Joao Barbosa will return to the Rolex 24 At Daytona for the 19th time in 2021, racing a new car with a new team in an all-new class. However, the Portuguese driver will bring the same approach he’s carried throughout his career when he drives the No. 33 Sean Creech Motorsport Exelixis Ligier JS P320 Nissan in the LMP3 class in America’s premier endurance race.
The event will mark the first-ever inclusion of the global LMP3 platform into the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship category.
“Every time I go to the Rolex 24, it’s with the same mentality,” said Barbosa, who will co-drive with Wayne Boyd, Yann Clairay and Dr. Lance Willsey. “I try to do the best job I can, and come home with the watch. Winning a fifth Rolex would be very, very special, after a really tough year in 2020.”
Barbosa is seeking his fifth victory in the event, adding to his collection of Rolex Cosmograph Daytona watches, which is the elusive first-place prize for drivers in the event. After winning the GTS class in 2003 – co-driving with legend Andy Wallace in a Mosler MT900R – he joined Action Express Racing for overall triumphs in 2010 and 2014 in a Corvette DP, and in 2018 in a Cadillac DPi.
Barbosa earned back-to-back podium finishes at Daytona International Speedway in 2020. He finished third in both the Rolex 24 and the Daytona 240 – IMSA’s July 4 return following more than a five-month shutdown due to the pandemic – co-driving with Sebastien Bourdais for JDC-Miller Motorsports.
After running in the lead class in the Rolex GRAND-AM Series from 2006 through 2013, and then in the WeatherTech Championship since 2014, Barbosa and Willsey will be running for the championship in LMP3, the newest class in IMSA’s premier series.
“It’s a new team, a new car, a new class – a lot of ‘new,’” Barbosa said. “It’s going to be very different. There’s a lot to figure out, and I’m pretty excited about the opportunity to race for Sean (Creech) and drive with Lance, Wayne and Yann. That’s why we go there – we want to go there and win our class, and have the best possible result. While Daytona doesn’t count for the points in the season championship, it’s a great way to start the season. The Rolex 24 is always my favorite race of the year.”
Barbosa has tested twice at Daytona with Sean Creech Motorsport, once with last year’s Prototype Challenge car and once with the brand-new Ligier machine.
“The car had just arrived for our test, so there is still a lot to figure out and fine tune,” Barbosa said. “But the team is on it, and is doing a great job preparing it the best way possible. They’re putting together all the tools and everything they need to be part of the WeatherTech Series. It’s a step up for them as well. It’s pretty exciting to start almost from zero and help them build a great WeatherTech team.”
Driving-wise, Barbosa feels it will be a smooth transition from the DPi to the new LMP3.
“This car is definitely different [from the DPi],” he said. “There’s definitely a lot less horsepower, and it has steel brakes instead of carbon fiber. And the performance is a little slower. But that’s about it. The car feels really nice to drive and is a lot of fun.
“I think this is a great class for IMSA, and I’m super happy that they decided to make it part of the WeatherTech [Championship],” Barbosa continued. “It’s an entry point to the series, at a financially reasonable rate, with great cars that are really fun to drive. It’s going to make great racing, because there’s no BOP, it’s going to be up to the teams and the drivers to make the difference. It will be really exciting for the fans to watch.”
Official practice for the 59th Rolex 24 At Daytona will begin on the following Thursday, Jan. 28.
Source. Sunday Group