This year’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring was a tough one for Whelen Engineering/Action Express and its drivers Pipo Derani (Brazil), Felipe Nasr (Brazil) and Mike Conway (Great Britain). The team retired the No. 31 Cadillac DPi-V.R due to a gearbox issue.
To start the race, the team looked poised to have a good day as Derani qualified the car on the DPi pole with a time of 1:45.354. Derani got a great start and led several laps early. But, just 45 minutes into the race, the first of three on-track incidents struck.
Derani was coming out of Turn 17 with a GTD car in front of him, the No. 01 Cadillac to Derani’s left, and the No. 23 Aston Martin to the left of the No. 01. Essentially, they were three-wide coming out of the corner. The No. 23 car made a move to the right, which forced the No. 01 to move to the right, and it forced Derani into the wall because there was no place for Derani to go. Unfortunately, the No. 31 Cadillac sustained damage to the right front and right rear, including a broken tie rod. Derani brought the car to pit lane. The crew worked quickly to fix the car and it was three laps down when it returned to the track.
The team fought back to earn one of those laps back with about five hours to go. A short time later, Nasr was behind the wheel when he made contact with the No. 5 Cadillac in Turn One. Once again, the team had to bring the car to pit lane to make repairs to the right front, including replacing the front nose. As a result of the contact, Nasr had to serve a drive through penalty for incident responsibility. The No. 31 was now four laps down with a little more than four hours to go.
The third incident happened when Conway was in the car with just under two hours remaining. Conway appeared to be going slowly through Turns Five and Six. The car finally came to a stop in Turn Seven. The car had to be towed back to the garage. The reason – it was a broken gearbox. After assessing the situation, the team decided to retire the car with one hour remaining.
“It was a tough one today,” Derani said. “What can I say? We had a difficult beginning. We fought back. Then, there was another incident. And then, unfortunately, we had a problem with the car. It was a difficult day. We’re going to have to regroup and come back stronger as a team in the next race.”
“The best way to put it is, it just wasn’t our day today,” Nasr said. “It’s hard to believe it all. We’ve got to be realistic. We had a fantastic car all weekend and we dug our own hole. We had to pay the consequences for our mistakes. It was a big setback for the team when Pipo brushed the wall. From there on, it was playing catch up. It was a bad day. I feel sorry for the whole team. We deserve to be up front. Our sponsors deserve to be up front. And, we just didn’t give them what they deserve. That’s all of us included. I hope we can get things straight and go after the next one.”
“We kind of had it all today, really,” Conway said. “It was a great week. The guys gave us a mega car from the first practice on. It was really fast. We thought we’d be pretty good in the race. After that first incident with Pipo, I got in the and it didn’t feel great. I struggled with it during my stint. After that, it seemed to be difficult for everyone. Felipe had an incident in Turn One. We had another repair on the car. It didn’t seem too bad at the end there. But, unfortunately, we lost drive.”
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is the next stop for the IMSA WeatherTech Championship May 14-16 in Lexington, Ohio.
Source. Kyle Chura Associates/Ptoto. Brain Cleary