Whelen Engineering Cadillac drivers Pipo Derani (Brazil) and Olivier Pla (France) finished third in Sunday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Chevrolet Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
Driving the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R, Pla started fifth in the DPi class after turning a qualifying lap of 1:05.126 around the 2.459-mile, 10-turn road course. Pla’s opening lap did not go as expected. He dropped one spot at the race start. He figured he would be able to get the spot back in traffic. Fortunately, the race had two full-course cautions in the first 11 laps of the race, and this put Pla back in fifth before he made his first pit stop on lap 12.
The race went green for the third time on lap 15. From there, Pla raced his way up to third place before handing it over to Derani with an hour and 41 minutes remaining.
“It was a crazy race,” Pla said. “I lost a position at the start, but I thought I could make it up in traffic.”
Derani spent most of his first two stints in fifth place until lap 92 when all of the DPi drivers, except Derani, came to pit lane for fuel with 38 minutes to go. At that point, Derani briefly led the race before he too came to pit lane for a splash of fuel on the next lap.
Derani returned to the track in sixth place. A few laps later, the No. 10 Acura spun due to contact with the No. 02 Cadillac, and this allowed Derani to inherit fifth place. Derani then moved up another spot when the No. 02 Cadillac had to serve a drive through penalty with 29 minutes remaining. From there, the race got even more interesting for Derani and the Action Express Racing team.
On lap 103, Derani’s day nearly ended when the No. 10 Acura made contact with the left rear corner of the No. 31 Cadillac. As a result, the No. 10 spun and brushed the wall, while Derani pressed on before the race’s fourth caution flew.
The green flag dropped on lap 106 with 18 minutes to go. Derani was fourth and right behind the No. 01 Cadillac. The No. 01 passed the No. 5 Cadillac for second place heading into Turn Three and, by Turn Four, Derani also passed the No. 5 car. Derani was now in third place and looking for more.
“I used that fact that the No. 01 Cadillac tried to go ahead of him,” Derani said of his pass on the No. 5 Cadillac. “He [Richard Westbrook] went a little wide in Turn Three. I had a little bit more momentum, got inside and made a pass on him.”
With under two minutes to go, Derani was right on the rear bumper of the No. 60 Acura for second place. Derani attempted a few moves to get by the Acura, but the No. 60 was able to hold him off and Derani brought the No. 31 home third.
“It’s a good finish considering our last few races we had,” Derani said. “We did a good job to get ourselves back on the podium. It’s very competitive out there. We needed a good result. We needed to be back on the podium. So, I’m happy for the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac group.”
“We had a good car,” Pla said. “Pipo finished it. He fought like always. It is the first podium for me with the team. It’s good to finish like that.”
Today’s third place finish gave the team its fourth podium finish of the season. Derani is fifth in the DPi Driver’s Points Standings (2,463 points) with two races left in the season. Since 2014, Action Express Racing has two wins, five podiums and seven Top 5 finishes at CTMP.
Up next, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship travels to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin Aug. 4-7 for the IMSA SportsCar Weekend at Road America.
Source Kyle Chura Associates/Photo. Brian Cleary