Whelen Engineering drivers Pipo Derani (Brazil), Tristan Nunez (Boynton Beach, Fla.) and Mike Conway (Great Britain) finished fourth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship 60th Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Heading into the final five hours of the race, Conway led the race in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R by nearly 20 seconds when he handed it over to Derani for his triple stint. From there, Derani kept the car in the top two during his time in the car and got out with just under three hours remaining. At this point, Whelen Engineering/Action Express Racing entry looked poised to fight for a podium finish.
Conway and Derani split the driving duties during the final two hours, while battling for third place. The team’s race really came down to a final restart with 30 minutes to go. Derani was running third when the green flag dropped. But unfortunately, Derani said the car did not have the pace, on the final run, that the car had been earlier in the race. The team finished fourth, just 5.615-seconds behind the race winner.
“We tried and unfortunately it didn’t happen this time,” Derani said. “At least we were there to put up a good fight at the end. We had no pace after that last restart. We have to analyze why. A big thank you to Whelen Engineering, Cadillac and the Action Express Racing team. We finished the race flawlessly without any problems. It’s just a shame we wanted a little bit more. We will focus on Sebring and the Championship.
“Tristan did a great job in his first race with us, and I am looking forward to working with him leading up to Sebring.”
Nunez completed his ninth-career Rolex 24 and his first with Action Express Racing. He will be Derani’s full-season teammate.
“For my first race with the Whelen Engineering Cadillac team, it is hard to ask for more with a fourth-place finish,” Nunez said. “Obviously we want to win, but the car is in one piece and we have a long season ahead. Last year, they didn’t have that great of a 24 and still won the championship. We have a long season ahead of us and lots of races to look forward to.”
“Like Pipo said, we were struggling there at the end with grip,” Conway said. “We were hoping to duke it out upfront and at least have a go at it. After a few laps, we couldn’t quite stay there. It was a great effort by the Action Express team. We had really good pace all race. Then, we kind of fell a bit short. Credit to everyone on the Whelen Engineering Cadillac team for their hard work over the last two weeks. We were hoping for at least a podium, but it wasn’t to be.”
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next heads to Sebring International Raceway for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Advance Auto Parts March 16-19.
Source. Kyle Chura Associates/Photo. Brian Cleary