By Godwin Kelly
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Sean Creech, who was a car engineer/mechanic, and driver Joao Barbosa bonded more than two decades ago at Colucci Racing. Through the years, they dreamed of building a race program together.
After more than two decades following different paths, their wish was granted at the end of the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship when Sean Creech Motorsport bought and began testing a Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3).
“At the same time, we thought the same thing – that we need to get back together and do something,” Creech said.
Creech Motorsport has been around for several years and had success in IMSA racing, capturing Ferrari Challenge North America and IMSA Prototype Challenge championships along the way. But moving to the WeatherTech Championship was a major step made possible by securing Barbosa, a prototype veteran and two-time series champion, and getting co-driver Dr. Lance Willsey involved on the funding side.
“We had different paths for many years, but we always kept in touch,” Barbosa said. “We were always looking to get back together. We went and were doing our own things. Finally, a couple of years ago we both said, ‘Hey, maybe this can work. Let’s see if we can make something happen.’ It was really quick to make the deal happen once he knew he had a program with an LMP3 car. Between Sean, Lance and myself, we got to an agreement pretty quickly.”
The new team made a big splash in its 2021 debut, finishing second in the Rolex 24 At Daytona with its Ligier JS P320. Then things started to crumble. At the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts, the Creech car was crunched under unusual circumstances.
“We didn’t have any luck at Sebring last year because we got knocked out when we got hit while following the pace car,” Creech said. “We were going 60 mph and somebody runs right into you and destroys the whole right-side corner of the car.”
The team had a nondescript run at its next race at Mid-Ohio, then disappeared off the radar screen.
“After Mid-Ohio last year, Lance had some business issues he had to take care of and we could not continue with the program in 2021,” said Barbosa, who has won the Rolex 24 overall three times since 2010. “While our season was cut short, we kept working on the program and trying to make it work this year by having the best shop possible and getting good results. I think in our first two races this season, we proved we are a little bit stronger than we were last year.”
Most of the 2021 crew is back in place this season and the team has seen tremendous success. The No. 33 Ligier finished second in the Rolex 24 and followed it with a win at Sebring. Three podiums, including a win, in five races since the start of 2021 is pretty impressive. Barbosa, Willsey and the No. 33 lead the 2022 LMP3 standings heading back to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this week for the Lexus Grand Prix at Mid-Ohio. These are the kind of results Creech and Barbosa envisioned when they joined forces.
“Two second places at Daytona in two races shows we have what it takes as a team,” Barbosa said. “It’s about preparation of the car and having a quick, reliable car. Daytona is a great place to show that. Our win at Sebring, well, that is one of the most challenging tracks in the world. We had no issues and we ran very strong.”
Creech said the team has been working feverishly on the car to make it bulletproof again this week.
“We always go to the racetrack to win,” Creech said. “We go at it the same way at every race, every year. We put the cars together the best we can and hope for the best. Mid-Ohio is a tough track. It’s not a tough track like Sebring. (At) Sebring, you have a couple of straightaways where the driver can take a breath and regroup. At Mid-Ohio, you’re busy on every lap. We have a pretty good setup.”
Barbosa thinks it could set up for another sports car championship at Sean Creech Motorsport.
“We absolutely want the championship,” he said. “We are leading the points with our podium finishes and we will work as hard as ever to maintain our place.”
In addition to LMP3, the Daytona Prototype international (DPi), Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) and Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) classes will race at Mid-Ohio. Action begins with practices on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. Qualifying streams live on IMSA.com/TVLive at 1:15 p.m. ET Saturday.
USA Network has the live broadcast of the two-hour, 40-minute race starting at 2 p.m. Sunday.