On Thursday, Action Express Racing announced their drivers for the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season. It will be a mix of familiar faces and new drivers for the veteran sports car team.
In the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R. full-time will be Filipe Albuquerque, who currently drives with the team in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup (TPNAEC) races. Albuquerque has been driving full-time this year for United Autosports in the European Le Mans Series in addition to his IMSA duties. Albuquerque will be joined by the returning Joao Barbosa.
46-year old Christian Fittipaldi has begun to slow down his driving career. The former Minardi and Footwork Formula One racer has been tapped as Action Express Racing’s Sporting Director. In his new role, Fittipaldi will contribute to technical evaluations to help improve the team’s Cadillac DPi-V.R.s. In addition to his role behind the scenes, Fittipaldi will continue to race in the four TPNAEC races.
In the Whelen Engineering-sponsored No. 31, Eric Curran will return for another full-time season. He will be joined full-time by Felipe Nasr, who raced in Formula One for Sauber in 2016 alongside Marcus Ericsson. Mike Conway will return for the three longest endurance rounds.
In North America, Nasr has only two career sports car starts. Back in 2011, Nasr won the Sunoco Challenge, the grand prize of which was a seat in a Daytona Prototype for the 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona. Driving a Riley Mk. XX-Ford, Nasr finished third overall and impressed a number of observers.
The move will not result in Nasr’s first start with Action Express Racing. In 2013, Nasr shared Action Express’ No. 5 Chevrolet Corvette DP and finished eighth, 21 laps down on the leaders.
Action Express Racing Team Manager Gary Nelson is generally happy with the 2017 season, but hopes they can get back on top in 2018.
“As a team, the 2017 IMSA season has been a solid one, but we are all working hard to make 2018 an even better year,” Nelson said in a press release. “We are happy to have Eric [Curran] return in the Whelen Engineering Cadillac and to have Felipe [Nasr] come back to race with us for the full season. We have had the same driver line up for the Mustang Sampling Cadillac for the last two years, and that consistency will be an advantage. Christian [Fittipaldi], Filipe [Albuquerque] and Joao [Barbosa] have all been racing with us but we are just changing the roles that each will have next year. Adding Tim [Keene] to the 31 side is also something that we are excited about and we are looking forward to his contributions to our team effort here at Action Express Racing.”
As Nelson noted, Tim Keene has also joined the team as a Performance Coordinator in the past few weeks. He brings a winning pedigree to the team from his years at Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates when the team ran Daytona Prototypes.
The 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship gets underway with the 56th Running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona on Jan. 26-27, 2018. The Roar Before the 24 precedes the race by three weeks.
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.