Atlanta, Ga. – Action Express Racing had a different look this weekend as the Rolex Sports Car Series staged a debut race at Road Atlanta. With an updated driver line up, some new corporate signage on the team Corvette DP’s and a healthy group of corporate guests from Korn/Ferry International and Microsoft Visual Studio on hand, the team was looking forward to a big weekend in Atlanta.
Burt and Brian Frisselle finished the race as the lead Action Express Racing entry with a run to eighth at the checkered flag with the No. 9 Visual Studios Corvette DP. Combining as co-drivers for the first time this season, both Burt and Brian led the field at different stages of the race, but a move to a fuel saving run didn’t pay off as the all-green flag run to the finish saw the team cross the line in eighth. The result marks the No. 9 machine’s third top-10 of the season.
“It was great to have the Visual Studios Corvette DP out front today-for both me and Brian,” said Burt Frisselle. “But we had to move to save fuel as we didn’t have the outright pace to lead and so we tried a different strategy with that goal. But with the long green flag run, it didn’t pay off but we’ll go home and do our homework and just look forward to Detroit.”
The sister No. 9 Korn/Ferry International Corvette DP of Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa finished the race twelfth in class. The duo had had high expectations coming into the weekend, with practice speeds at or near the top of the charts in each session leading up to qualifying. The team was set to make a qualifying run for the front row when rain forced the officials to set the field by points.
Starting the race deep in the field, the No. 5 Corvette DP began an impressive charge to the front. Fittipaldi passed car after car in his opening stint, turning the car over to Barbosa near the one hour mark in the 4th position. A quick pit stop by the crew gained another spot and the No. 5 was in 3rd, about 8 seconds behind the second place car.
Approaching the two hour mark Barbosa had closed the gap. All eyes were on car 5, when, with a little over an hour to go it was time for a second routine stop. An accident on pit road during that stop caused significant damage to the car taking it out of contention.
The team rallied to make repairs and have the car back on track to take the finish. But the fix required a wholesale swap of the entire nose section of the car and cost several laps before the car was able to return to the track to cross the line 12th in class.
“It’s just disappointing, I don’t even know what to say,” said Barbosa. “We had a great race going. The car was very good, we were competitive. Unfortunately, a car in the pit ahead was trying to come in to his pit just as we were leaving ours, the contact forced us into the pit wall - it was a big hit. After that there’s nothing much we can do, except think about the next one, try to improve and stay out of trouble.”
“We were very encouraged with the performance of the team today,” said team manager Gary Nelson. “In the 5 car’s case, it all went away in an incident on pitlane. We had just caught the 10. It didn’t look like anyone had anything for the 01, but we thought we might be the next car. Joao and Christian had a great run going. It is unfortunate that this happened.
We were leaving the pit exactly as they were coming in, and right at that split second, the stars got out of alignment and we had contact. The 9 led a couple of times, but once the race got into a rhythm, we weren’t able to make up the track position without the yellows. So, 4 races into the season, we’re encouraged that our speed is there, we just haven’t been able to close any deals.”
Action Express Racing will return to race action for the Chevrolet Grand Prix of Detroit May 31 – June 1 for Round 5 of the championship. The team finished 1-2 in last year’s Detroit race and will target a repeat performance in this year’s event.