Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani Close within 41 Points of the DPi Lead
By Jeff Olson
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – The plan was to be aggressive, but the plan changed as the race went on.
Knowing Dane Cameron might not have enough fuel to reach the finish, Pipo Derani used patience – while fighting to hold his position and save fuel – until Cameron was forced to surrender the lead to pit for fuel with 3 minutes, 30 seconds left in the race.
That gave Derani the lead and sent the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R and teammate Felipe Nasr to victory Sunday in the IMSA SportsCar Weekend at Road America. The win pushed them closer to the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) points lead with just three races left in the season.
With their second consecutive victory, Derani and Nasr became the first back-to-back race winners in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season.
“We had a fantastic weekend – perfect, to be honest,” Derani said. “When I was in the car, the (No.) 60 car was completely out of my hands, whatever was going to happen to them. So I was just hitting my marks, focusing on making sure that we could make it to the end with a fuel save.”
Cameron led Derani by more than 12 seconds during the final half hour of the two-hour, 40-minute race. But the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-05 that Cameron co-drove with Olivier Pla didn’t have enough fuel to reach the finish without a full-course caution.
Having done the math, the No. 31 Action Express Racing crew knew the lead might come back to them. A yellow didn’t happen, Derani maintained his position while saving fuel, and the lead was his again as the clock ran out.
Derani and Nasr moved into second in the DPi driver standings, 41 points behind Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor, who finished fourth Sunday in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura.
Nasr, who won the Motul Pole Award on Saturday and pushed the No. 31 to an early lead Sunday, praised his teammate’s race-ending drive.
“I knew at the same time he was saving the fuel to make it to the end, and he still had the pressure from the cars behind,” Nasr said. “But he did a really good job. A phenomenal drive from Pipo.”
Nasr’s sixth career IMSA win and Derani’s 10th – five weeks after winning the IMSA WeatherTech 240 at Watkins Glen International – pushed them closer to their championship goal.
“It’s hard to believe when you have a perfect weekend like this because it’s so hard,” Nasr said. “A back-to-back win just shows how much work and effort we’re putting into the team. The fight is on. I want to bring this championship to all of us here.”
Harry Tincknell finished 1.594 seconds behind Derani in the No. 55 Mazda Motorsports Mazda DPi co-driven with Oliver Jarvis. Renger van der Zande and Kevin Magnussen finished third in the No. 01 V Performance Academy Cadillac DPi-V.R from Chip Ganassi Racing.
While Derani patiently waited for the win, Ryan Dalziel and Dwight Merriman went right for it, bolting from fourth to the lead in the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class and winning by 5.641 seconds in the No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA LMP2 07.
The victory was a successful test run for the team’s plans to compete later this month in the 89th 24 Hours of Le Mans with Dalziel, Merriman and Kyle Tilley.
“I absolutely love this place, so I was pushing for it hard, and it paid off,” Dalziel said. “The car was fantastic. We had a good pit stop and a good strategy, and it was just managing the gap.
“I’m not going to say it was easy. No two-and-a-half stint under green and in a prototype in this place is easy. I was relieved I had the big gap at the end because I started feeling it a little bit.”
Gabriel Aubry and John Farano finished second in the No. 8 Tower Motorsport ORECA. Mikkel Jensen and Ben Keating were third in the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA.
In Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3), Colin Braun and Jonathan Bennett also started fourth in class and advanced to victory. Their No. 54 CORE autosport Ligier JS P320 finished 22.243 seconds ahead of the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier JS P320 co-driven by Rasmus Lindh and Dan Goldburg.
Once he got the lead, Braun tried to be as careful as possible – while still being fast – in traffic.
“I was focused on trying to have good restarts, being clean in traffic, driving hard by myself but making sure I gave a lot of patience and respect to the guys as I was coming through the GT field,” Braun said. “It’s so easy to make a little mistake and have a little contact and have that ruin your day.”
The WeatherTech Championship season resumes Sept. 12 with the Hyundai Monterey SportsCar Championship at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. The race airs live at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN and TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.