The Whelen Engineering Cadillac team won today’s running of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway. The Konica Minolta Cadillac was second with the Mustang Sampling Cadillac coming third completing the podium sweep.
Following the command to start engines by Cadillac Racing program manager Laura Wontrop Klauser, Pipo Derani led the 29-car field, from pole position, behind the Cadillac CT5-V Pace Car to the green flag.
Derani led the first hour and 20-minutes followed by the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R of Renger Van Der Zande. Handing over to teammate Felipe Nasr, who is returning to the team after missing Daytona with the COVID-19 virus, proceeded to keep the red Whelen Cadillac in the lead to the checkered flag. The team was never out of the lead for the duration of the two hour and 40-minute event.
“When I got in the car, I was a little unlucky with the traffic,” Nasr said. “The car that was running second [at the time] was the No. 10 car and they made up a little bit of time on us. But on my final stint, I was able to hit my marks. The pace was awesome. I was able to pull a little gap every lap and bring the car home.
“I want to thank Cadillac. They [Cadillac] finished 1-2-3, so they should be pleased. It was just awesome to get back in the car. I love this series. It feels so good right now. I want to thank everybody from Action Express Racing for giving us a fantastic car all weekend.”
“I think this place likes me,” Derani said. “It was a fantastic day for us. Our last win was last year at Petit Le Mans. This team is so used to winning. The two races at Daytona did not go our way and that’s not what this team expects. We finally got back on the top step of the podium. This is my fourth win in five attempts at Sebring. Obviously, it was not the 12-Hours [of Sebring] this time around. But, I love this place. We had a dominant car the whole way. It’s fantastic when you can roll off the truck with a set-up that’s as good as we had today. We were fastest in FP2 (free practice #2). We took pole position and we won the race. A big thank you to the entire Whelen Engineering Cadillac team. They did a phenomenal job to put us in this position today.”
Renger Van Der Zande ran upfront behind Derani throughout his opening stint in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. The Dutchman turned the car over to teammate Ryan Briscoe. Briscoe kept the black Konica Minolta Cadillac upfront to take second place.
“It was a really good result today,” Briscoe said. “Unfortunately, there was a lot of time management at the end. I’m really proud of the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac guys. We made a lot of changes to the car after we started the day on a bad foot after morning practice, so we had a great set-up during the race, so thank you to the engineers so we’ll keep pushing from here on. Now, it’s time to hydrate.”
A small miscue by Sebastian Bourdais missing pit lane on the reconnaissance lap forced the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R to start from the back of the DPi grid. He and teammate Joao Barbosa were able to recover and take the third step on the podium as the Mazda cars misjudged the fuel strategy and ran out on the last lap.
“We had the plan going into the event that I would start, do one stint and then comeback and finish,” Bourdais said. “Both Joao and Christian [Fittipaldi] felt it was the right thing to do. Then with where the yellows fell we didn’t want to end up with a short stop. It ended up being a good thing us. The Mazda cars ran out of fuel, not good for them, but good for us. The team was telling me to push them hard because they thought they could not make it. It didn’t seem like it was going to happen I got the 55 halfway around the track on the last lap and 77 on the last turn. It made for a dramatic finish. Another podium for us – three in a row!”
Stephen Simpson started the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac DPi-V.R and ran strong in the top-five in his opening run. Handing off to Tristan Vautier, the Frenchman had to pit late in the race for fuel resulting in an eighth place finish.
“Struggle for us with the 85 Cadillac today,” Vautier said. “I think our overall pace was ok. We stopped early for our driver change and that affected our fuel strategy, we were a few laps short. I had to stop again late in the race and that was costly. We could have gotten the two Mazda cars. Overall a good day for the team with the five car and for Cadillac Racing with the one-two-three finish.”
Cadillac Sebring Finishing Order:
1. No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R, Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani
2. No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R, Renger Van Der Zande and Ryan Briscoe
3. No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R, Joao Barbosa and Sebastian Bourdais
8. No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac DPi-V.R, Tristan Vautier and Stephen Simpson
Source. Kyle Chura/Cadillac Racing