The No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R performed well through the first half of the twice around the clock race, including leading the DPi class at one point. Conway was in the cockpit during the overnight hours when the No. 31 Cadillac develop a gearbox issue. This issue made it difficult to keep pace with the other DPi class leaders.
“During my second stint, at like three or four in the morning, we made up a lot of ground and got up to second [place],” Conway said. “The car was good. And then, in my last stint, I had a couple of shifts that were bad. It went down a gear a couple of times. Then, during the last five laps of my stint, I lost second gear completely. So, I was running around using third gear for all of the slow corners, which was pretty hard. My teammates got in and they had to do the same thing during their stints. We did that for the next four hours.”
Unfortunately, the gearbox was not the only issue the No. 31 car sustained in the early morning hours. The car was in fifth place when Derani had to bring the car to pit lane to replace a flat tire.
“All of a sudden, the tire blew off,” Derani said. “I had to drive the car back to the pits slowly. It’s just one of those days.”
In the time it took to replace the flat tire, it cost the team three laps to the DPi class leaders.Shortly after pitting to fix the flat tire, the team decided it was time to fix the gearbox. The team had Albuquerque bring the car to the garage to make the necessary fix.
“When Filipe Albuquerque got back in, that’s when it [the gear box] completely gave up,” Conway said. “He lost four gears. The gearbox was the main issue. If we didn’t have that, I would say we were up there fighting for the top three at least. It’s a shame. The guys worked really hard. The crew was flawless all night. They did all they could. But, it’s a shame we lost so many laps.”
At about the same time Albuquerque went to the garage, the race’s fifth full course caution came out. This allowed the Whelen Engineering crew to fix the gearbox mostly under caution and put it back out on track when the race went green. At this point, the No. 31 was 11 laps down, which is where they finished in seventh place.
“Unfortunately, today was not meant to be,” Derani said. “We had many issues. From a simple sticker from the windshield sticking up through the air intake, to flat tires and the gear box problems at the end. A big thanks to the crew for all of their hard work. They did an amazing job considering everything. The car was always quick when we didn’t have those issues. Even though we finished seventh, we can carry those points towards the Championship and fight back at Sebring.”
“We had a lot of hurdles that put us away from a good race,” Albuquerque said. “The sticker closing the air intake. We lost second gear and started to struggle with pace. That was the biggest thing. And, we were already crumbling. Later, when I got into the car later in the morning, all the rest of the gears broke down. We were stuck with third gear. I had to pit to fix the rest of the gearbox and off we went again. But, we had too much damage underneath the floor [of the car]. They have these curbs that destroyed our car even more. We need to understand that as well. It’s a shame that we couldn’t put a fight to the No. 10.”
“We started having some upshifting issues – something with the gearbox,” Nasr said. “We lost second gear overnight. We only had third gear. And naturally, you lose a lot of pace because of that. The race didn’t choose us this time. All I have to say is, everything was looking good from the beginning. Our drivers did a great job – the team as well. Unfortunately, the car left us today. But, that’s racing. You can only learn from it and think about Sebring.”
Sebring International Raceway will host the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship March 18-21 for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts. The team finished fifth at Sebring last year.
Source. Whelen Engineering/Photo. Brian Cleary