Saturday's second round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season featured seven cautions, only one fewer than in 2021, and two fewer than in 2020, but more crucially, in this year’s edition of the race there were no full course yellows in the final four-and-a-half hours.
The WTR Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 shared by Albuquerque, Ricky Taylor and Will Stevens led at the eight-hour mark, but in the ninth hour, Stevens picked up a drive-through penalty for using the wrong exit to rejoin the track after a pitstop, and that dropped the car down the order.
A subsequent dearth of yellows meant there was no way for WTR to recover the time lost, leaving the trio a distant fourth behind an-all Cadillac podium at the finish.
“We managed to, at one point, lead the race, but a penalty threw us a bit off," said Albuquerque. "But then again, we were relaxed because there is always a yellow towards the end of the race.
"Yet, today was the record for the least amount of yellows at Sebring, and it was insane to go five hours without a yellow. That killed our chance to get back in the game, but the team did a great job."
Taylor, who managed to recover one position in the closing stages at the expense of the other Acura, that of Meyer Shank Racing, added: "I can’t believe we got set back two-thirds of the way through and then, with 53 cars on track, we didn’t get a single yellow to bunch us back up.
"I feel like, if we could have bunched back up and had a shot to fight, we would have given it our all and perhaps put ourselves on the podium.
"Hats off to [race winners] Ganassi. They were the class of the field today. I don’t know if we had enough for them, but we were fighting for really good points and the car was really strong at the end when we wanted it to be."
The Rolex 24 at Daytona-winning Meyer Shank car of Oliver Jarvis, Tom Blomqvist and IMSA debutant Stoffel Vandoorne trailed home a distant fifth. That followed contact between Vandoorne and the Action Express Cadillac of Pipo Derani in the 10th hour that, according to a post-race statement from Acura, left the #60 with a damaged floor.
However, Jarvis felt that the MSR squad was simply lacking the raw speed needed to be a genuine contender on Saturday.
“We knew the competition was going to be quick here, but you never stop believing that you can get a result," reflected Jarvis. "And there were times we were at the front, but I think that was more through our strategy – just doing everything right.
"I think the ultimate pace just wasn't there – and that's been the same for the last two or three years here in Sebring. It's nothing unique to this particular weekend.”