Road America: Christian Fittipaldi looks to extend family legacy at Road America

Contact: John Ewert

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CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI LOOKS TO EXTEND FAMILY LEGACY AT ROAD AMERICA

– Fittipaldi Not Only Has A Championship To Fight For, But He Also Has A Legacy To Protect –

ELKHART LAKE, Wis., July 30, 2013 – Spanning the decades, the Fittipaldi name has long been synonymous with winning in the world of motorsport. The Brazilian family’s history at Road America dates back nearly 30 years to when Emerson Fittipaldi made his first start at the legendary Wisconsin road course in 1985. Set to make his Daytona Prototype debut at Road America August 8-11 in the DP class, Fittipaldi really knows his way around the revered circuit.

Christian is the son of former Grand Prix driver and team owner Wilson Fittipaldi, as well as a nephew of the two-time F1 World Champion and Indianapolis 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi. Like most racers, Christian clearly likes the track. But with a record that includes one win, two podiums, and four top-five finishes in eight starts at the Road America road course, the circuit is clearly a special one for Fittipaldi, who will share the driving duties with Portuguese pilot Joao Barbosa this weekend as the duo look to score yet another win for Action Express Racing in what has become a break-out season. Between Emerson and third-generation driver Christian, the two have made 19 open-wheel starts at Road America.

Emerson’s first Road America start saw him finish fifth after starting 16th while driving for Pat Patrick. He returned the following year and claimed victory in the 1986 running of the event. His hot streak at the historic four-mile road course would continue through his 11-year Champ Car career – winning three races (1986, 1988, 1992), standing on the podium five times, and taking eight top-five finishes.

It wasn’t long before nephew Christian was climbing his own racing ladder and joined his Uncle Emerson in the CART ranks, with the pair racing against one another at Road America for the first time in 1995 when Christian made his first start at the track. Emerson drove for Roger Penske and finished 15th, while Christian who drove for Derrick Walker, finished eighth – his fifth top-ten result of his rookie season.

It would be the only time the two Fittipaldis shared the track at Road America after a back injury the following year at Michigan International Speedway ended Emerson’s Champ Car career.

But Christian’s budding Champ Car career was just beginning and he carried the Fittipaldi name on in CART competition for seven more years. And it was at Road America where Christian made one of his fondest memories. In 1999, a year after finishing third in the Wisconsin road race, Christian broke through for his first Champ Car victory in 72 race starts.

“That first win obviously meant a lot, especially because we had been after it for a long time and we came close a bunch of times before that, but things never went my way for a victory,” Christian reminisced of his very first CART/IndyCar win. “Everything worked very well for me that year. I seemed to always run well at Road America. Ever since my first start in 1995, I always ran in the top three every single year and almost won the race in 1996, so maybe it’s one of those tracks that you adapt a little bit more to than others.”

Christian may well be the most versatile driver on the GRAND-AM circuit in 2013. He was the 1991 Formula 3000 champion and then spent three years in the premier Formula 1 category prior to his eight year Champ Car run. He then joined the stock car ranks for half a season in NASCAR Sprint Cup and also ran select Nationwide and ARCA events.

He also transitioned to the world of sports car racing running select GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series events beginning in 2003. He won the 2004 Rolex 24 At Daytona in just his second attempt with Bell Motorsports and then claimed a podium in the prestigious race in 2011 when he made his first GRAND-AM start with Action Express Racing.

The well-rounded racer also made four American Le Mans Series starts for Andretti Green in 2008.

Christian joined Action Express Racing full time for the 2013 GRAND-AM season as the North Carolina-based team fields a two-car effort with Fittipaldi and co-driver Barbosa as well as brothers Burt and Brian Frisselle. Fittipaldi was initially paired with Brian Frisselle in the No. 5 Corvette DP but a mid-season change in the driver line-up saw Barbosa join Fittipaldi in the No. 5 and the Frisselle brothers team in the No. 9 Corvette DP.

The changed proved to be a good one with Fittipaldi and Barbosa netting a second place finish at Detroit and then two-consecutive victories at Mid-Ohio and Watkins Glen. It was the second consecutive victory for Action Express Racing in the grueling six-hour endurance race held at the Glen with Barbosa having won with co-driver Darren Law in 2012. The new Frisselle brother pairing also produced several strong outings – highlighted by a fifth place finish at The Glen.

“We are working really well together, and we have similar driving styles so it makes the car quicker as there isn’t as much to compromise,” said Christian of co-driving with Barbosa. “Also as we saw at the Glen, it doesn’t matter who starts or finishes the car for the race and that can be an advantage sometimes with strategy. If you look at the performance of the No. 9 car, especially in the last two races, Burt and Brian have been very strong. That shows that the move we made this season was good for everyone. The No. 9 car has been very fast but just unlucky. Having two cars with strong pace and getting the results we’ve had just shows how well the whole team is working together, there is a good synergy for everyone.”

Half-way through the GRAND-AM season, Fittipaldi is second in the Driver Championship while Action Express Racing is third in the Team Championship – just four points out of the lead. A return to Road America victory lane – this time in a Daytona Prototype machine – may be just what Christian needs to take over the championship lead as Action Express Racing eyes the 2013 GRAND-AM championship title.

“I have never been around Road America in anything other than an open-wheel car,” said Christian. “The track is the same, but it will be pretty cool to run it in a Daytona Prototype. The most important thing will be to run the least amount of drag as possible. After Mid-Ohio I was talking to my dad about how the last few races were awesome, but we just needed a little bit of luck. Things didn’t go our way at the beginning of the year, and we needed some bad luck to hit some of the other championship contenders too and that happened at Watkins Glen so now we are on par with everyone. Now it is a race for the championship! My uncle Emerson won at Road America several times and I’ve won there. I love the circuit – I’ve always done well there. The track has been very good to me and to win again at a place like Road America in a Daytona Prototype would be awesome!”

Christian will have his chance again as one of the biggest racing events in Wisconsin returns August 8-11 when the GRAND-AM Rolex Series and the American Le Mans series presented by Tequila Patron (ALMS) bring in some of the top racers in the world to tackle America’s National Park of Speed.

Gates open at 7 a.m. on Thursday, with testing and practice for the GRAND-AM Rolex Series, IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama, and Cooper Tire Prototype Lites powered by Mazda racing series throughout the day. On Friday, practice and qualifying begins for each series and includes a special fan forum in the Road America Center at 1:30 p.m., where several drivers and series officials will be on hand to answer questions and talk with fans.

Friday evening, race fans, families, cancer survivors, and cyclists will take to Road America’s four miles of sweeping turns, hills, and scenic natural beauty for the annual Tour de Road America – “Bike Ride to Fight Cancer,” they will also be joined on the track by professional racing drivers, teams, and their families. The ride is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2013, and event organizers expect a contingent of 400 cyclists to take part and raise $35,000 for three organizations that support cancer survivorship – the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer, the official charity of the American Le Mans Series as well as the Vince Lombardi Cancer Clinic in Sheboygan, Wis., For more information and to register for the ride, visit www.pelotonride.org.

Starting in 2014, the GRAND-AM Rolex Series and American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron merger will be complete to form United Sports Car Racing. While the two series won’t be racing together this year, the doubleheader weekend will be the first glimpse of the two series’ together on the same track, which is yet another reason to see it up close and personal. Road America is offering special car corrals for Corvette, SRT, BMW, Mazda, Camaro, Mustang, Porsche and Subaru. Each corral features parking specific to each marque and concession discounts throughout the weekend. Check out www.roadamerica.com for information.

Saturday is an action packed day full of world-class racing. Race #1 of the Cooper Tire Prototype Lites powered by Mazda racing series starts at 7:45 a.m., followed by the first IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama race at 8:40 a.m. Qualifying for the ALMS Orion Energy Systems 245 race fills the remainder of the morning as the best sports car racers in the world will be looking to get a good starting position for Sunday. The afternoon begins with the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge (CTSCC) race at 12:30 p.m. Last year’s CTSCC winner at Road America was the combination of Nick Longhi and Matt Plumb. The feature race will be the GRAND-AM Rolex Series VISITFLORIDA.com Sports Car 250 at 4:00 p.m.

Sunday is just as packed as Saturday with the Cooper Tire Prototype Lites powered by Mazda racing series race #2 starting at 9:25 a.m., followed by the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama race #2 at 11:00 a.m. Fans will have plenty to look forward too with autograph sessions, parade laps, and a chance to get up-close to the cars on the front straightaway during a special fan walk before the afternoon action begins. At 2:00 p.m., the American Le Mans Series Orion Energy Systems 245 begins with some of the best sports cars and drivers in the world looking for a win on the revered four-mile, 14-turn road course.

“Orion Energy Systems is honored to become the title sponsor for Sunday’s ALMS race at Road America and expand our involvement at this year’s event,” said John Scribante, Chief Executive Officer at Orion Energy Systems. “The American Le Mans Series is driven by technology and fueled by passionate individuals who enjoy sharing innovations to make products, better, faster and cleaner. It’s that same passion that we share at Orion Energy Systems and what we strive to provide through our energy management systems to our partners around the world. This sponsorship truly is a great fit.”

The Orion Energy Systems 245, race six in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron, will be live from Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin at 3:00pm Sunday, August 11 on ABC. Live qualifying will be on ESPN3.com at 10:45am Saturday, August 10.

Tickets are available and additional event details, schedules, ticket pricing and camping information can be found at www.roadamerica.com or by calling 800-365-7223. Kids 12 and under are free with an adult. All races run rain or shine.

Michigan race fans can take also take advantage of convenient and affordable travel options aboard the S.S. Badger, the largest carferry on Lake Michigan, which is offering a shortcut across the water from Michigan for the weekend. The S.S. Badger provides ferry service from Ludington, Mich., to Manitowoc, Wis., allowing for a short drive out to Road America check out www.ssbadger.com for all the great packages.

About Road America: Established in 1955 as the first permanent road racing course in the United States, Road America is located midway between Milwaukee and Green Bay in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The world’s best racers have competed at this legendary four-mile, 14-turn road circuit for over 55 years. The 640-acre, park-like grounds offer amazing viewing opportunities, fantastic concessions and high-speed excitement to hundreds of thousands of spectators each year. In addition to public race weekends, Road America offers a variety of group event programs, the Blain’s Farm & Fleet Motorplex for karting and supermoto, and the Road America Motorcycle and Advanced Driving Schools. For more information, visit www.roadamerica.com Follow Road America on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RoadAmerica and on Twitter: @roadamerica or call 800-365 7223.