Albuquerque and his teammates in the #10 Acura ARX-06, Ricky Taylor, Brendon Hartley and Louis Deletraz, almost completed a sensational comeback as they recovered from three laps down to challenge for victory in the final hours of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship season-opener.
But after making his way ahead of the two Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs to take second, the Portuguese driver was unable to find a way past the race-leading MSR Acura of Tom Blomqvist, who went to claim the team’s second consecutive Rolex 24 win by just over four seconds.
Reflecting on WTR’s agonising near miss, Albuquerque said he knew that the #10 Acura was not as optimised for the run to the flag as its MSR counterpart.
“When I was about to get in the car for the final stint, I could see Louis struggling with pace,” Albuquerque told Motorsport.com.
“We did a change on the car when we had the oil problem that was not paying off during the day, even though it was working fine in the night. I knew I would struggle compared to the other Acura, and it was exactly like that. They were more dialled in, more in shape.
“At one point we were three laps down, then so many yellows happened and we could get back in the fight, so I kept believing, but knowing that Shank would be the car to beat. They had a better car.”
The WTR car dropped three laps off the lead in the night when both Acuras started experiencing oil flush issues that required regular top-ups at pitstops, but the #10 machine needed a trip to the garage to replace an oil filler bracket after the filler hose dropped down inside the chassis.
Further time was lost due to a penalty for working on the car on pit road while the pits were closed.
Following a morning stretch of green-flag running that lasted almost six hours, a sequence of cautions starting with around three hours to go allowed the WTR car to claw its way back on to the lead lap.
Asked if he felt that MSR had an edge on pace from the outset, Albuquerque replied: “Going into the race, no, because we had our ups and downs. There was one point where we gained 40 seconds on them. We were there.
“Now in the pitstops with the minimum time, we can do more things on the car. We tried to trim it down but it got stuck and we couldn’t change it. So it was little things like that which meant we were not perfect.”
For his part, Blomqvist admitted to uncertainty about keeping Albuquerque at bay for the closing stages after seeing the WTR Acura get back on the lead lap and emerge as MSR’s strongest competitor.
But the Anglo-Swedish driver, who shared driving duties with Colin Braun, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud, said he was confident the team had been able to optimise its set-up for the crucial run-in.
“I was confident I had the edge over the Cadillacs and Porsches, but the other Acura was the big question mark, so I was a little bit nervous when Filipe got into second,” Blomqvist told Motorsport.com. “I knew if he saw an opportunity he would take it.
“It was all about the restarts, and these new tyres are so hard when they are cold, so there are always some hairy moments trying to manage that. But I just felt really good in the car.
“Understanding how to get the most of these complex cars with all the tools we have and the hybrid element is important, and I think I was able to understand that quite well and get the car set up in a good way.”