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IMSA’s Fittipaldi Sets Retirement Date

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 4 2018

Sports car driver Christian Fittipaldi said he will retire after next year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.


Christian Fittipaldi, a two-time IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype champion, announced Saturday that  he is retiring following the 2019 Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Fittipaldi has collected victories in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, Motul Petit Le Mans and the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, and three Rolex 24 At Daytona wins.
“Because I wanted to give it a shot,” he said when asked why he will wait until Daytona ’19 to retire. “I owe a lot to Daytona. I owe a lot to the France family and Daytona has brought me a lot of happiness. I have had a lot of success there. We won three times. I think I have six or seven podiums in total. Maybe it’s not Scott Pruett’s statistics, but it’s not bad.”
Fittipaldi’s third Rolex 24 win, which came this year in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R with Filipe Albuquerque and his longtime co-driver, Joao Barbosa, with whom he shared the championships and the majority of his IMSA wins, was what started him thinking about retirement from driving.
“I think one of the last items of it – and it was a huge weight that came off my back – was Daytona this year,” he said. “After what happened in 2017 – and don’t take me wrong, I’m not here to point fingers if Ricky (Taylor) should be disqualified or if he shouldn’t. I’m way beyond that. If he pulled a good move or a bad move, at the end of the day, we lost the race and they won the race, and I thought we would have won the race. So, we kept that for almost a year and it was heavy inside the team.
“When we managed to pull it this year, I said, ‘Wow, three is a cool number.’ Obviously, four, five or six would be even nicer, but three is a cool number. I think that started generating the little snowball. From that point onward, I went to Long Beach and it was the first time I was out of the car and I was spotting for the team and helping out the team technically. Then something else clicked in.
“My relationship with my family, my daughter, my age, so it’s the package. It’s not one thing. It’s not that I went out there, I had a huge accident and said, ‘Whoa, now I’m afraid of doing this. I can’t do this anymore.’ It wasn’t that. It was the package and I think the timing is correct. I’m going to respect the timing a lot.”
If Fittipaldi does win the Rolex 24 again next year, it’ll be his fourth overall victory. The record – shared by Hurley Haywood and Pruett – is five.
“No,” Fittipaldi replied to the obvious question of if he’d go for five. “Honestly, I think that’s very unlikely to happen, because I respect my decision. Everything has a beginning, middle and an end. I’m not going to force the issue beyond the end. I would be more than happy with that.
“I would be more than happy to let Hurley and Scott keep the five and I’ll keep the four. The five are in great hands. Never say never, but honestly, I do not see that happening. Especially at the level that IMSA is running at right now. You can’t hop in the car, do half a stint, get out of the car and that’s it. It’s a huge team effort out there and you need to be on top of your game, otherwise you’re not going to move forward.”
Fittipaldi can move forward knowing he’s accomplished plenty in his career. Prior to embarking on his sports car career, Fittipaldi was a successful Indy car racer, who earned his first victory here at Road America in 1999. The significance of that wasn’t lost on Fittipaldi.
“I think one of the best days of my racing career happened in this track back in 1999, where [Fittipaldi’s Newman/Haas Racing team co-owner] Carl Haas was the promoter,” Fittipaldi said. “The CEOs from [team sponsors] Texaco and Kmart were here and we had a flawless weekend, we had a flawless race and we finished 1-2. It was my first win and Michael (Andretti) finished second. Michael wasn’t happy about that, but I don’t really care. That was one of the days that I’ll definitely never forget.”
| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 4 2018
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