Whelen Engineering drivers Pipo Derani (Brazil) and Olivier Pla (France) finished sixth under caution in Sunday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Fastlane SportsCar Weekend at Road America.
Pla started the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R fifth in the DPi class after turning a lap of 1:50.369 around the 4.048-mile, 14-turn track in qualifying. At the race start, a light mist fell on the track, which progressively got worse and led to wet track conditions. Pla’s stint lasted just 16 laps when the race’s first full course caution came out for the No. 11 LMP2 machine. That’s when Pla handed the car over to Derani in fifth place.
During Derani’s first stint, he had to battle a combination of wet and dry conditions. He started his stint on slick tires on lap 17. Unfortunately, he had difficulty keeping up with the DPi leader (who was on rain tires), while keeping the car on track. The team thought the track would dry out more quickly than it did. Under green, Derani returned to pit lane on lap 23 to trade that set of slicks for a set of rain tires.
Derani’s two plus hour stint was event-filled. He continued to battle the changing track conditions, and he even had to make an extra green flag pit stop after hitting and collecting a promotional sign. This happened during the second yellow flag class wave by. Derani was completing his wave by passing the LMP3 class and that’s when he had to avoid getting hit by an LMP3 car scrubbing its tires. Derani took evasive action driver’s right off track and that is when he hit and collected the sign that stuck to the front of the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac. This forced Derani to pit and remove the sign.
From there, Derani returned to the track in sixth place, which is where the team finished.
“It was a little bit difficult today,” Derani said. “We went on the wrong tire at the wrong time. It’s just one of those races where it was hard to predict what’s going on. Just before the restart, we were doing the class split with P3 and the P3 [car] was swerving when he should have been on the left side allowing the DPi cars to go by. So, I took avoiding action and hit a board, and had to come in just before the restart. This put us out of the fight. We had to fight from the back. It was a difficult day. But again, we get one more shot to finish the season with a strong result and start thinking about the future.”
“It was not the race that we wanted,” Pla said. “I think we are missing a little bit of overall performance. We need to work hard for the next race. I think that Road Atlanta will be a good track for us. But, it was not the weekend that we were expecting. It’s a shame because the team is working really hard, and we didn’t get what we wanted.”
Derani is fifth in DPi Driver’s Points Standings with 2,739 points. This season, Action Express Racing has four podiums and seven Top 5 finishes.
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will head to Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta for the season finale Motul Petit Le Mans Sept. 28-Oct. 1.
Source. Kyle Chura Associates/Photo. Brian Cleary