Grand Am Road Racing Media Conference
Topics: Grand Am Road Racing
February 24, 2010
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to this special edition of the NASCAR Grand-Am teleconference. Joining us today is Joao Barbosa, who took the checkered flag in the recent Rolex 24 At Daytona to give Action Express its first victory in its very first race. Joao was also the defending winner of the Grand Prix of Miami, closing out 2009 with an emotional victory with Hurley Haywood in the iconic Brumos Porsche.
A lot of hard work went into your first Daytona Prototype victory at Homestead. What were your feelings after taking Action Express to victory in the Rolex 24?
JOAO BARBOSA: Thank you for having me on the show.
Definitely were great feelings. It's very difficult to put it in words. The whole team worked really, really hard during the off-season to put this deal together to make sure we were going to be competitive in the Daytona 24 Hours. We kept working really hard. We knew it would be very difficult to win the race. Daytona 24 Hours is never easy.
But we had a slight feeling we could do a good result. But to get out of Daytona with a win is something really, really special for the whole team.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. We'll take questions at this time.
Q. I can remember back in 2003 at Barber Motorsports Park when you had a podium finish, and you were pursuing a ride at that point. You secured that ride two seasons ago on a temporary basis. You went to full-time last year. Again, a full-time ride this year. What has that meant to you to be able to demonstrate your skills at the highest levels and allow other people to see that skill?
JOAO BARBOSA: That's a tough question. But, you know, as a racecar driver, you always try to do your best and have the best tools to show exactly what you can do. You can be a very good driver, but if you're not in the right team with the right car, it's always difficult to show exactly what you can do.
Fortunately when I start to race in Grand-Am, I was able to show my speed and to show my characteristics in the car. That caught the attention of Bob Snodgrass. Since then we've been talking a little bit back and forth. He told me Hurley was about to retire a few years from that, so we always kept in touch. As soon as there was an opportunity to get me in the car, that's what Brumos did.
I raced with Brumos the last two years full-time, but I've been racing with them probably two years back from that during the long races.
It's just an incredible feeling to get the opportunity to show the speed and to show, of course, what the team can do in such difficult conditions like a 24-hour race and come out with a win. It's a big result that I was kind of missing in my career, like a big result to exactly show people that I'm here and I can drive, we can bring a new team and work together and bring it to the Victory Lane in its first race.
It's an amazing feeling.
Q. Two seasons ago in the Rolex 24, the No. 59 car with you in the driver's seat forged into the lead. You were coming around the west bank and out of turn two when the right rear suspension broke on that car. The car looked very strong for perhaps a first-place finish. Would you contrast the difference in your feelings at that moment with those of the recent 24 when you won.
JOAO BARBOSA: It's unbelievable, the last 15 minutes every time I went through four, I thought about the year I had a suspension failure. I said, I just need to go through here a couple more times and that would be it. I was just afraid that something was going to happen. I was looking for everything different in the car, all the strange noise the car was making. I was just hoping the car would hold up for the last few minutes.
Even on the last lap, I was not completely hundred percent sure to cross the finish line until after turn four, you know. That feeling kept with me for the last stint, that's for sure.
We had a really strong race at that point when we had the suspension failure. Probably could have got out of it with a win that year. But luckily this year everything worked out just perfect.
Q. I want to zero in on Homestead just a bit and talk about the particularly good passing zones and how busy you are in the cockpit of the car as far as number of shifts on a routine lap at Homestead. Can you fill me in?
JOAO BARBOSA: Homestead, it's not a particularly tough track shifting-wise. We have quite a long straight with the banking where you don't really shift, and then you gonna probably do 30 shifts a lap. So it's not a particularly difficult and demanding circuit around that.
But there's definitely some really good racing going on at Homestead because there's good passing zones. There's really high speed with good braking zones that you can really go for it. So, you know, it makes particularly interesting races.
Last year we started a little bit from the start of the race, but I believe we were like eighth or tenth when I got in the car, and were still able to go to the front and overtake most of the competitors.
So it's very important also to have good a good team behind you, too, to have a perfect strategy to make up places there.
Q. Is this a track that is a bit more difficult in dealing with the GP cars out there? Is there any degree of difficulty on that particularly at Homestead?
JOAO BARBOSA: It depends on the place where you caught the traffic because the infield is quite tight. The GP battles have been so strong in Grand-Am this year, it's been so competitive, that they cannot just give away their time just to make you happy, you know, because they're always fighting with some other GP car. It's always important to judge traffic really well around Homestead.
But once you get on the banking, it's pretty easy because it's really wide. The difference in speeds makes it easy for the GPs to go by. But the infield is definitely the hardest part.
Q. I asked your teammates a couple weeks ago, but you've had the full season with the Porsche. What's the difference in the feel going from six to eight cylinders?
JOAO BARBOSA: It's quite a different feeling. Driving the V8 seems more relaxed because, for start, you have a bigger power band that you can use, and you only have five gears to use, so your work inside the car is slightly less. A flat six, you have six-speed gearbox, so you're constantly working and the power band of the engine is much more narrow. You're constantly having to shift and to try to keep the car in the right power band to extract the most from the engine, while the Porsche V8 is slightly more forgiving. Especially going through traffic, it's more manageable to go through traffic with the Porsche V8 than what it is with the flat six.
Q. This year you're going to have a fellow pro driver sharing the car with you. How much easier is that going to make it for you?
JOAO BARBOSA: We'll see. You know, we had a really good few races last year with (indiscernible) and Hurley in the car. We still finished quite strong in the championship. But the previous year we finished third place. So that was really, really good in such a tight championship.
But definitely Terry did a great job in the 24 Hours. We have the right car and the good team behind us to be able to fight for the championship and for the leads in every race. So just really looking forward to be working with Terry in the races.
I believe Homestead, I consider it actually like the real first race of the championship where everybody's going to measure against itself. So we're going to see exactly where we are at Homestead.
Q. A lot of changes go into a 24-hour race. Now that the schedule moves back into races that are traditional length for the Rolex Series, what kind of changes do the drivers, you'll have two down at Homestead-Miami in and out of the car, and the car itself mechanically, what kind of changes does the team go through at an event like this that's more traditional length?
JOAO BARBOSA: You know, surprisingly, the changes are not a lot. Daytona Prototypes are really, really strong cars. They're really good cars to drive. Basically apart the brake pads, that's probably the biggest change we gonna have because basically the car is the same. Of course, the engine, it's specially prepared to hold for the 24-hour race, but it's not going to be that different for the short race.
I believe we're gonna have the same car for Homestead, just as competitive as we had before. Driving-wise, you know, the drivers, they get prepared for the 24 Hours like they get prepared for every race. It's a full year of work to be able to be in good shape for the full season. It's a 12-race season, so it's quite a lot of work. So we need to be prepared for either 24 hours or six hours or a two-and-a-half hour race. So we always prepare for that.
Q. The adjustments that you make inside the cockpit with different adjustments there, brake bias, suspension, et cetera. Do you go through quite a bit of testing during the green-flag racing itself or do you get the car to a point at the beginning of the race and it pretty much stays there?
JOAO BARBOSA: We get the car to the point where it's comfortable for all four drivers in the 24 Hours. It's going to be much easier, of course, to satisfy only two drivers like Homestead. Me and Terry, we basically have the same driving style, so it's going to be easier to have a good car than for four different drivers.
Inside the car also, it depends on the track conditions, the weather, the temperatures. We have some adjustable sway bars in the car during the race that we can adapt the car slightly better to different conditions of the track. It's not a big change, but it definitely helps to get a better handling of the car if the track conditions changed a lot.
Q. Does the adventure and adrenaline you feel as a racecar driver make off-track activities seem real tame for you?
JOAO BARBOSA: Not really. My main goal is to race a racecar, of course. But the outside activities, you know, just try to spend time and, of course, to improve every capability you have to be able to perform your job at its best when you drive a racecar. Pretty much basically everything that's involved about racing a racecar.
Q. And do you think that you guys got something extra special that the rest of us out here just didn't get when we were born?
JOAO BARBOSA: It's tough to tell (laughter). I've been racing a racecar since I was 11 years old. So it's been always what I wanted to do. Luckily I have the opportunity to do that, to be able to continue and drive a racecar.
I don't think we have something special. Everybody is born with some kind of talent, either for racecars or to do something else. I believe everybody is born with some kind of special incentive to do with his life. But I was just really lucky I could find mine, and I don't think a lot of people can do that.
Q. Talk a little bit about your rapport with Terry and sort of how you see yourselves complementing each other over the course of the season in terms of driving style and setup and things like that.
JOAO BARBOSA: I think it's going to be really easy. As I mentioned before, me and Terry, we like the same kind of car. We have the same driving style. I'm really looking forward to the rest of the season with Terry. I think we're going to complement each other really well.
It's a strong team. Me and Terry are able to be with a team that has the same goals as we are, that's winning races. You know, I just looking really forward to this season.
Q. I was talking to Alex Gurney last week. He said that Miami is not one of his favorite tracks. Unlike you, he's not won there. He says he grabs his first gear in virtually every corner. You typically have been going down there in a six cylinder and grabbing a slightly higher gear. What do you anticipate doing now that you have that V8? What kind of shift do you expect to have coming out of the corners or through the corners in Miami?
JOAO BARBOSA: You know, it's interesting you say that. I have the same feeling as Alex. We're probably going to use first gear pretty much everywhere. It's very difficult to tell because never went to Miami with a V8. It was definitely different with the flat six. I believe we only grabbed first gear in one corner.
Q. What corner is that?
JOAO BARBOSA: It would be the hairpin. So it's definitely going to be different for us going there with a V8. It's going to be a learning experience for us to find the perfect gear stack for that.
But, you know, we did it at Daytona really good, and I don't think that's going to be our main concern there.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much for joining us. Congratulations once again on winning the 48th Rolex 24 at Daytona and best of luck in the March 6th Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead. I'd like to thank everyone for joining us. We appreciate your coverage.
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