Whelen Engineering Cadillac drivers Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani won today’s running of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Motul Pole Award 100 qualifying race at Daytona International Speedway. Their victory puts them on pole for next weekend’s Rolex 24 At Daytona.
The start of race had the 50-car field on Michelin rain tires. Nasr had the wheel of the red Whelen Cadillac for the start from sixth. He was put to the back after driving to pole in yesterday’s qualifying session, but in post-race inspection the car was classified as being 2.2-pounds underweight. Therefore, Nasr started sixth on the DPi grid.
With Mazda inheriting pole, new-comer Kevin Magnussen was not willing to wait on the Japanese DPi. The ex-Formula 1 driver made a pass into the Bust Stop and took over the lead. The Dane led the first third of the race with the team electing to keep him out while the rest of the DPi field pitted for slick tires. On fast rubber Nasr was able to move up from sixth and take the lead 30-minutes into the race. Giving the car over to Derani he was able to keep the lead to the checker and take the Motul Pole Award and the top starting spot for the Rolex 24 next weekend.
“I had a lot of fun out there I pushed our car to maximum,” Nasr said. “Very happy have the 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R on pole for next weekend. All of the Cadillac cars have been within a tenth of each other. We are racing hard for points. So, it is a good result for us and the team.”
“Very happy to put the Whelen Cadillac on pole for the Rolex 24,” Derani said. “We race hard every time we are on the track. We go for the race win and the maximum. We have a saying in our team ‘expect to win’ and that is how we drive each session and race. We were pushing. It is a great start to the season. We’re leading the championship!”
The No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R came in third on the day with Tristan Vautier and Loic Duval driving. Vautier was able to lead some early laps and show the pace of the JDC-Miller prepared car.
“It was very interesting in mixed conditions, very tricky especially with slippery painted lines made it hard to find the right level of attack,” Vautier said. “I managed to have a good start to the race. To start the Rolex 24 from third is a good place to begin. A good day for Cadillac and the JDC-Miller team. Head down for the race. We know what we have to do to get better and will be right on for the 24 next weekend.”
Jimmie Johnson and Kamui Kobayashi were elected to drive the No. 48 Ally Cadillac DPi-V.R in the 100-minute qualifier. Seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Johnson had his hands full starting in the rain. He was able to keep the car competitive with the DPi field before handing it over to Kobayashi. The Japanese driver was able to bring it home in sixth.
“I’m very thankful that the team put me in this position to start the race and qualify the Ally Cadillac,” Johnson said. “It put me in some positions I hadn’t been in before. It allowed me to understand the prerace procedures like fuel mapping pages, warming the tires up under caution, keep the carbon brakes hot, and things you mess with in the car. All of that while it is raining. To be running in the rain and to understand the tires, the spray from the other cars and then transition to dry with slicks and getting them up to temperature. I wasn’t as fast as I wanted to be, but I stayed on the road and had a lot of valuable first-time experiences, which was really helpful.”
Newcomers to Dpi competition Chip Ganassi Racing with drivers Kevin Magnussen and Renger Van Der Zande showed good speed today in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R. Magnussen led laps early and the team showed they will contend for wins this season.
“We got a good start. It was wet and tricky conditions,” Magnussen said. “It was not the best race result. But considering all of the work done these last three weeks by the team to get ready for Daytona with such little time is incredible. We have hit the ground running. We had a good test day in Sebring that went as if the team had been running the Cadillac for years. We came here and ran the car virtually without problems. We were able to straight away start working on getting the maximum out of the car. I can’t wait until next week.”
Cadillac Motul Pole Award 100 qualifying race finishing order, drivers inbold:1. No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R,Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani, Mike Conway, Chase Elliott3. No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R,Tristan Vautier, Loic Duval, Sebastien Bourdais6. No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R, Kevin Magnussen, Renger Van Der Zande, Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson7. No. 48 Ally Cadillac DPi-V.R, Jimmy Johnson, Simon Pagenaud, Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Rockenfeller
The 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship 59th running of the Rolex 24 Hour At Daytona season opening race will take the green Saturday, January 30.
Source. Kyle Chura/ Cadillac Racing. Photo. Richard Prince