No. 31 Whelen Engineering Driver Pipo Derani Thinks His Team Has an Advantage on the Street Course
By Jeff Olson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – One key element of a race car will play a key element this weekend at Long Beach:
With two races left in Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, Saturday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will play an important role in the outcome. And the challengers believe their car’s suspension gives them an advantage.
“Cadillac has developed a car that can handle the bumps very well,” said Pipo Derani, who will team with Felipe Nasr to try to pull closer in the championship battle this weekend. “When we talk about street tracks like Long Beach, normally those track surfaces are not very smooth. It’s not designed for race cars; it’s normal streets that are being turned into a racetrack for a few days.”
Derani and Nasr are 98 points behind co-leaders Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque in the DPi class. With only the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta in November remaining after Long Beach, Derani and Nasr hope their No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R will maintain its advantage on bumpy tracks.
In July 2020, they won a sprint race at Sebring International Raceway, whose bumps are a legendary characteristic of the circuit. Long Beach, an 11-turn, 1.968-mile layout through city streets, includes a rough surface and changing pavement similar to Sebring.
“Our Cadillac has always been fantastic on tracks like that, especially Long Beach,” Derani said. “Our suspension is very good. It rides the bumps very well.”
Taylor and Albuquerque have won three races this year, including the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship on Sept. 12 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Derani and Nasr have teamed for two victories, most recently at Road America last month.
A win at Long Beach would further diminish the margin between the No. 31 Cadillac and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 co-driven by Albuquerque and Taylor. The goal for Derani and Nasr is to get close enough to strike in the 10-hour Motul Petit Le Mans season finale Nov. 13. Long Beach and its bumps are part of that plan.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Derani said. “We have a strong car. We’ve shown there in the past that Cadillac has always been very strong.”
A Cadillac has won the last three Long Beach races. In a twist of irony, Albuquerque was part of the winning effort in 2018 and ’19 when he drove for Action Express Racing, which fields the No. 31. And in 2017, Taylor co-drove to the Long Beach victory when Wayne Taylor Racing was running under Cadillac power.
NBCSN’s live coverage of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach begins Saturday at 5 p.m. ET. Tickets for the race weekend are available at gplb.com.