Whelen Engineering drivers Pipo Derani (Brazil), Felipe Nasr (Brazil) and Gabby Chaves (Columbia) finished sixth in yesterday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway.
Derani qualified the No. 31 Whelen Engineering/Action Express Cadillac DPi-V.R sixth on the DPi grid. From there, Derani, Chaves, and Nasr all initially drove double stints in the No. 31 Cadillac and all three consistently kept the car in the top five during that time. In fact, Derani drove the car to the race lead on lap 133. A spot he held throughout a series of mid-race cautions.
With about two and a half hours remaining in the race, Derani was engaged in a battle with the No. 6 Acura for race lead. On lap 271, Derani passed the No. 6 for the race lead, only to have the No. 6 retake the lead heading into the next corner as the two cars made side-to-side contact. On the next lap, Derani tried a similar pass again in the same location. Again, the No. 31 and No. 6 made contact. But this time, the No. 6 spun as the No. 31 took the race lead. As a result of the contact, IMSA race control levied a drive through penalty against the No. 31 Cadillac for incident responsibility.
Derani brought the car to pit lane to serve the drive through penalty. Unfortunately, the bad luck continued because on the out lap Derani reported steering issues with the No. 31 car. This forced him back onto pit lane to fix the problem. This green-flag fix caused the team to lose two laps. Nasr got back into the car with about an hour and a half to go and two laps down. Nasr pushed hard, but unfortunately, the deficit was too much to overcome and the team finished sixth.
“This was not the way we wanted to finish the season,” Derani said. “We gave everything we had. To win the Championship, we knew we had to win the race, so we were aggressive. Unfortunately, this time around, it didn’t work out. We’re very proud of the year we had even though we had plenty of difficulties during the year. We got to the last race still having a shot to win the Championship. We’re going to take the positives from this year and be better next year.”
“It was a tough race for us,” Nasr said. “Not the way we wanted to finish the final race of the year. The 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac was very strong on pace. It got better with every pitstop. It was a very eventful race. We were leading and then we were down. There was a lot of stuff going on with strategy and the way the race went. When the 7 and the 10 had early trouble we were in a good position. Then we had contact with the 6 Acura and we had to pit and lost some laps. We win as a team and lose as a team. A big thank you to the Action Express guys, Whelen Engineering, Pipo, Gabby Chaves and Filipe Albuquerque and all of our partners. I am looking forward to next year to go after another title.”
“It was a rough ending,” Chaves said. “Everyone did an amazing job to put us right where we needed to be to win it. That’s just the way racing goes sometimes. Unfortunately, it didn’t go our way.”
The Whelen Engineering/Action Express team finished the 2020 season with one win, five podiums, six Top-5 finishes, and one pole position. Derani finished fourth in the DPi Drivers’ Championship and Whelen Engineering/Action Express finished third in the Team Championship. Nasr finished eighth in the Drivers’ Championship, despite missing one race due to COVID-19.
Source. Whelen Engineering/Photo. Brian Cleary