Joao Barbosa is eager to get the latter half of 2018 behind him.
Barbosa was forced to sit out the races at Watkins Glen and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park last summer after breaking his wrist in a bicycling workout near his North Carolina home.
Physically, he’s ready to go. But getting back behind the wheel of the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R will complete his recovery.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to racing after a tough end to last season,” he said. “I’m 100 percent ready to go. I can’t wait to get back on track. I’m anxious to get going, and coming back to the Rolex 24 At Daytona makes it even better.”
He returned to action and finished seventh at Road America, but he was collected in an incident coming to the start of the race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. He suffered a rib injury, putting him back on the bench for the season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans.
“I’ve been working out like I always do,” Barbosa said. “I’m also doing special exercises for my wrist with a trainer. I’ve been doing a special program to get in the best shape as possible, as fast as possible.”
Returning to Daytona as the defending winner of the Rolex 24, he’s looking to returning to the top step of the podium with Christian Fittipaldi, Filipe Albuquerque and new team addition Mike Conway — the 2018 runner-up with the Whelen Engineering Cadillac.
An overall victory would also be the fourth for both Barbosa and Fittipaldi — as well as the fifth class triumph. While that would move the pair into elite company, Barbosa is focusing at the task at hand.
“When you come to the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the goal is to win — whether if it’s your first or fourth,” Barbosa said. “Winning the fourth would be very, very special for me, personally, but the goal is to focus on the race. Winning the fourth would be like the cherry on top of the cake.”
In addition to five-time winners Hurley Haywood and Scott Pruett, Peter Gregg, Bob Wollek, Pedro Rodriguez and Rolf Stommelen won four times at Daytona. A fifth class victory would tie him with Andy Lally on the all-time list, trailing only Pruett (10), Haywood, Gregg and Wollek (six) in career class triumphs.
Barbosa has another big incentive to win. The 57th running of the Daytona classic will be Fittipaldi’s farewell race; Barbosa would like to see him walk away with another Rolex.
“I’ve raced with Christian for a long time, and we’ve become really good friends,” Barbosa said. “It’s sad to see him leave the racing and not driving with him anymore, but I also think he made that decision consciously and he’s ready for it. I’m happy that he made that decision on his own terms. I’m happy that we will be able to share the car in such a great race, and let’s try to give him a really good farewell race; a win would be really good.”