Felipe Nasr said that he expected a Hail Mary move from Ricky Taylor for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi title on the last lap at Motul Petit Le Mans.
Nasr and his Action Express Racing co-driver Pipo Derani were up against Wayne Taylor Racing’s Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque during the ten-hour season finale at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
The simple premise of whichever duo finished first in the race ran as close as it could possibly go, as Taylor launched a late-braking attack on Nasr’s Cadillac DPi-V.R into Turn 10 left-hander with only three corners left in the race.
Taylor’s Acura ARX-05 came from far behind and careered down the inside of the Cadillac, which enabled Nasr to drive past on the tarmac to finish second in the race and secure the championship.
The Brazilian driver said that he anticipated Taylor making a last-gasp maneuver after getting caught behind GT traffic at the corner before the straight leading to Turn 10a.
“I had such a gap when I did that final stop and I just saw everything go pretty quick,” Nasr recalled.
“Those seconds that I had — especially due to traffic — I was unlucky in that final stint. So it came down to the last corner after ten hours of racing.
“When I saw the No. 10 car coming in, he was going to try it. I got held up by a GT car at Turn 7 and I had very little drive on the exit.
“I knew the 10 car was coming. He was going to try something. All I did was to cover the inside and I tried to cover it.
“He tried to go even more on the inside, but at one point I thought he wasn’t going to make the corner. It’s crazy how we ended it, but I’m so glad for the boys and everybody back at the team.”
Nasr considered Taylor’s move a “little too wild” but appeared understanding of his rival’s desperation to get past with the title on the line and time running out.
“I knew he was going to try something, like really try to make a last-minute move,” he said.
“But that was a little too wild, going all the way into the gravel and across the track.
“If there was grass there, he could have just continued, but he had to go through the gravel and then I had to drive to get the position back.
“There are many ifs… if I was behind and I had to do something, for sure you’ve got to try it. Maybe it was a little too much, but I get it. He’s a racer too so he’s got to try something.”
Taylor said that he was “never going to leave anything on the table” in the championship battle and had no regrets about making the passing attempt on Nasr.
“When it came back to the last stint, we took rears only to try and make some time on the out-lap, and he ended up doing the same thing I did, so the gap came back,” Taylor told Sportscar365.
“And then I got closer to him and they [on the pit wall] told me he was on rears only.
“My job was to provoke him to put some pressure on and make him use his front tires more. Ultimately I wasn’t able to get that close until the last lap.
“And when it came down to the last lap, when I came out of Turn 7 I knew I had a run.
“In that situation, when it comes down from the whole season to that, you are never going to leave anything on the table.
“I was going to try something. I wouldn’t be able to show my face to the team if I didn’t give it my best. Hats off to them [at Action Express]: I hold nothing against him defending.
“He was going to defend his position just like anybody would in that position. I’d expect it.
“So we were going to race each other as hard as we could when the stakes were so high; you’re going to fight your absolute hardest.
“I’m just really proud of our team for the whole season. But I’m just really bummed that we weren’t able to finish the job here.”
Pre-Race Changes Brought WTR into Mix
Wayne Taylor Racing entered the race with a more competitive setup after its Acura DPi struggled in qualifying, when Albuquerque lapped at the tail end of the seven-car DPi field.
Taylor explained that the team made changes after warmup and ended up achieving a balance that brought it back into the mix.
“It was big changes like ride height, dampers and springs,” he said.
“It’s hard to really know what worked and didn’t work because we just kind of threw it at it.
“Everything had a reason, but in practice things weren’t really logical why we weren’t finding pace, and then things started to click in the race.
“Ultimately in those last three, four or five stints, [Action Express] just had the edge. Whether it was a couple of seconds of fuel on one stop or the off on the out-lap that I’m going to have nightmares about. But ultimately it came down to the last two corners.”