IMSA’s new LMP3 class is not where sports car fans might expect to find a four-time winner of the Rolex 24 At Daytona and two-time Prototype champion like Joao Barbosa, but it’s a perfect fit for the veteran as he rebuilds his career.
The former Action Express Racing and JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac DPi-V.R driver had his 2020 season cut short when off-track troubles made an inevitable intrusion into the cockpit.
With his wife facing serious medical challenges at home, and Barbosa doing his best to give full and equal attention to his team and family, he and the JDC outfit chose to split near the halfway point of the championship to allow an uninterrupted focus where it was needed most.
Fighting back tears, the emotions from a heart-wrenching year returned as Barbosa spoke about the challenges he and his wife endured.
“Well, it’s definitely was a challenging year,” he said. “To drive a DPi, you definitely need to be 100 percent committed, your focus needs to be 100 percent there, and the season started pretty well,” he said. “It’s just, we hit a tough situation at midpoint through the season that things were not really working out. For me, at some point, I couldn’t connect.
“It was very difficult to make a connection with anybody, even with [teammate Sebastien Bourdais] or [JDC’s] Christian [Fittipaldi] or the team, and those guys that I knew for a long time, there was something missing there. There was some situations here with my wife, that she went through a really tough time. I don’t want to go too much into that, but there was some other situations that were a lot more important than racing.”
With improving health and fortunes at home, Barbosa was recruited for the new No. 33 Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier JS P320 LMP3 program in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, where he’ll chase a fifth Rolex 24 win with Wayne Boyd, Yann Clairay and Lance Willsey.
“I’m super happy and my family’s happy that I’m able to get back to racing,” he said. “That’s what I’ve done all my life. I think I still have a lot to give. By no means I feel like I lost my ability to drive at top level. That’s just some things get in the way sometimes and that’s the way it is. If I felt like I have lost the ability to contribute to a team and to make a positive outcome for the team, then if I didn’t think I was capable of doing that, then I would be the first one to step out and just tune back a little bit.
“But I feel like I’m 100 percent still capable of achieving and driving good like I always did. My family and my wife, my kids, they support me a hundred percent with this new program so I’m really, really happy with the outcome.”
Learn more about Barbosa’s thoughts on the LMP3 class ahead of its WeatherTech Championship debut, racing in something other than IMSA’s fastest prototype class, and his new team and teammates from his episode of Catching Up With below: