Whelen Engineering drivers Pipo Derani (Brazil) and Tristan Nunez (Boynton Beach, Fla.) finished fifth in Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Derani qualified fourth in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R with a time of 1:10.001, which set his starting position for today’s 100-minute sprint race. Derani was up to third place just six laps into the race and made a great pass on the No. 60 Acura in Turn Five for second on lap 23. However, one lap later the No. 31 went wide in Turn Five and dropped back to third. On lap 25, Derani brought the No. 31 Cadillac for tires, fuel and driver change. This is when Nunez got in.
Nunez started his stint in sixth and, unfortunately just two laps in, he experienced an electrical issue coming down the front straight. By the time he cycled the car’s electronics, the No. 31 went one lap down. At this point, the Action Express Racing crew needed a caution to get back on the lead lap. On lap 45, they got what they needed. The caution flew to repair the rumble strips that had become dislodged from the track’s surface.
Under caution with 42 minutes remaining, Nunez brought the car to pit lane. He got out and Derani got in for the final run to the end. Derani started his final stint sixth, and after two more cautions, he had the car up to fourth.
With two minutes remaining, Derani and the No. 60 Acura were locked in a tight battle for third. That’s when the two cars made contact in the Hairpin and this allowed the No. 5 Cadillac to pass both cars for the final podium spot. Derani tried to recover from the incident, but he simply ran out of time and finished fifth.
“It’s hard on a street track to recover on just pure pace,” Derani said. “You don’t have much room to pass. I was able to do a few moves. But at the end, I was trying to go for P3. The Acura just pushed me wide and the No. 5 Cadillac overtook us. It was a good result for Cadillac. But, for us, it’s disappointing. We tried to come back from behind. I gave everything I had, and we came up short. That’s racing. We’ve got to regroup and see if we can do better next time.”
“I felt like I had a much bigger failure than what actually happened,” Nunez said. “It ended up being something pretty silly. It was the master switch that must have gotten knocked from a bump going down the front straightaway, which threw me whirl because my hands were on the steering wheel and nothing really changed. It took a little trouble shooting to figure it out. We lost some positions and some ground on the leaders. Fortunately, we were in a good spot when it happened. It was just one of those days. Pipo had an amazing drive after that. We just had a little bit of bad luck here and there. But, we’ll get them in Monterey.”
Derani and Nunez are sixth in the DPi Driver’s Points Standings with 924 points. They are 81 points behind the DPi leaders.
Whelen Engineering/Action Express Racing will look to record its first win of the season when the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship travels north, up the coast, to Monterey to compete in the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship presented by Motul at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. April 29 – May 1.
Source. Kyle Chura Associates/Photo. Brian Cleary