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Cadillacs Ride Highs and Lows to Remain in GTP Title Picture

The Action Express and Chip Ganassi Entries Sit Third and Fourth in Points


By Mark Robinson


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The 2024 season has been anything but routine thus far for the two Cadillacs in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The highs and lows through just the first two races have been exhilarating and exhausting, yet both teams remain firmly entrenched in the championship chase heading to the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 20.


The No. 31 Whelen Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R is third in the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) standings, 106 points behind the co-leading No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 and No. 40 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06. The No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac is another six points back.


Each Cadillac has shown tremendous pace at times this year, and each has a second-place race finish to show for it. But each car has faced its share of struggles as well.


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Pipo Derani propelled the No. 31 Whelen Caddy to the Motul Pole Award at both the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac, and the car has led a combined 362 laps already. After finishing second at Daytona in January, Derani was racing away with a 12-second lead at Sebring with 4.5 hours to go when he crashed spectacularly after brushing a Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) car while lapping it.


Derani was uninjured in the incident that left him dangling upside down in the cockpit until the AMR Safety Team could retrieve him from the car that had flipped and landed on a tire barrier. The result also turned the GTP standings upside down, since the Whelen entry fielded by Action Express Racing lost a shot at back-to-back podiums to start the season and the likely chance to be in the class points lead.


“First time for me flipping a racer,” Derani said after seeing his bid for a fifth Sebring overall victory derailed. “Not the nicest feeling to be upside down until they can turn the car around. Good that I’m racing in 2024 and not in the ‘60s.


“Our championship took a little hit with this one, but we have a strong car,” the affable Brazilian added. “We have more races to go. I wish I could have tried for my fifth win (at Sebring). I’ll have to try again next year.”


The No. 01 Cadillac, meanwhile, has overcome its own share of adversity to stay in the hunt. After leading more than half of the first 150 laps at Daytona, a mechanical powertrain issue handcuffed the Chip Ganassi Racing entry and eventually forced it to retire in 10th place in GTP.


At Sebring, the No. 01 paired with the No. 31 to dominate early. The Cadillac duo locked out the front row in qualifying and teamed to lead the opening 81 laps of the historic 12-hour race. An electronics issue suddenly slowed the car seven hours into the race, however, with driver Sebastien Bourdais losing three positions on a single lap.


The team was able to diagnose and debug the problem, allowing Bourdais and co-drivers Scott Dixon and Renger van der Zande to work their way back to the front. Bourdais led heading into the final climactic hour but knew his car didn’t have the pace of the trailing No. 40 WTRAndretti Acura that had fresher Michelin tires and Louis Deletraz at the wheel.


Bourdais held Deletraz behind until less than six minutes remained, when Deletraz made a bold inside move at the infamous Turn 7 hairpin to seize the lead and dramatic win.


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“I gave it all I had,” Bourdais said. “The (No.) 40 car was out of sync and they put new tires on at the last stop and we didn’t because we didn’t have time for that, and they just came like a rocket at the end. … Obviously disappointed for the whole group and Cadillac because we had a really strong day. It was not as straightforward as we wanted, but up front most of it. It always hurts to get done like this in the closing laps, but it’s racing.”


While Bourdais was disappointed, his co-drivers lauded a performance that saw the Frenchman who makes his home in Florida drive close to half the race in the No. 01, including the final 2.5 hours into the dark of night on the treacherous Sebring International Raceway circuit.


“I think we did everything we could have,” said Dixon, the six-time IndyCar champion who serves as the team’s third driver in the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup events. “We tried to stay out of trouble. Team did a fantastic job; strategy, they nailed. Ultimately at the end we came up a little bit short, which is frustrating. Got to thank Seb. He did a tremendous job.”


Van der Zande echoed Dixon’s thought. “I can only say Seb took the most out of our car, that’s for sure,” he said. “It’s cool to see him go, how he’s fighting till the end to make it happen. Hey, second place, good points, champagne showers. Let’s go home and prepare for Long Beach.”


Indeed, Long Beach is next, the 100-minute full sprint for the GTP and GTD classes only. The race airs live on USA Network at 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday, April 20. Tickets for the race weekend are available at gplb.com.