IMSA: Bourdais back with Action Express Racing for 2015 enduros

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IndyCar driver Sebastien Bourdais contributed to Action Express Racing’s run to the 2014 North American Endurance Cup title in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, and now, the Frenchman has been confirmed to be part of AXR’s defense of the Cup in 2015.

Bourdais, who helped AXR in three of their four NAEC podium finishes in 2014, will co-drive the team’s No. 5 Corvette DP in the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring, and the season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.

“It is very exciting to be able to return with Action Express Racing in 2015,” said Bourdais in a release. “Having teammates with the credentials of João Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi is an opportunity you seldom receive in racing, and one I cherish.

“Hopefully we will repeat as the [NAEC] champions, and start by returning to Victory Lane in the Rolex 24 At Daytona as we did last season.”

In addition to helping Barbosa and Fittipaldi in the aforementioned Rolex win this past January, he also took part in AXR’s third place finish at Sebring and runner-up finish in the Petit.

“I am extremely pleased to have Sébastien back at Action Express Racing for the North American Endurance events next season,” said AXR team owner Bob Johnson. “Having a driver of Sébastien’s caliber puts Action Express Racing in a great spot to claim the endurance title, as well as the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship again in 2015.

“Sébastien is a tremendous talent, and he is a great person to have in the Action Express Racing family.”

April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

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Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994