IMSA Long Beach starting lineup: Pipo Derani wins third consecutive pole to start season

Despite nerfing his car in a tire barrier, Pipo Derani still managed to put his No. 31 Cadillac on pole position for the third consecutive race to start the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.

The Whelen Action Express driver qualified first with a 1-minute, 11.388-second lap around the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street course early in the session, but he locked up the brakes in his Cadillac V-Series.R while trying to post a faster time during the final minute. Derani quickly slammed the car in reverse and left the scene, avoiding a red flag and potential penalty that might have voided the lap.

Though he sustained significant left-front damage, Derani told NBC Sports' Dillon Welch the repairs would be as simple as replacing the nose for the 100-minute race Saturday.

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship
IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship

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Strategy again is a likely focus for the 100-minute street race that was a tense battle between Porsche and Acura last year.

"I put the lap in early, and it was enough apparently," said Derani, who is teamed with Jack Aitken. "On that last flying lap, I didn’t have any information from the team. I actually requested them not to talk too much over the radio. I was coming a little bit quicker, so I said I’m just going to try it to make sure I have an extra gap in case it’s necessary. We always know that in the end of qualifying, normally things start to get a little bit quicker.

"Then I just locked up and went straight into the barriers. I knew I needed to come off the barriers quite quickly because of a red flag, so I quickly reminded myself how to get it done. But nevertheless, we knew how important it was to be on pole here for this race. We can swap the nose, but a race here is always important to start on pole, so happy with that."

The defending Grand Touring Prototype series champion also started on the pole position at the Twelve Hours of Sebring and with a record lap in the Rolex 24 at Daytona but still is seeking his first win this season. But starting first is a big plus at Long Beach, whose tight corners make passing difficult.
"This race can turn upside down quite quickly with a yellow, but if it’s a clean race, if you start from the front, it could win you the race," Derani told Welch. "We knew coming here it would be important to start from the front. Today the car is on rails. The Whelen Engineering Cadillac was fantastic. It’s good to be on pole."

Nick Yelloly qualified second (1:11.397) in the No. 25 BMW M Team RLL Hybrid V8, and Sebastien Bourdais was third (1:11.411) in the No. 01 Cadillac. Nick Tandy qualified fourth (1:11.629) with the No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsport 963, which is the defending race winner.

In GTD (the race's only other category), Parker Thompson qualified first in the No. 89 Lexus RC F GT3 for Vasser Sullivan.



Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Best sector times

Fastest lap sequence

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II