Since the IMSA debut of the DPi formula Cadillac has claimed two Manufacturers Championships, four Michelin Endurance Cup Championships and 18 race wins including four consecutive victories in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. The brand is going for its fifth win in a row at the 59th running of the twice-around-the-clock classic.
New for the Roar this year was a points paying 100-minue qualifying race held on Sunday, Jan. 24. The format included the entire 50-car field with just two drivers participating for each team. Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani drove to the win and will start from pole for the big race on Saturday.
Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) is new to the Cadillac fold for 2021. CGR returns to IMSA WeatherTech competition after a successful run in GTLM with Ford. Behind the wheel of the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R will be former Formula 1 driver Kevin Magnussen who will run alongside Cadillac DPi-V.R veteran and Rolex 24 winner Renger Van Der Zande. Joining the duo for the 24 is six-time NTT IndyCar Series Champion Scott Dixon and CGR driver Marcus Ericsson.
In the qualifying race Magnussen wasted little time passing for the lead on the first lap in the rain going into the Bus Stop. Van der Zande brought the silver Cadillac to the checker in seventh.
“It’s been pretty good so far, but I think we only got the car four or five weeks ago so between adding this program and all the other [CGR] programs there’s a lot of people you need in a short amount of time,” Dixon said. “It’s definitely been an interesting process from the get-go and Chip only has one thing in mind and that’s to try and win. It’s definitely going to be a steep learning curve for the team and everybody involved. Daytona is one of my favorite races of the season to kick it off and to have this partnership back with the same team is awesome. Renger has spent much more time in this car and many more miles and Kevin has brought a totally different style to the team [from Formula 1]. So, there’s a lot of things that drivers bring over from other teams that re-question the way you do things and that’s very refreshing a lot of the time. I would think on setup and some procedures Renger will have a pretty good mindset of what he’s used the last few years but then again Ganassi runs down their own track and puts their own twist on it. It will take a little bit of time to get sorted but I’m confident in our process and what I think we can achieve.”
Action Express Racing is running two cars. The No. 48 Ally Cadillac DPi-V.R features seven-time NASCAR Cup Champion Jimmy Johnson. Teaming with Johnson is IndyCar Champion Simon Pagenaud, and Rolex 24 winners Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Rockenfeller. The star-studded foursome will start the twice-around-the-clock classic sixth.
Also, under the Action Express Racing tent is the always front running No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R with seasoned racers Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani and Mike Conway. Joining the experienced trio of road racers is the 2020 NASCAR Champion Chase Elliott. Elliott is no stranger to road racing, having won five road course events in NASCAR.
“We have two strong cars again this year,” said Gary Nelson, Action Express team manager. “There was a learning curve with the 48 car, every lap of the Roar weekend was valuable to get the drivers comfortable with the car, the traffic and each other. The 31 drivers Felipe, Pipo and Mike have a lot of laps in the Cadillac DPi-V.R so we looked to them to help get Chase up to speed and make him as comfortable as possible over the test weekend.
“In the qualifying race the 31-car had to start from the back of the field after qualifying on pole for the race and then being a couple pounds under-weight. Felipe showed his skill driving to the lead before turning over to Pipo for the win and the pole for the big race. Jimmy did a great job starting the 48 in the rain. He was consistent and had a strong run under tough conditions. We will get he and Chase a lot more laps in practice this week and be ready to go on Saturday.”
JDC-Miller Motorsports returns with the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R with an all French driver line-up. Tristan Vautier and Loic Duval will go the season with Sebastien Bourdais coming in for the longer events.
“The all French driver line-up more or less just worked out this way,” John Church, JDC-Miller Motorsports owner said. “I believe we have a very cohesive driver line-up where they all work well together well, which is important. We all have a common goal and are working very well as a team. The competition looks to be as solid as ever for the Rolex 24. All good cars with good drivers. We had a really good qualifying race. Tristan drove to the lead and Loic did a great job to bring it home in third. A great starting position for Saturday. We will be contenders come Sunday afternoon.”
Cadillac Racing program manager Laura Wontrop Klauser likes the line-up and chances for the brand to win its fifth Rolex 24 At Daytona.
“The Roar test weekend went as good as we could have expected,” Klauser said. “Our NASCAR drivers Jimmie and Chase were able to get a lot of laps and come up to speed quickly. The Whelen Engineering Cadillac team showed their experience and race craft over the weekend. The Chip Ganassi guys did a great job with their new car and the Mustang Sampling team led laps in the qualifying race. All our Cadillacs and teams are fierce competitors. Starting from pole is exciting for the team and the brand. I think it is going to be one of the most competitive Rolex 24 races in the event’s history.”
Cadillac Rolex 24 At Daytona Starting Positions:
1. No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R, Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani, Mike Conway, Chase Elliott
3. No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R, Tristan Vautier, Loic Duval, Sebastien Bourdais
6. 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 season will kick-off with the the 59th running of the Rolex 24 Hour At Daytona season opening race, January 28-31.
Source. Kyle Chura/Cadillac/Photo. Richard Prince