Photo courtesy of IMSA

Action Express adds Albuquerque, Nasr to full-time roles in 2018

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Three-time defending IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype champions Action Express Racing has evolved its lineups for the 2018 season, with two new full-time drivers.

In the wake of Dane Cameron’s departure to Team Penske’s new Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) program, the team adds Brazilian Felipe Nasr in his stead.

Nasr will race in North America full-time following at least a month of exploring his options. He was a guest of Helio Castroneves at the Watkins Glen International Verizon IndyCar Series race.

He’ll join Eric Curran in the team’s No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R, the team joined by Mike Conway in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and Motul Petit Le Mans. The Sunoco Challenge winner traditionally joins the lineup as a fourth driver in Daytona; Nasr was that Sunoco Challenge to earn the opportunity to race in the 2012 Rolex 24 At Daytona and did so with Michael Shank Racing, before Nasr returned to the event with Action Express Racing in 2013.

Meanwhile Christian Fittipaldi has been phased out of a full-time seat in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac, moved into the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races as third driver with Filipe Albuquerque moving into a full-time role next year. The rapid Portuguese driver was installed as the closing driver for Action Express’ win pursuit at Daytona but lost the win to Ricky Taylor in somewhat controversial fashion. As it is, Albuquerque’s enjoyed a busy year racing three of the four LMP2 spec chassis between IMSA, the FIA World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series, in the Dallara P217 (base chassis for the Cadillac DPi), the Oreca 07 and the Ligier JS P217.

New team performance coordinator Tim Keene is another key addition, having left his post at Michael Shank Racing as that team evolves from an Acura factory-backed effort to a privateer one next season. Keene has been in Prototype for quite a while, working with both DeltaWing Racing Cars and Chip Ganassi Racing.

“As a team, the 2017 IMSA season has been a solid one, but we are all working hard to make 2018 an even better year,” said Action Express Racing Team Manager Gary Nelson. “We are happy to have Eric (Curran) return in the Whelen Engineering Cadillac and to have Felipe (Nasr) come back to race with us for the full season.

“We have had the same driver line up for the Mustang Sampling Cadillac for the last two years, and that consistency will be an advantage. Christian (Fittipaldi), Filipe (Albuquerque) and Joao (Barbosa) have all been racing with us but we are just changing the roles that each will have next year. Adding Tim (Keene) to the 31 side is also something that we are excited about and we are looking forward to his contributions to our team effort here at Action Express Racing.”

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.