When Tequila Patrón ESM arrived at Belle Isle for the Chevrolet SportsCar Classic, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship prototype team new the street course would be a challenging event. The team struggled in the opening practice sessions but rebounded to win pole position in qualifying and finish fourth at Saturday’s race.
The bumps and varying surface types of the Detroit Grand Prix course proved to be difficult for the Nissan Onroak DPis as they maneuvered around the tight street course. The pair of cars lacked speed and balance in the opening practice, but dedication of the engineers, drivers, and crew brought the No. 22 Nissan Onroak DPi to pole position with Pipo Derani at the wheel.
Derani led the field to green, immediately charging forward ahead of the Penske Acuras. He began to pull away, but four minutes into the race, Derani reported a shifting issue for the No. 22 Nissan. The team quickly deduced that the issue may have been steering wheel related and Derani pitted off sequence to receive a new steering wheel and to fill up on fuel. Unable to get a clean lap in Friday’s qualifying, Scott Sharp stared in 11th, and by the first full course caution in the first 20 minutes, Sharp had manoeuvred the No. 2 Nissan Onroak DPi to eighth. Sharp completed his stint maintaining position, and pitted under caution from eighth to let Ryan Dalziel take over for the remainder of the race. A speedy stop from the team brought Dalziel up to sixth position, gaining valuable spots as he exited down pit lane. Derani stayed out during the caution, advancing up to third position, and then second as the field went back to green. He advanced to race within 0.8 seconds of Joao Barbosa, as Dalziel climbed to fifth to fight for fourth spot. Derani put heavy pressure on the race leader keeping close until Barbosa pitted for a full service stop. Derani pushed hard, setting his fastest lap of the race up to that point. He quickly created a six second lead, then eight second lead, finally pitting with 40 minutes to go.
Johannes van Overbeek assumed the driving duties of the No. 22 Nissan Onroak DPi, and Dalziel came in for his final fuel and tires stop. The pair rejoined the field in seventh and eighth with two thirds of the race completed. In the final stint, the No. 22 Nissan Onroak DPi let the faster No. 2 car of Dalziel by, and Dalziel charged forward to fight for position. In the final laps of the race, cars ahead of Dalziel encountered issues, suffering contact and running short on fuel. Dalziel charged forward to earn fourth position, and Johannes van Overbeek finished in seventh.
Despite the early race setback, the team put in a strong performance, producing new speeds for the Nissan DPi on the Detroit street course. The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s next event should suit the Nissan Onroak DPis well at Watkins Glen International, where the team earned the overall pole positions in 2016 and 2017. Olivier Pla and Nico Lapierre will return to the No. 2 and No. 22 as the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup drivers, sharing the duties with the full time drivers for the six hour endurance event, June 28 to July 1. For full schedule and event information, visit imsa.com.
Overall it was a good weekend considering how we came here on Friday and didn’t like the cars early on. We were off the pace and the engineers and team really rebounded amazingly for Pipo to get the pole, which was huge. He shined wonderfully in the race, and it was a shame to have the early shifting issue with the steering wheel. We still all showed great pace. On our side, to start 11th, and if you told me we were going to finish fourth, I’m not sure I would have believed you. That’s a nice finish, and overall, we’re walking away fairly positive here. The No. 22 certainly had the pace to win, but that’s racing.
It was a difficult race in general. It was a disappointing day for the No. 22. They were obviously pretty strong to start. A fourth place with the No. 2 car was a good result. I’m definitely glad it’s over. I feel like I’m two inches shorter from the bumps. But the cars are in one piece, and we’re headed somewhere that we’re very confident at, which is Watkins Glen. We weren’t sure what to get here, and we’re happy with a fourth place finish. We saved a bunch of fuel, more than others, and it paid off.
Johannes van Overbeek
The team did a great job this weekend. We got our first pole position of the year. Pipo did an amazing job. We had a little bit of bad luck with the steering wheel, which messed up our pit stop sequence. It was a frustrating race based on where we started, but onto the next one.
I feel gutted we didn’t manage to come home with a better result, because the team did an amazing job this weekend, making the car fast and giving me a car for pole position. Unfortunately, an issue with our car steering wheel made us pit early and our strategy was messed up. Being a short race, that’s a hard thing to recover from. We’ll work hard and come back strong for the next one.
Source. KBru Communications