Olivier Pla has set realistic goals for his debut race with Action Express Racing, stating that this weekend’s Chevrolet Sports Car Classic at Detroit’s Belle Isle will be “no easy task.”
The Frenchman has replaced Tristan Nunez in the No. 31 Cadillac DPi-V.R for the remainder of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, teaming up with reigning DPi champion Pipo Derani in the Whelen Engineering-sponsored prototype.
Pla, who will become the only driver to have raced in all four DPi brands in WeatherTech Championship competition, sampled the Dallara-chassied Cadillac recently ahead of Saturday’s 100-minute race.
“I had a chance to test the Cadillac for one day at Road Atlanta,” said Pla. “The test went really well.
“From Lap 3, I knew that I was going to like the car. I had a great feeling from the beginning, which is really important.
“The first impression normally gives you good feedback and the feedback that I asked from the car was really good. It was what I actually expected from the car. I like the car. It gave me some confidence.”
The No. 31 car has had two wins and three runner-up finishes at Belle Isle since 2015, including last year which saw Derani and Felipe Nasr score a second place result.
While Pla heads in with previous experience on the 2.3-mile temporary circuit, he realizes that it could be an uphill learning curve in coming to grips with the team and car given the limited amount of track time on the weekend.
“I know that starting in Detroit is not going to be an easy task,” he said. “But, I’m ready for it. I will give it my best. Action Express Racing has had a very strong car in Detroit. It’s a special and bumpy track.
“They [AXR] were very fast last year, very competitive. We will try to extract the best out of our car and hopefully achieve a strong result.”
Derani Looking to Build on Pla Driver Partnership
Detroit will not mark the first time Derani and Pla have shared a car together, with the duo also currently teammates in the FIA World Endurance Championship with Glickenhaus’ Hypercar entry.
Prior to that, the two drivers — who are both managed by Philippe Dumas, spent time together at OAK Racing, Extreme Speed Motorsports as well as Ford Chip Ganassi Racing.
“I’m looking forward to going back to Detroit,” Derani said. “We’ve had very strong races there in the past. Last year, we came up just a bit short of winning.
“We finished really close to the car that won. We had a strong showing throughout the weekend.
“So, it’s great to be coming back this time around with Olivier Pla joining the team. Olivier is a guy who I consider to be a great friend and who I’ve worked with many times already.
“We’ve been racing together with Glickenhaus in Europe. So, we know how to work well together and I’m looking forward to helping him get up to speed, as quickly as possible, in our No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac.”