Action Express Racing returns to Rolex 24 victory lane

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Huge double result as sister Action Express Racing/Millennium Corvette DP entry finishes third in historic sports car race.

Daytona Beach, Fla. (26 January 2014) – When the future came knocking, Action Express Racing was ready to answer the door as the team returned to Gatorade Victory Lane at Daytona International Speedway Sunday afternoon after scoring a victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona in a convincing team performance in the first-ever IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship event. The victory marked the second win in the world-class event in the team’s young history, and the strong team performance was underscored as both team entries finished on the podium.

P class victory lane: class and overall winners Christian Fittipaldi, Joao Barbosa and Sébastien Bourdais
P class victory lane: class and overall winners Christian Fittipaldi, Joao Barbosa and Sébastien Bourdais

Photo by: Trevor Horn

Joao Barbosa (Portugal), Christian Fittipaldi (Brazil), and Sebastien Bourdais (France), all of whom reside in Florida, combined in the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP to take the win. It marked Barbosa’s second win with the team (2010) and his third career Rolex 24 victory. It was also Fittipaldi’s second win in the big event (2004, Bell Motorsports).

In partnership with Delta-ADR, Action Express fielded the No. 9 Action Express Racing/Millennium Corvette DP with American drivers Burt Frisselle and Brian Frisselle, as well as Frenchman Fabien Giroix and Aussie John Martin who teamed for a run to third.

In the dawn of a new era in sports car racing, Action Express Racing entered the Rolex 24 event well-prepared as the North Carolina-based team worked over 12,000 hours and completed 2,500 miles of testing in preparation for the 2014 TUDOR Championship season. That hard work paid off with a huge double podium result in the 52nd running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona as the team led over half of the 695 laps run.

Fittipaldi and Burt Frisselle opened the race from the second row with Fittipaldi slotting into third on the grid and Frisselle taking fourth on the grid. A nice clean start saw the duo run together, with Frisselle in third and Fittipaldi in fourth in the opening laps.

The two Action Express Racing Corvette DPs were a factor throughout the majority of the twice around the clock event and combined to lead over 350 laps over the 67-car combined class field.

Though dominant through most of the race, the win did not come easy as the No. 5 machine incurred an avoidable contact penalty with about six and a half hours remaining. The penalty meant that Barbosa had to bring the No. 5 Corvette to pit lane and remain stopped for 70 seconds. After sitting stationary on pit lane, the No. 5 fell a lap down, but working together with the sister No. 9 car, was able to click off quick lap times, return to the lead lap and continue to make forward progress.

P class victory lane: class and overall winners Christian Fittipaldi, Joao Barbosa and Sébastien Bourdais
P class victory lane: class and overall winners Christian Fittipaldi, Joao Barbosa and Sébastien Bourdais

Photo by: Trevor Horn

As the race wound down into the final stages, Barbosa looked likely to take the win as he had developed an 18-second lead over the second place No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing car. But his advantage was erased when a full course caution was displayed with 20 minutes remaining in the 24-hour race which allowed the field to bunch back up for the restart. In a thrilling close to the history-making race, the field went back to green with less than 10 minutes to go as the No. 10 machine gave chase. Barbosa raced masterfully to the end to take the checkered flag just over 1.5-seconds ahead. The No. 9 Action Express Racing/Millennium Corvette DP, which was driven by Brian Frisselle in the closing stages, took third at the finish line closely behind.

“My first comment would be to congratulate the Wayne Taylor Racing group,” said Team Owner Bob Johnson. “If we didn’t have competitors like the No. 10 car guys this wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. Those guys are awesome and they give us a run for our money in every event, so a big congratulations to them. They really ran a good race today. Our first event in 2010 that happened to turn into a win, I was probably the one that expected that the least of anybody. But this one wasn’t unexpected. This one we expected to win. Our guys have all worked extremely hard to get the win and these guys did an awesome job as you all witnessed. So I am just as proud as can be that all of that hard work paid off.”

Action Express Team Manager Gary Nelson has had some very big days at the World Center of Racing, and was hard pressed to explain how significant this team victory was.

“Every win is so special,” said Nelson. “When I look at the Daytona wins in my past, and then I rank this one, I have to say that we put as much, if not more, effort and hard work into this one. Elton (Sawyer, Director of Team Operations) and his guys were out there, practicing pit stops at least an hour a day for the past week and some days it was cold, in the teens. That's part of that preparation. We had thirty some "lucky" pit stops. We're so proud of our drivers. When you look at our main cornerstone, Joao, our job is to provide other drivers that will help complement that skill. I don't think we could have done a better job with Sebastien and Christian. They are both solid as a rock. Not only great drivers but just great people. That's really rare to get both. Great people, great drivers.”

The result sees Action Express Racing lead the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup and the team aims to carry its winning momentum into the next event at the 12 Hours of Sebring on March 12-15 in which Burt Frisselle is a 2012 winner of the event.

Elton Sawyer, Director of Team Operations: “We don't want to be a one time winner, we want to be a multi-time winner. Your career is defined by championships. You look across the board at teams like the New York Yankees who have 27 world championships, Hendrick Motorsports has 11 Cup championships, Petty Enterprises has 10. People recognize wins but you are really defined by championships. And that's what we are really working on here. We've been able to win races. Now we want to start hanging some championship banners.”

Joao Barbosa, No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP: “It's an unbelievable result for the team. These guys deserve everything they are getting now. It's really, really hard to finish on the podium at Daytona and to finish first and third is a great achievement and great work from all the team. They worked really, really hard during the winter. We went to every test we could. We did big preparation in the winter time. We knew we could do it but we didn't know it was going to be that hard. It's an unbelievable feeling. The end there was very intense, especially for me. The last 10 minutes was very intense. We did the job we were supposed to do and that we worked for and here we are.”

Christian Fittipaldi, No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP: "I think the only thing that could have made it a little more special would have been if we could have finished 1-2 but obviously 1-3 is an awesome result. Especially considering that Fabien (Giroix) and John (Martin) didn't have any previous experience over here. And it's a great result for Burt (Frisselle) and Brian (Frisselle). We tried a different combination and I think it's working for everyone. Joao and I are working very well together and Burt and Brian are working well. They definitely came alive. They were a challenge in the race; they were a threat. There's no doubt about it. They contended for the win. Action Express prepared the cars perfectly, couldn't be better and Chevy power was awesome behind us. Not only over the race weekend but in preparation for allowing us achieve what we did today."

Sebastien Bourdais, No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP: “It's one of these big, big, big races that everyone wants to win at some point. When you get a shot like we had all race long, I've seen it slip away and this time it was for us. It's a heck of a feeling. Everybody worked really, really hard. We did pretty much a mistake-free race. It paid off with a fast car and we made it stick. It's pretty sweet. I knew the team was going to have the capability of winning but there are so many variables and uncertainties in the system, you can never be sure of anything. I'm really, really happy it turned our way today. We were strong the whole time. We were running at the front in practice. We qualified up front. We raced up front the whole time. You can't help but think, "When is this going to go wrong?" and it didn't and it's awesome.”

Burt Frisselle, No. 9 Action Express Racing/Millennium Corvette DP: "I think especially with the affiliation we had this weekend with Delta-ADR that we definitely flew under the radar. We had two excellent co-drivers, John Martin and Fabien Giroix. John drove brilliantly during his times in the car and Fabien was very smart obviously when the big red flag happened and our thoughts and prayers go out to Memo (Gidley). But really this weekend started to come together for us on Wednesday night. We had a big team meeting with both cars and we really felt like we had the opportunity to get a 1-2 finish. Finishing third was a little bit short of our goal, but I will take it. Everyone worked so hard and so well together. Even back when we were testing back in the beginning of this month and December we felt like we had two cars capable of winning and today we did have two cars capable of winning. One did and one came home on the podium."

Brian Frisselle, No. 9 Action Express Racing/Millennium Corvette DP: "It is just a nice thing that we are blessed to be able to have success together here as a family. Dad was on the podium here at the 24 Hours of Daytona and he won the 12 Hours of Sebring. So Sebring is up next and hopefully we can match his mark there. But I just have to tip my hat to the whole team, Action Express and Delta-ADR, for putting together two great cars. Both cars on the podium, both cars on the lead lap, one car wins, which is obviously how it is going to have to be. It was also a tough race just because it started off with a terrible accident with Memo Gidley, and our thoughts are with him, we know he is already in recovery. But it quickly puts into perspective what you are doing out there and what really matters."

Fabien Giroix, No. 9 Action Express Racing/Millennium Corvette DP: "It was fantastic for me. This was the first time I had ever been to Daytona. I never expected when I came to the test here at the beginning of January that we could get a podium. We had a fantastic car and a great team and team members who did a very good job. The team of Action Express and Delta did a fantastic job. For me it's an unbelievable result because I just came here to make the race and to learn. The team was fantastic, the car also. All the jobs of my team was unbelievable and we finished on the same lap of the winner.”

John Martin,” No. 9 Action Express Racing/Millennium Corvette DP: "Just to back up what everyone else has said, the Millennium Delta Motorsports guys and Action Express team have been working very hard and have done an amazing job. I'm the same as Fabien (Giroix), this was my first time here and my first time driving the car. So to come here and run up front all day was amazing. I had some great teammates, obviously Burt (Frisselle) and Brian (Frisselle) have been here a fair bit so to have them and all of their experience the whole week, I'm pretty happy."

Action Express Racing

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Series TUSC
Article type Race reports
Tags christian fittipaldi, daytona 24, joao barbosa, sebastien bourdais, tusc

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