Daytona Beach, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Joao Barbosa from Action Express Racing held off Wayne Taylor Racing's Max Angelelli after a restart with less than nine minutes remaining to win Sunday's prestigious Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Barbosa shared driving duties with Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais in the Action Express Racing No. 5 Corvette Daytona Prototype (DP). Bourdais, an IndyCar Series veteran and former Formula One competitor, put the No. 5 car in the lead for good with 1 hr., 5 mins. to go in this 24-hour endurance race on the 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.
A full-course caution with 22 minutes left set up the final restart. Barbosa held a sizeable lead before Leh Keen spun around in his No. 22 Porsche 911 GT America, but the caution bunched up the field and made it a three-team battle for the win. After the restart, Barbosa pulled away from Angelelli and Brian Frisselle, who drove the No. 9 Corvette DP for Action Express. Barbosa crossed the finish line 1.461 seconds ahead of Angelelli, while Frisselle was 19.489 seconds behind. All three teams completed 695 laps during the 24-hour period.
The 52nd running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona was the inaugural event for the IMSA/TUDOR United Sports Car Championship, which is the newly unified organization between the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series and the American Le Mans Series.
"I was really surprised by that caution, but it's racing, and we just had to deal with it," said Barbosa, who is a full-time competitor in the IMSA/TUDOR United Sports Car Championship. "When they did the wave-by, I saw there was a car between me and Max, and I saw there was quite a bit of opportunity considering how the rules are at this point that I could have an advantage there, and I took it.
"I just was able to build enough cushion. I won't say it was going to be easy, but at least I had enough margin for maneuver, so I had quite a comfortable gap at the end."
Barbosa and Action Express also won the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2010.
Angelelli teamed with car owner Wayne Taylor as well as Taylor's sons, Ricky and Jordan, in the No. 10 Corvette DP. It's the second straight year that WTR finished in the runner-up spot in this race. The team placed second to Chip Ganassi Racing's No. 01 team last season.
"I can tell you that I tried everything, adjust all I had in the car, to settle the car, to find a good balance, a good run," Angelelli said in regards to the final restart. "I didn't have enough for [Barbosa]."
This year's Rolex 24 at Daytona featured a horrifying crash involving Memo Gidley and Matteo Malucelli just before the 3-hour mark on Saturday. Gidley, the driver of the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP, which was the pole-winning car for this race, slammed hard into the back of Malucelli when Malucelli's No. 62 Ferrari F458 Italia had slowed on the course due to a mechanical issue.
According to a statement from Gidley's team and the IMSA, Gidley suffered an "unstable fracture" in his back which will require surgery before he can be released from the Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach. The 40-year- old driver underwent surgical procedures on both his left arm and left leg at the hospital on Saturday night.
"As you can imagine, we are devastated about what happened (Saturday) on track but are hopeful that our friend and teammate, Memo, will make a full recovery," team owner Bob Stallings said. "We want to thank the safety team at Daytona International Speedway for being so diligent in getting Memo out of the car safely and to the hospital. Memo is receiving excellent care from the staff and doctors at Halifax Health. We want to thank everyone for the messages, thoughts and prayers for Memo."
Gidley had to be cut out of his severely damaged car. Coming out of turn 3 and blinded by the setting sun, he made contact with Malucelli at nearly full speed. Malucelli's car lifted up into the air and spun around before it came back down on the infield grass and slid into a barrier. Both drivers were awake and alert following the incident. They were immediately transported to the hospital.
Malucelli remained in the hospital for further observation on Sunday.