Season long drivers Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani will have help from familiar Action Express Racing drivers Mike Conway and Filipe Albuquerque for the 58th running of the twice-around-the-clock classic to run at Daytona International Speedway.
The team had a strong outing at the Roar Before The 24 test three weeks ago. Among the four drivers they were able to put 434 miles on the Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R in preparation for this weekend.
“It’s finally race week,” Nasr said. “No better way to start the season than with the Rolex 24. I am excited to be back driving the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac with Pipo, Filipe and Mike. I feel like we have a very strong shot at winning the race. I want to get this prestigious race on my win resume. As we saw at the Roar, there is a very strong field. The Acura and Mazdas are very strong. Also, the Cadillac teams are strong as well. All of the cars have good drivers. At the Roar, we focused on a race set-up. As Gary Nelson says, we expect to win.”
“Driving this race at night is really special. Going from day to night is a special moment. Before my stints I watch my teammates and hear their feedback on the car, the balance, and how the competition is driving. I also monitor the engineers and their thoughts. When I am out of the car I try to get my hydration back and eat the proper food to get ready for my next run. I also like a massage while keeping an eye on what the team and car is doing.”
Derani wants to continue the winning effort from Petit Le Mans in October.
“Really happy to be starting a new year with Action Express and the Whelen Cadillac,” Derani said. “The Rolex 24 has so much prestige and is a great way to start the season. We finished last year on a high note by winning Petit Le Mans and the IMSA Endurance Championship. We have Filipe with us and Mike for the 24, so we have a very strong lineup. The whole team is focused on getting the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac on the top step as we were so close last year. We are all excited to get the season going this weekend.”
Albuquerque comes over from the No. 5 Cadillac to add to the Rolex 24 driver lineup for the red Whelen Engineering Cadillac.
“It was great to be at the Roar test with the Whelen Engineering team,” Albuquerque said. “For me it is the same team, but different car. The Roar was really good. We were happy with the balance of the car on the new Michelin tire. We will need to have a trouble-free race. The team will give us a reliable car and everyone is focused on getting the win this year. The competition with the Mazdas and Acura teams will be close. They both want to win the 24-hour now that they have won races and Acura the championship.
“Between stints, I eat and get a massage and then go to sleep. Doing the job and getting to sleep is easy for me as I have two kids. I can fall asleep in 10 minutes. The race has the adrenalin flowing, but not the same as giving my daughter milk or changing a diaper.”
Conway, still in the heart of his WEC season with Toyota, knows how tough these 24 hours can be where execution by drivers and the team is crucial.
“I’m excited to be back again with Action Express and in the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac this year at Daytona,” Conway said. “With our driver line-up I feel we have a good shot this year. Daytona is always a challenging race, so we just have to execute at every moment. The Roar test was pretty good, we got through our program and we all got some seat time. Looking forward to more of that come race week. So far Mazda and Acura look very fast, of course we have a lot of Cadillac competition too, so really there looks like a lot of competition as always!
“After stints, I just try to give as much feedback to the engineers as I can to help them improve the car and also talk to the next driver getting in. Then it’s time for food, rest and watching what my teammates do until my next turn behind the wheel.”
Source. Whelen Engineering Racing/Photo. Brian Cleary