Pipo Derani says he, co-driver Felipe Nasr and the Action Express Racing team are heading into this weekend’s Acura Sports Car Challenge presented by the TLX Type R with a “re-grouped mentality” after a tough start to their IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship campaign.
The No. 31 Whelen Engineering-sponsored Cadillac DPi-V.R sits seventh — dead last — in the DPi championship standings entering Mid-Ohio following a pair of sixth place finishes to open the season.
Gearbox and exhaust manifold issues denied a chance for the win in the Rolex 24 at Daytona while a broken steering rack after contact between Derani and the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac of Renger van der Zande in the opening hour at Sebring saw the Whelen Cadillac also drop out of contention after lengthy repairs.
It came despite winning the pole for both races.
“I think it was a well-necessary wait for us as a team,” Derani said of the two-month break between races. “Of course, we are very hungry and can’t wait to be back.
“But, after the first two races this year, we were very unlucky. I think it was a good time to regroup. We did not start the season like we wanted to, so we’ll come back stronger this weekend.”
Derani and Nasr finished second at Mid-Ohio last year, leading the race prior to a faster pit stop that got the No. 7 Team Penske Acura ARX-05 of Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves out front and en route to the win.
“We had a strong result last year at Mid-Ohio, even though it’s a track that is not well-suited for our car,” Derani said. “So, we’re going into this weekend with a re-grouped mentality in order to achieve a result like we did last year or even better, if possible.
“Hopefully, we can get a solid result from this race and try to start to turn things around because I’m pretty sure everyone on the team has worked really hard over the past two months. I’m really looking forward to this weekend.”
Nasr said he’s as “hungry as ever” to get back to victory lane after the disappointing start to the season.
“It can be frustrating sometimes after having the pace, having the car on the pole the past two races, and then not getting the result we wanted,” he said.
“We had two pretty difficult races to start the year. But, on the other hand, we have shown the pace of the car.
“The No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac has been on the pole for the past two events. So, all we have to do is execute and have a clean weekend so we can get the result we want.
“We haven’t been able to get that win yet. I think we all deserve [a win], after all the hard work during the preseason and everything else. I think we have all the ingredients we need to win.”