Momentum on AXR’s side for IMSA title showdown, says Derani

Pipo Derani says he and the Action Express Cadillac team head into this weekend’s Petit Le Mans IMSA title decider with “great momentum” as they seek to beat the points-leading Wayne Taylor Racing Acura.

Listen to this article

Derani and his partner in the #31 Whelen Engineering-branded Cadillac DPi-V.R, Felipe Nasr, have won three of the past four WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races, opening their account at Watkins Glen before adding further triumphs in Road America and Long Beach.

That has brought the Brazilian pair to within 19 points of WTR Acura duo Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor, meaning a win in Saturday’s 10-hour race would be enough to guarantee either crew championship glory.

“We have some great momentum, winning three out of the last four races, and we head into the final weekend very excited,” Derani told Motorsport.com.

“For sure [in the middle of the season] we knew it would be difficult, because the [#10 WTR] Acura was having such a strong season. Our mentality was just to get back to winning races, and with that in mind, we weren’t thinking about whether it was possible to catch up.

“With that mentality we turned our season around. When we got the first win of the season in Watkins Glen, it felt like a massive weight off our shoulders, and things started to click.”

Read Also:

Although he and Nasr won Petit Le Mans two years ago, Derani said this year’s later race and the cooler temperatures – along with the extra night-time running – makes the competitive order even harder to predict than usual.

“We’re heading to Road Atlanta a bit later in the year and I think the weather will be very different to what we’ve had in the past,” he said. “That colder weather is probably going to be a factor. But everyone will have to figure out how to adjust the set-up for the temperatures, so we’re confident.

“It’s been a good track for us in the past but also the Acura, so it will be a very tight fight between all of us, even the Mazda often does well in the colder weather. Also, this year we have more night-time hours, so it’s going to be a big challenge for sure.”

WTR’s Albuquerque anticipating even fight

Albuquerque heads to Road Atlanta hoping to claim a first IMSA title, he and Taylor having led the DPi standings since their victory in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Since then, WTR pair Albuquerque and Taylor have added further victories at Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca, but struggled to fourth place in the most recent round at Long Beach as Cadillac teams locked out the podium at the iconic street venue.

While anticipating a stronger showing at Road Atlanta, Albuquerque says he and Taylor's 19-point advantage will count for very little come race day.

“We've been leading the championship since Race 1, but that means nothing because it is going to be down to who finishes ahead of the other guy in this last race,” Albuquerque told Motorsport.com. “It's going to be super-cold, it can rain, which will mix it up a lot.

“We came from a race which was really hard for us in Long Beach. The one before that, Laguna, we won. Maybe our car was a little bit better [there] but I think at Petit it is pretty even. So they [Cadillac] are a little bit better in slow corners but then there are fast corners to compensate for that, so it's kind of an even track for both.

“I go into the race with high expectations to be competitive, not to be the best of the rest in Long Beach, which was way too much. In last race everyone has a fair chance to win it.”

Petit Le Mans carries extra significance for the AXR crew, as it will mark the final race of the three-season partnership between Nasr and Derani aboard the #31 machine.

 

It comes amid Nasr’s anticipated move to Porsche’s LMDh project, with ex-Mazda driver Tristan Nunez having already been named as Derani’s teammate at AXR for 2022.

But Derani says there will be no room for sentimentality until the season finale is over.

“For us, it’s just another race,” Derani insisted. “We’ve had a great time over the last three years, we’ve had a really strong partnership, but we won’t feel anything different from the past, we just want to win the race and hopefully the championship.

“We go there with the same mentality with which we won three races. And if it’s enough, then maybe afterwards we’ll think about how special it was to end the story that way.”

Additional reporting by Rachit Thukral

shares
comments
WeatherTech enter second, all-star GTLM Porsche for Petit
Previous article

WeatherTech enter second, all-star GTLM Porsche for Petit

Next article

WEC squad High Class Racing enters full IMSA LMP2 season

WEC squad High Class Racing enters full IMSA LMP2 season
The long road to convergence for sportscar racing's new golden age Prime

The long road to convergence for sportscar racing's new golden age

The organisers of the World Endurance Championship and IMSA SportsCar Championship worked together to devise the popular new LMDh rule set. But to turn it from an idea into reality, some serious compromises were involved - both from the prospective LMDh entrants and those with existing Le Mans Hypercar projects...

IMSA
Nov 25, 2022
How Porsche's Le Mans legend changed the game Prime

How Porsche's Le Mans legend changed the game

The 956 set the bar at the dawn of Group C 40 years ago, and that mark only rose higher through the 1980s, both in the world championship and in the US. It and its successor, the longer-wheelbase 962, are arguably the greatest sportscars of all time.

WEC
Aug 25, 2022
Why BMW shouldn't be overlooked on its return to prototypes Prime

Why BMW shouldn't be overlooked on its return to prototypes

OPINION: While the focus has been on the exciting prospect of Ferrari vs Porsche at the Le Mans 24 Hours next year, BMW’s factory return to endurance racing should not be ignored. It won't be at the French classic next year as it focuses efforts on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, but could be a dark horse in 2024 when it returns to La Sarthe with the crack WRT squad.

Le Mans
Aug 21, 2022
The British pair at the heart of Lexus's sportscar push Prime

The British pair at the heart of Lexus's sportscar push

Have you heard the one about two British guys driving for a Japanese manufacturer in America’s top sportscar series? Time to sit down and talk with Jack Hawksworth and Ben Barnicoat about racing across the pond… and your accent being mistaken for Australian!

IMSA
Mar 16, 2022
Why Peugeot couldn't afford to take a Le Mans gamble in 2022 Prime

Why Peugeot couldn't afford to take a Le Mans gamble in 2022

Ahead of the much-anticipated arrival of its new 9X8 Hypercar, Peugeot revealed that it would not be entering this year's Le Mans 24 Hours with its incoming machinery. Although development restrictions for homologated cars are partially responsible, the French marque can draw on its own lessons from its history in sportscars

WEC
Feb 28, 2022
Why the GTP name undermines convergence between IMSA and WEC Prime

Why the GTP name undermines convergence between IMSA and WEC

OPINION: The adoption by IMSA of the GTP name for its forthcoming LMDh versus Le Mans Hypercar era in 2023 appeals to fans of nostalgia - but it undermines the commonality achieved by bringing its rulebook into line with the WEC. GTP or Hypercar, both sides should settle on a single name

WEC
Feb 15, 2022
Celebrating the weird and wonderful monsters of sportscar racing Prime

Celebrating the weird and wonderful monsters of sportscar racing

Few disciplines of motorsport offer better possibilities to build a colossus of the track than sportscars. For Autosport's recent Monsters of Motorsport special issue, we picked out some of the finest (and not so fine) that have graced sportscar classics including Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring

Le Mans
Feb 4, 2022
How Castroneves and Meyer Shank conquered another US classic Prime

How Castroneves and Meyer Shank conquered another US classic

Helio Castroneves continued his fine start to life with Meyer Shank Racing that netted the 2021 Indianapolis 500 victory by prevailing in last weekend's Daytona 24 Hours together with teammates Tom Blomqvist, Oliver Jarvis and Simon Pagenaud. As Cadillac fell by the wayside, the Brazilian veteran won out in an all-Acura duel to the finish

IMSA
Feb 1, 2022