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Le Mans at Last! Whelen Engineering Cadillac Set for Debut

The Powerhouse WeatherTech Championship Team Is Ready to Make a Splash in France


By Tony DiZinno


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Action Express Racing’s No. 31 Whelen Engineering entry has long been at the top of the IMSA prototype universe, with whatever specification chassis it ran.


It captured the last IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship title for a Daytona Prototype-specification chassis with the Corvette DP in 2016 and added two more with the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) Cadillac DPi-V.R in 2018 and 2021. It’s also added several IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup titles.


The No. 31 car has achieved 13 WeatherTech Championship prototype wins from 2015 through 2023, at least one each year with the exception of 2022.


Thanks to global convergence in prototype regulations, the Action Express Racing team has an opportunity to add another great accolade to its record.


The team is set to make its debut this week in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It will be one of several IMSA teams participating in the centennial anniversary of the French endurance racing classic.


Cadillac Racing has taken a “one-team” approach and mindset to its effort, as one of two manufacturers that built its new prototypes to LMDh specifications running cars in both IMSA (in Grand Touring Prototype, or GTP) and the FIA World Endurance Championship (in Le Mans Hypercar).


Cars are entered under the Cadillac Racing banner, while they’re prepared by either Action Express or Chip Ganassi Racing. Ganassi has extensive Le Mans experience with its Ford GT effort, but Action Express doesn’t as a unified team.


A bevy of Action Express team members have had individual appearances and/or success at the race, though. Some have gone overseas for scouting through other races this season, including the FIA WEC round at Spa-Francorchamps.


Testing for the race commenced in April after Long Beach, starting with a shakedown at VIRginia International Raceway in the renumbered No. 311 Cadillac V-Series.R and continuing at Road America.


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Drivers Pipo Derani, Alexander Sims and Jack Aitken have all started races at Le Mans in the past but in abnormal circumstances.


Derani’s Le Mans history, in particular, is varied. In seven Le Mans starts, he’s raced with six teams, four types of cars and in three classes. His best result is second in a Ganassi GTE PRO Ford GT in 2017.


So, for the dynamic Brazilian, going to Le Mans with his Cadillac, Action Express and Whelen Engineering family means a bit more this year.


“I’m very much excited because it’s always been a thing where at Le Mans I had to go to another team because the regulations didn’t allow our normal car,” Derani reflected.


“So, to finally be there with the car and team I’m used to working with is so nice.”


Sims only half-jokingly said he has “unfinished business” at Le Mans – three DNFs from four prior Le Mans starts in two classes confirm that point. Aitken made his Le Mans debut last year.


“Pipo has been here quite a few years and this team has had pretty much the same engineering group and management for a while from what I’ve gathered,” Sims said.


“By the time we get to Le Mans, we’ll be at one with the whole team, and really looking forward to taking on the best of both paddocks (IMSA and WEC).”


Derani crystallized the work the team has put in and their determination going into the race.


“The first time the team is going there will be a very special race, and a very special edition,” he said.


“From my side, I think it’ll be first time going for a team I’m 100 percent working with – probably in five or six years – so that’s a positive thing.


“To do it with this group of guys that we’ve achieved so much with is incredible. It’ll be a dream come true for the 100th anniversary.”


(Photo credits: Richard Prince)