Whelen Engineering/Action Express Racing is the defending Long Beach race winner from a year ago, and drivers Pipo Derani (Brazil) and Tristan Nunez (Boynton Beach, Fla.) hope to make it back-to-back wins when the team heads to the West Coast for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach April 8-9.
Last year, the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R started from the pole and led 73 of the 78 laps to win its third race of the season. That flag-to-flag winning effort put the team in a great position heading into the final round at Road Atlanta to win the DPi Championship, which they ultimately won.
This year, the drivers are excited to return to the streets of Long Beach to defend their title. But, they know it won’t be easy. The 1.968-mile, 11-turn street course presents some challenging passing opportunities. Simply put, there is little room for error. Additionally, it’s a 100-minute sprint race. This means if you do make a mistake, there’s not a lot of time to recover from it. Therefore, qualifying well and running a clean race are the keys to success at this historic street course.
“Heading into the third round at Long Beach, after the two longest races we have on our schedule (Daytona and Sebring), it’s a completely different mentality,” Derani said. “It’s a street course and it’s a 100-minute race, which means there is no room for error. We need to hit the ground running from the very beginning. On a street course like that, it’s very difficult to overtake, let alone trying to recover from some difficulties if you have some because the race is really short.
“Hopefully, we can do as well as we did last year. We know we have a great Cadillac and it’s strong around the streets of Long Beach. We’re going to try to start the weekend strong from the first practice and then hopefully put it on the pole, which will make our lives a little bit easier for the race. I’m looking forward to going back there. Last year, it was a fantastic race. We dominated it. However, it’s not going to be that easy. The field is very strong. But, hopefully we can get our first win of the season.”
“I’m very excited to get back to Long Beach,” Nunez said. “It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been there. It’s definitely one of my favorite tracks on the calendar. The atmosphere is just incredible. Being on the streets of Long Beach, it’s beautiful. The track itself has so much history.
“The team’s success there last year really does show that AXR is very confident in their car there. Hearing the driver’s feedback from last year, it sounded like the car was on rails. I’m very excited to feel what that’s like – especially in the Cadillac. Cadillac has always done well on street tracks. I can’t wait to feel that myself. With Pipo’s experience in the car, I think it’s going to help with preparation since there is not much practice [time] going into the race weekend. Track position is going to be key. So, pit stops and good out laps are going to be keys for success there. There’s going to be a lot of traffic, so we need to keep it clean. I’m looking forward to the race. It’s going to be a good one.”
Through two races, Derani and Nunez are fifth in the DPi Driver’s Points Standings with 636 points, just 40 points behind the DPi leaders.
Source. Kyle Chura Associates