Driver in the Headlights – 5 minutes with João Barbosa
I&S: Since joining Action Express Racing in 2010 you have claimed a podium spot in four out of six years in the 24 Hours of Daytona. What is it about this racing franchise that has allowed you to up your performance? Is it perhaps something to do with the quality of drivers on the staff?
JB: Being in a 24 hour race, one of the most important things is to have great preparation on the part of the team. In the past few years, the Rolex 24 has been extremely fast paced – much like a sprint race. Drivers have to be mentally prepared and physically fit because it’s extremely demanding and you have to avoid making mistakes. It is a total team effort to achieve a podium finish.
I&S: What drew you to endurance/team racing in the first place? Is this type of racing more suitable for your style of driving? Is the environment of team racing more comfortable for you?
JB: I’ve always been passionate about Sports Car Racing and endurance racing because you get to spend a lot of time with the team and the challenge of long stints in the car. I love this style of racing because it is always a compromise and you have to work with your co-driver and make sure you have a competitive car for both drivers. So it’s a total team effort on the preparation of the car and the dedication of the drivers.
I&S: Call it burying the lead, but we note that you won the 2010 24 Hours at Daytona in a Riley Mk. XI Porsche and the 2014 24 Hours of Daytona in a Coyote Corvette DP. What were the differences in those cars/races from your perspective?
JB: They were very different cars because of very different rules in 2014. Obviously both cars were very good and we were able to win the race both of those years. They were both very competitive. People probably identify more with the Corvette due to the styling cues with the street car.
I&S: We have spoken with other drivers who compete in timed/number-of-lap races as single drivers. They work with the mechanics to tune their vehicles to their liking. But with endurance racing and multiple drivers, a singular opinion on how the car is to be adjusted seems impractical. How do you and your fellow team drivers agree on how the car should handle? Is pairing up drivers who basically share the same opinion on this matter the key in creating a working team?
JB: You always have to compromise and find something that both drivers are happy with. You cannot be as selfish as when you drive the car by yourself. You have to seek the overall speed and not just your personal comfort. It’s all about the team and putting the fastest car possible on the track.
I&S: If you are in the car, you can control how your team is advancing in a race. When another team member is on track, what are you thinking? Does one team member ever communicate to another who is on the track (regarding how the car is performing, challenging areas of the track, etc.)?
JB: Sharing the car with your teammate you have to know him very well. When Christian Fittipaldi is in the car I have 100% confidence in what he’s doing. We are both professionals and realize anything can happen at any time, but I know he is always giving maximum effort. We are always trying to achieve the same goal and that is winning the race for our team.
I&S: Coming up on twenty years in the sport, can you reflect on your journey and what keeps you interested in the sport? Would you recommend it as a profession to your son/daughter?
JB: It’s definitely been a great journey with many challenges along the way. It wasn’t easy to reach the point where I am today, but I feel very privileged to have been able to do something I love for so many years and to have success in it. Hopefully I will get to continue doing it for as long as I feel competitive. Every race is a different challenge so it keeps you motivated for the next one. My two sons are still very young and they are going to do whatever they want to do for a profession and it will be up to them to choose. I will support them in whatever decision they make. If that’s becoming a race car driver I will support them, but I’m certainly not pushing them to choose that.
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