Tristan Vautier will join Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Action Express Cadillac DPi-V.R in place of an injured Joao Barbosa, who was hurt in last month’s race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
At the start of last month’s race, Barbosa’s Cadillac was hit by JDC-Miller/GAINSCO Motorsports’ Misha Goikhberg, sending Barbosa into a spin before he was struck by Dirk Muller’s No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing GT. Barbosa suffered a rib injury, and doctors have advised against him racing in this weekend’s 10-hour season finale.
“I’m sad that I have to miss this race,” said Barbosa. “This has been a tough year for me after a great start with our wins at Daytona and Long Beach. In my career, I never had to miss any races during a season, and this year I’m missing three because of injuries (two after a biking accident earlier this year).
“But I think the team can do well this weekend with the Mustang Sampling car — no matter what we’ve raced, this track has always suited our team so there is a lot of confidence for the weekend. Tristan will be a great fit with the experience that he already has in the Cadillac Prototype.”
Albuquerque said the Laguna Seca crash was frustrating “because there was nothing Joao could do.”
“It was a domino effect created when the pole car did not accelerate normally,” Albuquerque said. “As each driver on the inside row behind him began to accelerate, then had to hit their brakes, a gentleman driver hit us from behind.
“It changes my approach completely heading to Petit Le Mans. Now I will not think about the championship because there is nothing to fight for. I will just go full attack mode to win the race. Second place is not an option. I really want to secure the win. For me, Petit Le Mans is one of those races that I have on my bucket list to win. I consider it a very prestigious event and we are totally motivated to win it.”
Vautier returns to Road Atlanta after competing in GTD in the 2017 edition.
“I feel badly for Joao, so this is a tough circumstance to be having this opportunity and I hope he recovers as quickly as possible,” said Vautier. “I am grateful to [Spirit of Daytona Racing owner] Troy [Flis] for letting me do this, and also to the Mustang Sampling team for trusting me for this role because it is a big responsibility with the Endurance Cup still to fight for. Hopefully the experience I have in the Cadillac Prototype will help us get the result that we are looking for.”
However, the Mustang Sampling Cadillac team, which sits sixth in the WeatherTech Championship standings, will do everything in its power to support its sister Whelen Engineering Cadillac teammates Felipe Nasr and Eric Curran, who hold a four-point lead in the DPi championship over CORE Autosport entering the season finale. Gabby Chaves joins the No.31 entry for Petit.