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.”

New study surveys drivers’ opinions on crashes, concussions, more

James Black/IndyCar
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Auto racing safety has continued to improve through the decades, but the sport remains inherently dangerous, according to a new survey.

At the close of 2018, a new organization called Racing Safety United emerged with the intention of reducing drivers’ risk of being harmed.

RSU is made up of more than 30 members including former NASCAR Cup Series competitor Jerry Nadeau, two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Randy LaJoie, NHRA team owner Don Schumacher and motorsports journalist Dick Berggren.

One of RSU’s first initiatives was to determine what current drivers thought of racing safety. The organization developed a 14-question survey and promoted it on select motorsports websites and forums. 

Participants were given the opportunity to disclose their identity or remain anonymous, and those who provided contact information were entered to win a $500 prize (for anonymous participants, the prize funds would be donated to a motorsports charity). 

More than 140 individuals participated in the survey over the course of 12 months. Below are the results of the survey:

Driver status

The vast majority of survey participants (60%) were amateur racers, while 26% of the participants were classified as Semi-Pro/Professional racers. The remaining 14% consisted of other individuals involved in the sport such as team owners and crew chiefs. 

When asked how frequently they race, 58% of driver respondents averaged 10 or more times per year on track, while 42% averaged 10 times or less.

The top five tracks respondents said they raced most often: Road Atlanta (21 votes), Watkins Glen (17 votes), Virginia International Raceway (16 votes), Mid-Ohio (16 votes), and Road America (13 votes).

Vehicular damage, injuries common

Over a third of respondents said they had been injured while racing, and almost two-thirds sasid they had suffered severe vehicle damage while racing

Driver error was cited as the top cause of vehicle damage (42 mentions), followed by concrete walls (26 mentions), mechanical failures (24 mentions), and other drivers (19 mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for better driver training/coaching, energy absorbing walls, and more technical inspections.

Almost a quarter of drivers said they had experienced racing-related concussions, and nearly half the respondents said one or multiple concussions would affect their decision to race in the future. 

Drivers primarily influenced by peers 

Roughly half the drivers said they would consider adopting new safety equipment if influenced by another driver (51 total mentions) and/or if recommended by a sanctioning body (47 total mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for drivers to become safety advocates and educate other drivers and for sanctioning bodies to mandate safety equipment. 

Drivers concerned with concrete walls

Approximately three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said they believed certain race tracks were more dangerous than others. Nearly half the drivers surveyed believe that concrete walls were the primary cause of damage to drivers and vehicles. 

Drivers willing to help

Just more than three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said that they would be willing to join a safety alliance to advocate for safer tracks. Two-thirds of drivers said that they also would be willing to contribute to a motorsports safety fund.

Click here for the full results of RSU’s survey

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