WTR recorded its third successive Rolex 24 victory in its first race since switching from Cadillac to Acura in the off-season, a move which included van der Zande exiting the team to join Chip Ganassi Racing. Albuquerque shared the winning ARX-05 with Ricky Taylor, Helio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi.
As the leading duo battled nose-to-tail in the closing stages of the 24-hour Florida sportscar classic, Chip Ganassi quipped from the pits: “He’s got great motivation to beat the #10” – just before van der Zande suddenly slowed and swerved into the pits with a right-rear blowout.
“I could see his eyes in my mirrors!” Albuquerque told NBCSN in Victory Lane of the pressure he was under from van der Zande. “He was so hungry for this, especially with the whole story of him leaving Wayne Taylor [Racing] to join another team.
“He was faster, definitely, but one thing to catch, it’s another thing to pass. He was really pushing hard, I was lucky he had a puncture, he was strong through the Bus Stop. I think it was a hell of a show, probably the hardest race of my life. It was beautiful.”
Ricky Taylor decided to hand the car over to Albuquerque for the final stints, having been given the option to stay in the car.
“It was absolutely the right decision, he’s a superstar – he won the world championship in the WEC last year – and we always knew he was the one we wanted in our car,” said Taylor. “I couldn’t ask for a better teammate, along with Alex and Helio, he had all the pressure in the world on him at the end, he took it like a champion.
“You have to send love to the Chip Ganassi guys, they were on it all day and were unfortunate at the end. They didn’t deserve that [puncture].”
Team boss Wayne Taylor added: “Six wins at this place, it’s fucking awesome. I had about that much vodka just near the end, I couldn’t stand it any longer, my stomach was that animated.”