Pipo Derani believes this weekend’s IMSA sprint race at Daytona will require a “very different” approach compared to the Rolex 24 that was held at the same track in January.
After five months without any competition because of the coronavirus pandemic, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is returning to the site of its season-opening round but will be holding a two-hour, 40-minute race rather than a 24-hour enduro.
Derani told reporters in a group video call that teams will need to attack right from the start of the two-day WeatherTech 240 at Daytona event, rather than building up momentum over the course of the Rolex 24 test and race week.
The 2016 Rolex 24 winner suggested that this difference could lead to some teams making crucial errors.
“I think it’s going to be very different, especially because we’re used to coming to Daytona thinking about keeping the car clean for 24 hours and then going for it in the last hour,” said Derani, who shares the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R with Felipe Nasr.
“Now we’re going to see ourselves in a completely different position where we’re going to have to attack from the beginning. Qualifying is now going to be quite important.
“I think the most important thing is that everyone within the team is ready to go. With so many months away from the racetrack, it’s going to be normal that people take a bit longer to do pit stops as quick as they used to.
“That’s going to be something that could dictate the race. We’ve had so much time away from real racing, that when we get going I think that’s going to make a difference in the end.”
Derani said that he and Nasr have been able to do some limited training together in Miami to prepare for the season restart.
Both Action Express Racing drivers were forced to make hasty journeys to the United States from their family residences in Brazil last month, to beat a travel ban that was imposed on arrivals from South America’s largest country.
“The guys at the shop are making sure that within the right environment we can keep working and training, so that we are ready when we are back,” said Derani.
“Felipe and myself last week managed to get a few laps on a kart to get our heads back into the rhythm.
“Five months is a lot of time. When we talk about the normal holiday, when we come back to jump in at Daytona for the first race of the year, it’s already a shock.
“But imagine now, being months away from a race car. We’re trying to make ourselves look a little less like rookies when we come back! I think that’s going to make a difference.”
Nasr added that both drivers have been in constant dialogue with their team throughout the pandemic and that this will enable them to hit the ground running at Daytona.
“Once you have that connection with the team and you’re going from weekend to weekend, that naturally happens,” said the 2018 IMSA DPi champion.
“But in all these months that I’ve been away, I’ve been in close contact with the team.
“They’ve been showing us what’s been happening at the shop. There are so many things that have kept going, to keep the communication going.
“At the beginning, I was wondering how it’s going to be when we go back racing. I don’t have to think about it anymore because we kept a constant conversation going, and we know exactly what to do when we go back there.
“Everybody has to do the same job and take it step by step. It’s racing, it’s in the system. It’s been such a long wait and I’m just happy that we’re going back.”