IMSA Road America Thursday Notebook

Barbosa back to the #5 Caddy
Barbosa back to the #5 Caddy

Barbosa Back Behind the Wheel of No. 5 Cadillac DPi-V.R
Two-time IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype champion Joao Barbosa is back in business this weekend at Road America and Sunday’s Continental Tire Road Race Showcase.

Barbosa was injured in a cycling accident in June, forcing him to miss the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen and the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park last month. Now, he’s back and looking to help No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R co-driver Filipe Albuquerque in his quest to win the 2018 Prototype championship.

Albuquerque currently trails his Action Express Racing teammates, Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr, who share the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi and lead the WeatherTech Championship Prototype standings by one point over Albuquerque heading into Sunday’s race.

Barbosa won the race in 2014 with then-co-driver Christian Fittipaldi en route to the first of two consecutive Prototype titles.

“I’m definitely trying to catch up," Barbosa said. “I lost a lot of time, but I’m so glad to be back especially at a track like Road America. I’m a little anxious to be back since my wrist is not 100 percent, but it feels really good.

“I did some work in the simulator and I have to wear a little splint when I drive but it doesn’t bother me at all since it’s more for protection than anything else. I’m still working on getting the strength back. I’m really excited to be back."

Ferrari Ace Pier Guidi Joins MacNeil in No. 63 WeatherTech Ferrari This Weekend

As driver Cooper MacNeil and the No. 63 WeatherTech Ferrari 488 GT3 team from Scuderia Corsa continue to await two-time WeatherTech Championship GT Daytona (GTD) champion Alessandro Balzan’s return to the cockpit following a minor medical procedure, the team welcomes another lightning-quick driver named “Alessandro" to the lineup this weekend at Road America.

Alessandro Pier Guidi, the reigning FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) GTE Pro champion, has joined MacNeil and the team this weekend in what will be the Italian driver’s debut at Road America.

“Pier Guidi is one of the best in a Ferrari GT car in the world right now, so to have him co-driving with me is great," MacNeil said. “We have high expectations for the weekend. We’ve got a big crowd this weekend with 400-500 employees here and their families and big hospitality, so it should be a good weekend for us."

Park Place Making First WeatherTech Championship Sprint Race Appearance of Season

Park Place Motorsports came into the 2018 season planning to compete in only the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup Rounds with its No. 73 Porsche 911 GT3 R in the GTD class for co-drivers Joerg Bergmeister and team owner/driver Patrick Lindsey, as Bergmeister and Lindsay were focused on the FIA WEC season in GTE Am.

However, the team – which also fields the No. 71 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car for German driver David Kolkmann in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama series also competing this weekend at Road America – is making a “spotlight" start in Sunday’s two-hour and 40-minute race.

“It took a little bit of the wind out of our sails as far as making the commitment to show up at some of these two-hour-and-40-minute races," Lindsay said. “We were hopeful we would get Lime Rock in, but that didn’t happen with scheduling conflicts, so this was really our first opportunity to get a sprint race for the championship.

“We’ve all been really excited about it. We had a strong run here last year, a second-place finish. Road America and Laguna are the two races we’re going to participate in outside of the NAEC schedule. We expect to have a really good run and just an enjoyable race for all these guys who have to do the beating and the pounding of the long races to come here and have kind of a fun two-hour and 40-minute sprint race, if you will. It’s going to be a lot of fun."

Johnson Returns To Track For First Time Since Emotional First Professional Win

Two weeks ago at Lime Rock Park, Michael Johnson fulfilled a lifelong dream winning the weekend’s IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race. It was his professional race victory since being paralyzed from the waist down due to a motorcycle incident at the age of 12.

The 25-year-old has stayed busy since then doing several local and national media interviews, but this weekend he returns to the track at Road America for the first time since that emotional win.

“It feels business as usual, but everyone is looking at us now so that’s a good feeling and that feeling is pushing us to hopefully win the next one," he said. “We don’t stop at Lime Rock, we keep pushing and our goal is to win here."

“These last couple of weeks have been really cool, it’s something that I’ve been looking forward to ever since I started back racing in 2007 in go-karts. I’ve always wanted to win, especially now in professional racing right under the WeatherTech Championship."

Now that Johnson has that first win under his belt, he’s setting his sights on another goal.

“I’d love to be apart of the WeatherTech Championship whether it’s 2019 or 2020," he said. “Who knows how things will work out, but that’s my goal for the next couple of years."

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