The No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac driven by Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr finished third in today’s running of the IMSA WeatherTech Championship Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship run at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
Cadillac holds the IMSA Dpi Manufacturer’s Championship lead by one point to Acura and the No. 7 Acura now leads the DPi Drivers’ Championship over the No.10 Konica Minolta Cadillac by two points heading into the season finale at Sebring in two weeks.
In this morning’s 15-minute qualifying session Pipo Derani posted the fast time among the four Cadillac DPi-V.R entries. He drove the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R to a fourth place starting position with a time of 1:15.420.
Under sunny skies and 85 degrees, the field of 28 IMSA race cars took the green flag. The track temps were higher than the teams had experienced all weekend. At the start Derani fell back to fifth at the exit of Turn 1 on the first lap. The increased heat in the track affected all of the competitors with increased rear tire degradation. As predicted the lighter Acura Dpi cars had the measure of the field all day. The No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac duo of Renger Van Der Zande and Ryan Briscoe were able to lead a handful of laps on a differing strategy.
The first two-hours-and-twenty minutes went green. With just 20-minutes remaining the first and only caution period flew bringing the field together. On the restart Nasr was poised to try and take a position, but the lighter Acura cars were fastest in sector one the entire race and were able to gap the Whelen Cadillac. So much so, that they even managed to arrange the No. 7 car to pass the No. 6 to capitalize on first place points. Nasr brought the Cadillac home in third.
“Another podium finish for our No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac,” Nasr said. “It just felt great to maximize our package once again being the best Cadillac in the field. I’m super proud of Action Express Racing. They did an awesome job on every pit stop and strategy call. Pipo did a nice job early in the race to recover some of the spots lost on lap one. We did all we could. We drove as fast as we could, and we only came in third. It shows that the Acuras have a little more in the pocket and it’s been like this for a few races. We did all we could. Now, it’s time to regroup and finish the year on a high at Sebring.”
Briscoe had the wheel of the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R for the start of the two-hour-and-forty-minute race. He was able to keep the car out when everyone else was pitting for an additional five laps, taking over the lead. He handed off to Van Der Zande who had the car in the top five. On the restart at the end of the race the Dutchman experienced some electrical issues and fell back to sixth where he finished. The Wayne Taylor led team will go into the season finale at Sebring two points behind the No. 7 Acura team in second in the championship race.
“Today we had some great pace in the car, then we had no pace in one of the stints and we don’t know why,” Van Der Zande said. “I think Ryan did a good job in the beginning and we were moving forward. The pit stops were good, I just had no grip in the middle stint, and we lost a lot of time there. Then on the restart I made a move to get up to fifth position. At least we were in the fight to move forward, but it’s the worst-case scenario for the championship. The Acuras have been on a streak for so long now. After the gremlins we had in the last stint we cruised home and now we have to figure out how to fix it. We only have one shot at Sebring to clinch this championship.”
The No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac team of Tristan Vautier and Sebastien Bourdais struggled with the handling of their car all day.
“We had a tough race today,” Vautier said. “The track temp really increased from when we were running the in free practice and in qualifying this morning. The extra heat in the track really affected the rear tires of our Cadillac. It was really tough to run good lap times even halfway through the stint. We will go onto Sebring and look to close the season on the podium.”
The No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsport Cadillac DPi-V.R was started by Matheus Leist, like his teammates in the No. 5 car, he and Stephen Simpson also struggled with tire wear. The duo came to the finish line in eighth.
The IMSA WeatherTech Championship will travel to Sebring International Raceway for the final race and delayed running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring to run November 12-14.
Source. Kyle Chura/Photo. Brian Cleary