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#31: Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi, DPi: Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani

High Stakes Rivalry Race Coming at Motul Petit Le Mans

No. 31 Cadillac, No. 10 Acura Teams Set to Battle for DPi Title in Season Finale

 

By Jeff Olson

 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It’s said that familiarity breeds contempt.

 

It also makes for interesting drama.

 

The two contenders for the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class championship have a history of being in this situation before: Heading into the final race, separated by a few points, knowing that whichever team finishes ahead of the other likely wins the championship.

 

Knowing your opponent has its positives and negatives – and a whole lot of complications in between.

 

“When you’re trying to win a championship, then of course you’re going to want as much information as possible,” Pipo Derani said. “In that case, knowing your opponent can help, but on the other hand, you are always trying to reinvent yourself to make sure you can have an edge. By doing that, because the competition is so strong, you might not know what their next move is.”

 

The next move in the battle between Action Express Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing is fairly straightforward. Finish ahead of your rival Nov. 13 in the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta and win the DPi title for the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

 

“A good rivalry is naturally the best teams fighting it out. You don’t consider Alabama as a rival with some community college,” Ricky Taylor said, alluding to the college football powerhouse. “It’s when the stakes are high and the players are at the top of their game, that’s when people want to tune in and watch. That’s when it matters the most.

 

Alexander Rossi will join full-time drivers Filipe Albuquerque and Taylor in WTR’s No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 for the 10-hour race around Michelin Raceway’s 12-turn, 2.54-mile circuit. Mike Conway will join full-timers Felipe Nasr and Derani in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R fielded by Action Express.

 

With just 19 points separating the two teams, the championship exposes the simplicity of the task at hand and the complications of attaining it.

 

“The championship comes down to so many moving parts, especially on the long races,” Derani said. “We’re coming down to the final race with the slimmest of margins you can think of for a championship decider. Of course, trying to understand what one another will do in a critical situation can help, but at the same time you are trying to focus so much on yourself. If you focus too much on the other team, you’re going to miss something.”

 

The most unusual, and perhaps helpful, perspective will come from Albuquerque, who joined Derani and Nasr in the No. 31 last year for endurance races.

 

“Now I have the full picture of the two big rivals, how each one of them thinks, which is great,” Albuquerque said. “Hopefully, it will help us. Already, it has. I know how they think, and I know how both teams operate.”

 

The primary benefit of an intense rivalry? Both teams improve.

 

“The rivalry side of it is good because you keep raising the level year after year to make sure that you can continue to beat each other,” Derani said. “But with the races being so unpredictable, it’s always difficult to know what the next move will be – even when knowing your competitor for such a long time.”

 

Activities surrounding Motul Petit Le Mans begin Nov. 10. Tickets are available at roadatlanta.com.

 

Live race coverage begins at noon ET Saturday, Nov. 13 on NBC before moving to NBCSN at 3 p.m. through the race conclusion. Nonstop coverage is also available on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold and IMSA Radio (XM 202, SiriusXM Online 992).