By Jeff Olson
Joao Barbosa and Sebastien Bourdais are approaching an unusual weekend at Sebring International Raceway with optimism and enthusiasm.
Instead of the usual 12-hour endurance race at Sebring, the JDC-Miller MotorSports teammates will face a much shorter Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring on Saturday night at the historic road course.
"Sebring is going to be very different because we’re used to going there and preparing for a 12-hour race," Barbosa said. "Now we’re going there for a sprint race, a 2-hour 40-minute race. It’s going to be a very different approach. Sebring is a very tough track to overtake and very tough track overall. We don’t have 10 hours to prepare and wait for the last two hours, so we’re going to have to push all the way from the beginning."
Pushing has been their specialty so far this season. Barbosa and Bourdais have teamed for podium finishes in both races of the revamped IMSA WeatherTech Championship season. They combined with Loic Duval to drive the No. 5 JDC-Miller MotorSports Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R to a third-place finish at the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona International Speedway in January, then repeated the feat July 4 in the IMSA WeatherTech 240 At Daytona.
"The first race was more about the team executing and nobody making any mistakes and going and earning that podium, which was super sweet," Bourdais said. "A couple of weeks ago was a little different — we had to go and get it. It was great to see. The improvements on the car obviously had made a difference and allowed us to fight for something a little bit more on pace."
The No. 5 Cadillac has surprised everyone in its first two races of 2020 — most of all its drivers. As surprises go, it has served only to motivate both of them.
"Things are going a little bit faster than we expected as results go, but now everybody is so motivated to do more and to attack more," Barbosa said. "All the effort is right there. I think we’re going to have more great races this season."
And the best place to resume the quest for more success is a sprint race at Sebring.
"Every weekend is going to be a little more discovery," Bourdais said. "I certainly feel like Sebring is a place where obviously we’ve gone testing and made improvements for that track, and we’re all hoping that translates into a good result."
After a practice session Friday at 6 p.m. ET and more practice sessions Saturday morning, the WeatherTech Championship portion of the Sebring weekend gets underway in earnest with qualifying at 2:20 p.m.
NBCSN’s live coverage of the Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring begins at 5:30 p.m.