Barbosa, Fittipaldi Represent IMSA at Tuesday’s Detroit Grand Prix Media Events
Thursday, May 24, 2018

Ahead of next weekend’s Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle Park, Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi traveled up to the Motor City to represent the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship during the track’s annual media tour event on Tuesday.

Barbosa, co-driver of the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi for Action Express Racing with Filipe Albuquerque, and Fittipaldi, the No 5 team’s endurance driver and Action Express Racing’s Sporting Director, were on-hand for a television interview at FOX 2 Detroit and radio interviews at 104.3 WOMC and WJR 760 AM in promotion of the Grand Prix.

However, the main event of the day was held at American Axle and Manufacturing (AAM). Local media members were invited to compete against the two IMSA drivers, as well as IndyCar drivers Will Power, Max Chilton and Ed Carpenter – who sits on pole for this weekend’s 102nd Indianapolis 500 – in a variety of activities.

The drivers tried their hand at tailgating games such as cornhole, Giant Jenga and “fowling” – which combines football and bowling – all of which will be available for fans next weekend in the Meijer Fan Zone.

The most anticipated activity of the day, though, involved an exclusive preview of the new iRacing Belle Isle circuit, which will be released for the public in the coming weeks. Each driver took a turn on the simulator, and media members competed to best the professionals’ lap times. The two winners were awarded souvenirs and a champagne spray celebration from the drivers at the end of the event.

Before the festivities took place, the drivers joined Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Presented by Lear President Michael Montri, General Motors Vice President of Performance Vehicles and Motorsport, Jim Campbell, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at AAM Chris Son and iRacing Director of Sales and Marketing Otto Szebeni for a press conference.

“The whole event, the track, it has come huge ways from where it was,” said Fittipaldi, when asked about the changes he has seen at the circuit since his first race at Detroit in 1995. “Believe it or not, the layout of the track has changed, but not a lot. Before, we used to run a smaller layout. Now they extended the track, which they extended in a very positive way. It’s very challenging.

“You guys did such a good job that when we come back here nowadays, it’s a completely different atmosphere. We’re definitely looking forward to coming here because it’s one of the best events out there, apart from the really big races.”

“(We had) a great result at (BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at) Long Beach [in April] which is very similar to this track, a street course,” Barbosa said. “We’re looking forward to coming here to Detroit again. The best way to protect our lead in the championship is to come here and win the race. With all the support of Cadillac and Mustang Sampling, that’s what we’re going to try to do. We’ve been running very strong lately, so we’re looking forward to coming back here in a few days.

Barbosa – who with Fittiipaldi has won each of the four Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cups in the Prototype class since its inception in 2014 – was also asked his opinion about the progression of the WeatherTech Championship Prototype class.

“I think IMSA really hit the nail on the head with this new formula with the Prototype cars,” Barbosa answered. “It attracted a lot of new manufacturers and new teams. It was great to see Penske really committed to this series, as well as Team Joest from Europe. It just raised the level for everybody.

“We knew we were doing a good job in the previous years, but when you’re fighting against Team Penske and Team Joest and you still continue at your level, that means Action Express was doing a really good job before, probably not getting all the credit they were due to because there were not a lot of teams. But now we’re fighting with the best in the world here and we’re able to give them a run for their money.”

The 100-minute Chevrolet Sports Car Classic featuring the WeatherTech Championship at next weekend’s Detroit Grand Prix will be televised flag-to-flag on Saturday, June 2 at 12:30 p.m. ET on FS2. Tickets can be purchased at www.detroitgp.com.

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