testing at Daytona and Sebring. There was an air of confidence from the moment Action Express unloaded for the Rolex 24 At Daytona – one that carried right through to the post-race celebration in victory lane.
Throughout the year, Action Express always seemed to be one of the first cars out for every practice session, and one of the teams to beat at all of the 11 races on the TUDOR Championship schedule.
The preparation paid off with a championship season. Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais opened the year by winning the Rolex 24 At Daytona. They clinched the team title merely by starting the season-ending Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda, but battled for the victory throughout the 10-hour event, eventually finishing second. After all, they “expected to win,” and made Wayne Taylor Racing earn its eventual victory.
In addition to winning the Rolex 24, Action Express scored back-to-back races at Indianapolis and Road America to take command of the championship. The finale was the team’s eighth podium finish in 11 races, with its worst result a sixth at Detroit Belle Isle. Podium finishes at the four endurance races led to the team and driver titles in the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup. In addition, the solid season played a key role in Chevrolet locking up manufacturer’s titles in both the TUDOR Championship and Patrón Endurance Cup.
Action Express also completed every lap of competition – an accomplishment achieved only a handful of times in major sports car racing.
If there was a key moment in the season, it may have come when the team unloaded its Corvette DP in its Denver, N.C. shops late last September after returning from the GRAND-AM Rolex SportsCar Series finale at Lime Rock Park. The team immediately went to work, preparing for the new challenge presented by the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship – a unified series that was so new that the final rules package was yet to be announced.
“I could feel this season would be very special after all the hard work and the immense hours that the team was putting in the off-season just to prepare for the new regulations with the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship,” Barbosa said. “We knew we had everything in place and it could be very big. We started great in Daytona with a Rolex 24 win, and we were super consistent. All the hard work and preparation the team did during the winter really paid off. It was just a tremendous team result.”
The Rolex 24 is tied to the very DNA of Action Express – an event the team won in its competition debut in 2010 with a lineup led by Barbosa. The next event, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida, was a new event for Action Express and the Daytona Prototype teams. Action Express came out strong for the pre-season testing at the historic airport circuit, and then claimed the TOTAL Pole Award for Bourdais and finished third in the event.
Another highlight was victory at Indianapolis, coming 19 years after Fittipaldi finished second and earned Rookie of the Year honors in his lone Indianapolis 500.
Fittipaldi earned a place in the highlight films with his jubilant celebration – jumping up and down on pit road after Barbosa took the checkered flag in the Brickyard Grand Prix. However, he admitted he was celebrating more than winning the race.
“It was a combination of A – obviously winning Indy, and B – being back in a strong position for the championship,” Fittipaldi said. “The races were clicking off, and it was really important to get in a strong position for the championship.”
Now, Barbosa, Fittipaldi and the team are heading to New York City to officially celebrate winning the inaugural TUDOR Championship – one of many highlights this year.
“My highlight was everything,” Barbosa said. “Just to see the team grow and the consistency we had and the feeling that we had going to every track, thinking we had a shot at winning and being competitive. That was the best feeling.”
Meanwhile, having taking a deep breath, the team is already hard at work at its new headquarters in Denver, focused on being even stronger next year.