The Whelen Engineering Cadillac team of Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani won the IMSA WeatherTech DPi Championship today by finishing second in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
At the drop of the green the on-track action was fast and furious. With 10 caution periods realigning the field and team’s strategies the race came down to just the last 20 minutes with Nasr leading the race. With the Mazda pursuing, and eventually winning, Nasr was focused on bringing the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R home ahead of the championship leading No. 10 Acura. On the final lap Nasr was coming down to the heavy braking downhill Turn 10 when the pursuing 10 car made a last-ditch effort from four-seconds back to try for the pass. The 10 couldn’t get slowed and went through the gravel and grass in attempt to pass Nasr, but the Brazilian held his line made it through the final two turns to finish the race in second and win the season Championship.
“It was intense, that’s the word,” Nasr said. “I’ve worked a lot for this moment. The Whelen Engineering team did a great job. Winning the race was possible. I saw the 10-car coming, why does it have to be so hard in the final corner? I saw the 10 make a very late move and I knew he wasn’t going to make the corner. I just focused on getting through the exit clean and getting to the finish line. Job done. It is another championship for the team. So much love and respect for Pipo and Mike and everyone at Action Express Racing. They gave us everything we needed to fight for and win this Championship.”
“I just can’t believe we’re Champions,” Derani said. “It was such a difficult end to last season and a difficult beginning to this year. With a lot of belief in God, and in my family, I rebuilt my trust and here I am a 2021 IMSA Champion. It’s just incredible. I’m just so grateful for Whelen Engineering, Action Express, Cadillac, and everyone who supported me. It’s just fantastic.”
“That was really intense all the way to the end,” Conway said. “It was an amazing job by Pipo and Felipe all day. They had an amazing drive. I’m proud to be a little part of it. It was a great result. The team did a great job all year.”
The No. 48 Ally Cadillac DPi-V.R piloted by Jimmie Johnson, Kamui Kobayashi and Simon Pagenaud drove a strong race, led laps and finished just off the podium in fourth.
“It was pretty smooth and simple,” Johnson said. “I wish we were up there racing for the win. But, I think we had a real solid performance, no big mistakes and kept the car on the road. We had a really strong day. I don’t think people realize just how strong this field is. We had a great performance today and ended up fourth. That was all we had.”
Renger van der Zande, Scott Dixon and Earl Bamber sitting in for an ill Kevin Magnussen drove the No. 01 V-Performance Academy Cadillac DPi-V.R to a fifth place finish today. The Chip Ganassi Racing team had to do a very short pit road repair to a brake rotor that cost them a lap later in the race.
“The 31 car was incredibly strong all day and deserved to win the Championship,” van der Zande said. “I am happy for them. It is time to move forward for us. We had a small issue with a brake rotor with two hours to go. We got back into the race, but we needed a yellow to get back into the race which never came. We finished fifth a lap down. We had the speed to fight for the win, it is a shame we couldn’t use it. It was a great show at the end with the 31 and the 10. We had speed everywhere, but not really the results. Fortunately, we have a short off season before we get going in Daytona again.”
Tristan Vautier, Loic Duval and Sebastien Bourdais had a strong day in the No. 05 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R until a broken header pipe caused transmission damage with heat generated from the break and caused them to withdrawal late in the running classifying them seventh.
“We had good speed in the car all day,” Vautier said. “We were able to run upfront and show our speed for three-quarter of the race. Unfortunately, we had an issue with a header pipe that affected the transmission late in the race with Seb behind the wheel and we could not continue. It was a positive for the team to continue the speed we showed at Long Beach to Petit Le Mans. It gives us motivation and confidence going into next year.”
Cadillac Motul Petit Le Mans Results:
2. No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R, Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani, Mike Conway
4. No. 48 Ally Cadillac DPi-V.R, Jimmie Johnson, Kamui Kobayashi, Simon Pagenaud
5. No. 01 V-Performance Academy Cadillac DPi-V.R, Renger van der Zande, Kevin Magnussen, Earl Bamber, Scott Dixon
7. No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R, Tristan Vautier, Loic Duval, Sebastien Bourdais
The 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will kick-off with the traditional Roar Before the 24 at Daytona International Speedway Jan. 21-23. The following weekend, teams will take the green flag in the Rolex 24 Hour At Daytona Jan. 27-30.
Source. Kyle Chura/Cadillac Racing/Photo. Richard Prince