The Whelen Engineering Cadillac drivers Pipo Derani (Brazil), Felipe Nasr (Brazil) and Filipe Albuquerque (Portugal) finished fifth in today’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
Nasr started third in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering/Action Express Cadillac DPi-V.R. All three drivers kept the No. 31 Cadillac out of trouble and consistently in the top three for the first eight hours of today’s 10-hour race.
With a little less than two hours remaining, Nasr had the race lead and was locked in a heated battle with Alexander Rossi in the No. 7 Acura for position. Rossi made a solid pass on Nasr for position on lap 388. The two ran nose-to-tail until both cars came to pit lane on lap 403 for the final round of driver changes. This is when Derani got into the car.
Derani left pit lane in second, but only needed five laps to retake the race lead from Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 with a little more than an hour remaining. The two continued to battle for position throughout their penultimate stint. Derani had the race lead when both cars came to pit lane for their final pit stops on lap 433. Unfortunately, the No. 7 Acura exited pit lane just in front of the No. 31 Cadillac to take the race lead heading into the final 30 minutes of the race.
On lap 435, Derani decided it was go time and he made an incredible pass on Taylor in Turn One to retake the race lead. From there, the No. 31 look poised to capture its second win of the season. But, with 12 minutes remaining in the race, the No. 7 attempted to pass the No. 31 in Turn Six and made contact. The contact forced the No. 31 off course and into the gravel. The result essentially ended the team’s hopes of winning back-to-back Petit Le Mans races and finished fifth.
“I told him I always had a lot of respect for him,” Derani said following his post-race discussion with Taylor. “I was in the lead. I was out in front and he pushed me out. That’s it. There’s not much to say. Unfortunately, we lost the race. We did everything we could with 10 laps to go. We were leading the race and he just pushed me out on a desperate move to try to go to the lead. It was a mistake on his side. I hope he sleeps on it and thinks a little bit because he thinks it’s my fault. I don’t know what I could have done differently. We’ll take the positives out of this race. We had a fantastic race. Acura was much quicker than us. But, we were there at the end leading the race. I put two fantastic passes on him after losing the lead on the pit stop again. We did everything we could [to win]. Everyone on the Whelen Engineering car did a fantastic job. I lost a little bit of respect for him [Taylor] and his teammates for trying to accuse me of doing something wrong. But, it is what it is. I’m not at the racetrack to make friends. I want to win the next one.”
“This was not the way we wanted to end the 10-hour race,” Nasr said. “But honestly, I felt we did everything right – the drivers, the team, the execution, the strategy. We kept a quicker car behind all the way to the end. Derani, Albuquerque, and I, we had a flawless race until the end – hitting our marks. It was just beautiful. It was one of those days we really enjoyed the racing out there. Unfortunately, at the end, it came down to a move that took us out of contention, and we had to settle for fifth. We’re disappointed. But, we’ll take the positives out of the Endurance Championship. We scored the most points out of everyone in that round. We got the Endurance Cup trophy this weekend. Of course, we wanted that win. But, this time it was taken away from us. I want to thank our partners Whelen Engineering, Lucas Oil, and every partner that’s been on board with us. I want to say a big thanks to the mechanics and engineers. They absolutely nailed everything we had on the table today.”
Whelen Engineering/Action Express travels west to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Oct. 31 – Nov. 4 to compete in the penultimate round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship race.
Source. Whelen Engineering/Photo. Brian Cleary