IMSA: Pipo Derani, Whelen Engineering win explosive Petit Le Mans

Dan Beaver
NBC Sports

Pipo Derani (Whelen Engineering Racing, Cadillac DPi) inherited the lead with 20 minutes remaining after a brake rotor exploded on leader Felipe Albuquerque’s (Mustang Sampling Racing) Cadillac. Derani held the advantage until the checkers waved over the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road America.

With fireworks exploding overhead, there were fireworks on track as well.

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On the final lap, with Jordan Taylor (Konica Minolta, Cadillac DPi-V.R) putting pressure on the leader, Derani slammed into the No. 912 Porsche GT with Earl Bamber at the  wheel.

“I flashed a few times,” Derani said in Victory Lane after climbing from his car. “I was flashing every car and I though he saw me, so I went for the dive. I wanted to keep my three-second gap.”

The contact cost Derani a second of time as Taylor closed the gap.

While Derani and the No. 31 team won the battle, Acura Team Penske and the No. 6 won the war. Finishing fourth, one lap behind the leader, Juan Pablo Montoya brought the Acura home high enough in the standings to give him and Dane Cameron the championship.

“It was really a tremendous day,” Cameron said after the race. “It was a little close for comfort there for a couple of hours, but we did exactly what we needed to. We came here with a plan and didn’t have a ton of pace for the first time all year, but we executed perfectly.”

Ricky Taylor and the No. 7 Acura Team Penske team finished third.

“This race is so tough,” race winner Derani said. “I finished second my first time here, was about to win the last two years; it didn’t happen. And today it almost didn’t happen again. But man, it’s fantastic.”

After almost nine and a half hours contact between Toni Vilander (Scuderia Corsa, Ferrari 488 GT3) and Katherine Legge (Meyer Shank Racing, Acura NSX GT3) set up a 25-minute shootout to the end of the 10-hour endurance event. The full course caution came after a green flag period of four hours, 38 minutes.

At 8:26 ET, Joao Barbosa brought his Cadillac into the pits from the lead and climbed out of it to face an uncertain future.

“It’s very emotional,” Barbosa said on NBCSN after climbing from his car.  “We’ve been at Action Express for more than 10 years and this will be my last race with them. Definitely, when I got out of the car, everything started to feel more real.”

The broken brake rotor sent the team home seventh in class, five laps off the lead.

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