Daytona24: Joao Barbosa race report

Barbosa Drives Brumos ...

Barbosa Drives Brumos #59 to Podium Finish in unforgettable Rolex 24 Race

It is unlikely that anyone who watched the 2009 Rolex 24 at Daytona will ever forget the ending. In the closest finish in the history of the legendary endurance event, Brumos Racing came out on top with a heart heart-stopping 1,3 finish, bringing both its #58 and #59 cars into Victory Lane. Making their intentions known early, a Brumos entry captured first place in each pre-race practice session as well as seeing its #58 car take pole position. Portuguese native Joao Barbosa shared the #59 driving duties along with fulltime co driver J.C. France, Brumos legend Hurley Haywood, and former Rolex 24 champion Terry Borcheller.

This twice-around-the-clock classic race turned out to be virtually a 24 hour sprint race, as the closing hour saw four cars on the lead lap, the race far from finished. In what team owner Dan Davis described as "the perfect race", each of the eight Brumos drivers and both cars led the race at some point. Equally impressive is the fact that the #59 car, other than one short period following a pit stop, stayed on the lead lap for the entire 24 hours.

Barbosa had praise for his car, crew and co co-drivers, saying, "The guys did an amazing job in preparing the car. The Porsche engine was good and reliable, and ran strong throughout the race without a single problem. All of the drivers were spot on, made no mistakes, and ran a consistent pace that kept us on the lead lap. If I hadn't hit traffic in the last few minutes I think we could have seen an even better finish, but I'm really happy with the result and I know J.C. and I will be back on that podium more often this year!"

The #59 car's return to the podium was an accomplishment that proved elusive throughout the 2008 season. As Barbosa explained, "We were so close so many times last year, our main goal this year was to get on the podium, so to start the season with 3rd place in the biggest race of the year ? it was a great race for Brumos and makes me really proud to be a part of this team." The 2008 season saw the #59 car capture 3rd place overall in the series championship, marking the greatest success for the iconic Brumos #59 in many years. It is no coinc coincidence that 2008 was also the year Joao joined the Brumos team as a fullfull-time driver.

Director of Brumos Team Operations, Mike Evans, finds Barbosa a tremendous asset to the team. "What we found last year," Evans said, "Is that he became a leader for our #59 car. No matter how difficult a position we put him in or what we asked of him, he gave us peak performance. He hardly ever puts a wheel wrong, and brings the car back in as good a shape as it was when he got in it." Brumos owner Dan Davis agreed, saying, "Joao has been a valuable addition to our team. He is the driver you can always count on. He is the one that is going to get in the car, give it all he has, and make it look easy."

Indeed, Barbosa was key to the strategy for the 2009 Grand Grand-Am Rolex Series season opener at Daytona, qualifying and starting the race. He stayed in the car during some tough hours, despite painful back injuries, allowing his coco- drivers some much needed rest. Coming back to close out the race, he turned in what Hurley Hayw Haywood described as "another spectacular performance". Barbosa held off tough challenges in the closing minutes before taking #59 across the line in 3rd place alongside race winning sister car #58. Barbosa's contributions to the successful finish were recognized and acknowledged by Mike Evans, who said "I'm sorry to often have to ask him to do the most difficult jobs, but he never refuses, or even hesitates ? and he always comes through. We definitely expect great things from him."

Evans' sentiments were echoed by Dan Davis, who stated, "Joao is a driver's driver and a wonderful person. In fact, I have nicknamed him `Superman'. He does a tremendous job of finishing and we are very proud to have him on our team. I am really excited about 2009 and I know we will be seeing the Brumos #59 on that top step more than once this season."

Barbosa has returned home to Porto, Portugal, following his Daytona achievements, enjoying some rare time at home with his family during a break in race action. It is no doubt that he will be ready to get back to racing for the next event on Grand-Am's Rolex Series schedule, which will be held at Virginia International Raceway on April 25th, 2009.

-credit: br

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Series GRANDAM