After a five-month hiatus, Whelen Engineering Racing drivers Pipo Derani (Brazil) and Felipe Nasr (Brazil) are set to return to the track for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Daytona 240 July 3-4 at the World Center of Racing.
The No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R has not been on the track since it finished seventh at the Rolex 24 At Daytona at the end of January. The Whelen Engineering Racing crew and its drivers are anxious to get back on the track and return to racing.
“I think it’s fantastic to get back to racing,” Derani said. “I spoke to Felipe a few days ago and I said, ‘man, I don’t remember the last time I wore a helmet.’ I think it’s going to be funny when we get back on track.
“Daytona is a very special place. It doesn’t matter if you’re there for the (Rolex) 24 or a 2 hour and 40-minute race. It’s always a special place to be. It goes without saying that it’s (Daytona) a place that any driver wants to win no matter what race you’re doing there.
“For sure, winning Daytona in 2016 was one of my best achievements, but that doesn’t make it any easier. We are going into this race with a completely different approach because it’s a much shorter race (than the 24-hour race). So, I think the dynamics are going to be much different. Felipe and myself have been back in the US for a month now. We’ve been training together. We’re getting our minds set to what we had last year. Hopefully, we can start again fresh and go for a victory at Daytona, which would be fantastic.”
“I can’t wait to be on track in a few days,” Nasr said. “I’ve been back in Florida for the last month training – enjoying the outdoors when I can. We got the great news that we are going back to Daytona. I’m ready to get the rust off and I’m looking forward to racing.”
The COVID-19 global pandemic has forced everyone out of their daily routine – including race car drivers. Both Derani and Nasr said it’s not just that easy to hop back into a race car after five months, get up to speed and find your rhythm quickly unless your team has followed its protocols and stays focused.
“I think you’re going to see the difference from boys to men,” Derani said. “The teams that are really serious and have a protocol on how they work will get up to speed quicker. Our team, Whelen Engineering/Action Express, we’ve been doing it for so long with the same group of guys. The teams that have been together for a while know what to do and have the edge.”
“It could definitely happen,” Nasr said about crew guys possibly having some nerves after a five-month layoff. “I’m pretty confident on our side it won’t happen because we’ve kept close contact with the guys. They’ve been practicing pit stops back at the shop. They’ve been working through different scenarios. Until racing actually happens, there’s so much going on behind the scenes. We just want to get to that win.”
Cadillac has had a lot of success at Daytona. The manufacturer has won four consecutive Rolex 24 races dating back to 2017, including a win earlier this season. That said, the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R has three consecutive top-10 finishes at Daytona, including a runner-up finish in 2018 that had Nasr behind the wheel. Derani has had success at Daytona, winning in 2016 driving a Honda-powered Ligier. The combination of Whelen Engineering Racing, Cadillac and drivers Derani and Nasr has the team poised for a return to the winner’s circle at Daytona this weekend.
After five months of no competitive racing, IMSA will return to the track for its first practice at 6:15 p.m. (ET) Friday, July 3. Practice #2 gets underway at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, July 4, followed by the 15-minute DPi qualifying at 2:45 p.m. The green flag will drop on IMSA’s second race of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at 6:05 p.m.
Source. Whelen Engineering/Photo. Brian Cleary