Two-time IMSA Prototype champion and three-time overall Rolex 24 At Daytona winner Joao Barbosa is determined to continue his career in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship after exiting Action Express Racing.
Facing a vast shortfall in funding for the No. 5 Cadillac DPi-V.R, the AXR team recently announced it expects to focus on a single entry next season with the No. 31 Whelen Engineering-sponsored Cadillac, leaving Barbosa and his co-drivers to find new opportunities in the series.
The Portuguese ace is fortunate to have the support of Mustang Sampling, whose sponsorship helped complete the No. 5’s annual funding requirements.
“They want to continue, I want to continue, but in what terms, I don’t know,” Barbosa told RACER. “We want to find the best fit. It’s a great relationship that started five years ago with Mustang Sampling, so we’re trying to find out where we should go.”
As a veteran of the Chevy and Cadillac Racing families, and considering the limited number of vacancies to fill, seeing Barbosa return in a JDC-Miller Cadillac would not come as a surprise. Juncos Racing is another Cadillac program with a DPi-V.R in need of sponsorship and driving talent, and while Wayne Taylor Racing is expected to have an opening, the team is loaded with options for its entry, which could diminish Barbosa’s chances.
After missing half of the 2018 season due to injuries, 2019 served as a reminder of Barbosa’s speed after winning on the streets of Long Beach and leading last weekend’s Petit Le Mans late into the 10-hour contest before a brake failure ended the No. 5 Cadillac’s run. At 44, Barbosa is confident his best times behind the wheel are not in the past.
“Last year I had a broken wrist and broken ribs, and when you’re not in the car, it makes it difficult to come back,” he said. “It took me a little bit to get back to where I felt I should be, and the last few races, it gave me the feeling I’m not ready to stop yet. In Road Atlanta, I felt really competitive, and if it wasn’t that way, I’d say it was time to stop. I feel I can give a lot physically and mentally to a team for a few more years, and help them to win.”
Saying goodbye to the Action Express team was hard for Barbosa. Born out of the Brumos Racing team where he won his first Rolex 24 in 2009, the longstanding relationship was a rarity cherished by Barbosa.
“I was so lucky to be with those guys for over 10 years,” he said. “It’s not normal to have a relationship for so long with one team for a driver, and we had so much success together. You can’t take that away with everything we built at AXR, formerly Brumos. Sooner or later, everything in this world comes to an end, so it’s time to go and create something new for myself.”