Whelen Engineering drivers Pipo Derani (Brazil), Olivier Pla (France) and Mike Conway (Great Britain) head to Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta for this weekend’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale Motul Petit Le Mans Sept. 28-Oct. 1.
Last year, Derani, Conway, and former teammate Felipe Nasr finished second in this race en route to winning the Driver and Team Championships. It came down to the final three corners on the last lap. Nasr had to keep the No. 10 Acura behind him in order to secure those titles. Here is what happened. The No. 10 Acura was right behind the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R heading into Turn 10. The Acura drove deep inside driver’s left in that corner attempting to pass Nasr. Fortunately, the Acura could not make the move stick and the car drove straight through Turn 11 with the No. 31 Cadillac in tow. From there, Nasr put the power down and drove around the Acura coming out of Turn 11 and into Turn 12 to secure the Championships for Whelen Engineering and the Action Express Racing team.
This year, the team is still looking for its first win of the season. However, this is a track where the team won Petit Le Mans in 2019 from the pole position. Additionally, Derani has had some success at this track. Since 2016, he has one win, two second place finishes, five Top-5 finishes, and three starts from the pole.
“Heading into this last race of the DPi era, I’m hoping to enjoy this car, which has given me so much over the last few years,” Derani said. “It has given me a win at Petit. It has given me wins at Sebring, championships and so on. I’m looking forward to heading to Road Atlanta for the 10-hour race, which is one of the best races we have during the whole IMSA season. The track is fantastic to drive. I’ve had some success there before. So, I’m very much looking forward to closing this chapter of the DPi era with a strong result. But, most importantly, I’m going to enjoy this last race with the DPi car that has given me so much. It’s going to be a tough race, as usual. It’s a 10-hour race. But, we are up for the task and hopefully we can finish this season on a strong note.”
This weekend, Pla will make his sixth-career IMSA WeatherTech start at Road Atlanta in the Motul Petit Le Mans. Pla won this historic race back in 2016 from the pole in a Ligier JS PS2. Previously, Pla made three-career starts in ALMS competition at this track, finishing fourth in each race.
“About Petit Le Mans, I won this race back in 2016,” Pla said. “It’s a good memory. Obviously, we only have one goal there and it’s to win. We have nothing to lose. We want to finish [the season] on a high. We will give everything we have, try to execute this race the best way possible, and the only expectation is to win. I don’t think there is any section of the track that is an advantage for the Acura. I think both cars will be very similar whether it’s the Acura or the Cadillac at this track. We know what we have to do. And for sure, to win this race, we have to execute this 10-hour race without a single mistake. Traffic management will be key. We will need good pit stops, good strategy and a fast car.”
Conway returns to the Action Express Racing this weekend. He has been the team’s third driver for the previous three endurance races this season (Daytona, Sebring and Watkins Glen). Conway will make his fourth-career Petit Le Mans start Saturday. Twice, he has driven the No. 31 Cadillac and each time the car has finished second. His other start was in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac.
“I have come close to winning there and always love driving the track,” Conway said. “I’d say the Chicane and Carousel sections are the most fun, and the trickiest for traffic as well. This will be the last race in the DPi cars as we know it. So, we want to go out in style if we can. It would be great to get a win with Cadillac.”
Source. Kyle Chura Associates