IMSA WeatherTech Championship

Derani Remains Cool in Afternoon Sebring Heat

No. 31 Cadillac Sets Fastest Lap through Two Practice Sessions

March 17, 2022
By John Oreovicz
IMSA Wire Service

SEBRING, Fla. – The temperature shot up Thursday afternoon at Sebring International Raceway, and so did practice lap times as IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship drivers and teams prepared for the 70th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts.

With one notable exception.

Three-time Sebring Twelve Hours winner Pipo Derani coaxed the fastest lap through the first two of Thursday’s three practices, driving the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R in the heat of the day. Derani’s 1-minute, 45.750-second tour of the rugged 3.74-mile road course bested the 1:46.126 effort turned in by Mike Rockenfeller in the sister Action Express Racing entry, the No. 48 Ally Cadillac, by nearly 0.4 seconds and was a full second quicker than the best time in the morning session – 1:46.756 by Renger van der Zande in yet another Cadillac, the No. 01 V-Performance Academy DPi out of the Chip Ganassi Racing stable.

“We were lucky to get clear track,” said Derani, the Sebring winner in 2016, ’18 and ’19 who has also started the legendary endurance contest from pole position the last two years. “You don’t often get that luxury, especially with such a large field.

“But at the end, we had 15 minutes that allowed us to have a clear lap, which was good,” he added. “I was pretty surprised with the lap time because it’s so hot. But it’s very close to the lap time we did last year in qualifying and the car seems to be working pretty well. We have a few things to adjust, as usual, but that’s a good thing because we have a direction where to go. So far, things are going well and I’m happy with my lap.”

Morning-practice laps for Louis Deletraz (No. 8 Tower Motorsport ORECA LMP2 07) and Colin Braun (No. 54 CORE autosport Ligier JS P320) paced the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) and Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) classes, respectively.

BMW Team RLL’s No. 24 BMW M4 GT3 with driver Philipp Eng looked in position to lead both practice sessions in GTD PRO, but the No. 63 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 piloted by Andrea Caldarelli snatched fastest time of the afternoon in the final 15 minutes of the session with a 2:00.861 lap, 0.343 seconds off Eng’s morning best.

There was drama for the GT Daytona (GTD) class leader. Philip Ellis knocked out a 2:00.906 effort on just his sixth lap of morning practice, a time that stood for the rest of the day. But shortly after handing off the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 to Russell Ward, the car experienced a braking issue at Turn 3, sending Ward into the wall with damage to the right front corner.

The Winward car missed the afternoon session but was expected to be ready for the night practice.

“It just happened so quick and so sudden and we were just getting into the groove,” Ward reported. “We wanted to get everybody some laps, especially Marvin (Dienst, Winward’s third driver at Sebring), because he’s never been here.

“I felt it in the car, and at that point, and after I initially got it slowed down, at that point you’re just a passenger. I just tried to ease it in as gently as I could. You don’t want to spin it, because if you go in back end first or sideways, there’s a lot more damage. I’m just thankful it didn’t happen at Turn 17, because that could have been a lot worse.”

Motul Pole Award qualifying starts at 9:20 a.m. ET Friday and streams live on The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring offers live flag-to-flag coverage on Peacock and IMSA Radio starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, with USA picking up the action at 3:30 p.m. through the end of the race.

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