By: Ashley McCubbin
Despite being penalized following time trials and forced to start sixth in the Mutal Pole 100, Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani still proved the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac is fast en route to the win for the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona pole award.
However, it did not mean they were pleased with everything on the day, instead left frustrated by the performance of their competitors.
“One thing that annoys me is I know all the competitors – ain’t going to name them, aren’t showing their hands,” Nasr said post-race. “We’re working flat out to show what we got and they’re not seeming to do their thing. They could much go much quicker than they are. Anyways, it’s not my job to understand that, but I hope whose job it is can.”
While stating he felt the Cadillacs worked hard through the Roar Before the 24 test, as seen by pacing the practice sheets and time trials, Nasr added the others are “just not doing their thing.”
“For me. It’s a joke that you see a great sector one, great sector two, and then they have one car – which is just the bus stop, one corner, be half a second off,” he added. “Come on, you got to be kidding me. Just do the damn lap and show what you got so it makes the series’ life easier, everybody’s life easier.”
While the Roar Before the 24 was normally reserved for just a series of practice sessions, IMSA WeatherTech Championship officials thought they would add a twist in including a 100 minute race to set the grid for the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. They also hoped drivers were try hard in knowing 35 points – 10% of a normal race win, was available for whomever came out on top.
“I think today is at least one of those days that on our side, we said we’re going to do the best we can,” Derani said. “The whole reason for the new format, which I love, is to make sure you give an incentive for all the teams to push, considering there’s points available for qualifying; that’s the whole reason for doing this qualifying race. On our side, I say we did that as we used it just as a normal race because for us, it’s really important to try everything we can to get here next week so we can have a good race.
“As Felipe said, unfortunately, it’s not the case – the incentive was not big enough for the other teams to come and show their hand, which is a shame. On our side, a race win is a race win, whether it’s 35 points or 350 points; that’s how we always go racing. We always try our best to win every single race, and that’s no different than what happened today. We’re always going to give our maximum, and that’s what happened today no matter what others did.”
The accusations of sandbagging come as no surprise, as they have been part of the DNA in pre-season testing for many years. The speeds from these sessions have resulted in rule changes previously from series officials to try and even the playing field, with seeing a manufacture holding a certain advantage.
Derani feels no changes should be made by the results this past weekend as a result of Action Express Racing “trying to be crystal clear with what we have, be very honest, expecting that honesty will pay off with a fair balance for a very important race,” hopeful they won’t “be penalized for being honest.”
The only question remains – how do you eliminate this for the future? In racing, you can never totally eliminate accusations of another competitor having an advantage, as that’s been part of the DNA. But perhaps more points on the line, or something else, could help the problem.
“I think from what I saw this weekend, the points that were awarded were enough to convince some people to go for it, so maybe that’s the way to go for the future,” Nasr told POPULAR SPEED. “It’s give more incentive for people to push and show their hands, because it might pay off at the end of the championship. Now, we’re going to the most important race of the season next week and there’s not much clarity in that regard, whose quick and whose not. We’re definitely pushing and some others aren’t, and maybe there’s a way to make that easier for the officials, maybe awarding more points in this qualifying race in the future.”