Whelen Engineering driver Pipo Derani (Brazil) and his newly announced season-long teammate Olivier Pla (France) are set to do battle on the streets of Belle Isle in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Chevrolet Sports Car Classic June 3-4. This weekend’s 100-minute race will be the first for Pla with Action Express Racing.
Coming off back-to-back podium finishes, the team is still looking for its first win of the 2022 season. Is Belle Isle the track that could produce that first win? Possibly. The team narrowly missed winning this race last year. In fact, the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R finished just 0.573-second behind the race-winning Cadillac (No. 01).
Since 2015, the No. 31 car has two wins and three second place finishes on the 2.3-mile, 14-turn temporary street course. In 2020, the series did not race at Belle Isle due to the pandemic. However, the team finished second in 2019 and 2021 and looks poised to capture its first win of the season at Cadillac’s home track.
“I’m looking forward to going back to Detroit,” Derani said. “We’ve had very strong races there in the past. Last year, we came up just a bit short of winning. We finished really close to the car that won. We had a strong showing throughout the weekend. So, it’s great to be coming back this time around with Olivier Pla joining the team. Olivier is a guy who I consider to be a great friend and who I’ve worked with many times already. We’ve been racing together with Glickenhaus [Racing] in Europe. So, we know how to work well together and I’m looking forward to helping him get up to speed, as quickly as possible, in our No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac.
“Detroit is a fantastic home race for us and Cadillac. We hope we can have a strong showing like we did last year. But hopefully, we will be one step (on the podium) better. Last year, we battled for the win and finished second. Unfortunately, the race was not long enough to get ahead of the other car. We’re looking forward to getting a win in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac and putting Cadillac on top of the podium in this important race.”
Heading into Detroit, Pla has had limited time in the No. 31 Cadillac. He drove the car for the first time last week at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta during the team’s test.
“I had a chance to test the Cadillac for one day at Road Atlanta,” Pla said. “The test went really well. From lap 3, I knew that I was going to like the car. I had a great feeling from the beginning, which is really important. The first impression normally gives you good feedback and the feedback that I asked from the car was really good. It was what I actually expected from the car. I like the car. It gave me some confidence.”
Pla knows heading into this weekend’s race that it will be no easy task – especially coming in mid-season with limited seat time in the No. 31 machine and knowing how well the team has performed at Belle Isle in the past. But he says he is ready for it.
“I know that starting in Detroit is not going to be an easy task. But, I’m ready for it. I will give it my best. Action Express Racing has had a very strong car in Detroit. It’s a special and bumpy track. They [AXR] were very fast last year, very competitive. We will try to extract the best out of our car and hopefully achieve a strong result.”
Derani is fifth in the DPi Driver’s Points Standings with 1,575 points, 132 points behind the DPi leaders at the season’s midpoint.
Source. Kyle Chura Associates