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IMSA champion Derani says 2022 results are a “reality check”

Action Express Racing’s Pipo Derani says the team’s failure to defend its IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship title proves you “can’t have any weak link in the team.”

#31 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi: Pipo Derani, Olivier Pla

In 2021, Derani and Felipe Nasr racked up three wins, three other podium finishes and a fourth place on its way to the Prototype title, with a sixth place in the Rolex 24 at Daytona being its only finish outside the top five.

This year, with Nasr now part of the Porsche-Penske program, the best results for the Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R has been four third places, and Derani finds himself only fifth in the championship. He has also had a change of co-drivers, Tristan Nunez being his partner for the first five races before being replaced by Olivier Pla.

“It’s been a reality check to what motorsport is,” said Derani. “You have ups and downs during your career. Coming in this year as the champ and having such a difficult year changing teammates in the middle of the season – it hasn’t been easy.

“Nevertheless, it’s always a pleasure. You are in one of the most competitive championships in the world… We’re heading to the last two races without a single chance of winning the championship but I think it shows how the championship is so competitive you can’t have any weak link in the team whatsoever.”

Derani believes AXR’s shifting driver line-up causes issues when competing against entries with more consistency in its personnel.

“Once you go and fight against teams that are with the same lineup for two, three years, they are working well together it’s just hard for you to overcome that,” said the 28-year-old Brazilian. “So, going into the last few races of the year we have Olivier onboard in the Whelen Engineering Cadillac. I think he’s got up to speed quite well and I’m hoping that we can together put some strong results on the board. Hopefully, we can be in the mix for a win either at Road America or Road Atlanta to finish the year on a strong note.

“But… As they say, you’re as good as your last race. It’s a constant battle every weekend for you to be at the top because it’s definitely not a given. You should not take it for granted but should always be working hard.

“We’re going against pairings that have been working together for a while, and then we welcomed Tristan [Nunez] at the beginning of the year. That’s already in itself a difficult situation when you have to learn a new teammate, to work with someone new and this person has to learn how the team operates…

“And then not only that, we had a change in the middle of the season. You repeat the whole process again. When Olivier joined at Detroit, obviously not a very easy track to join and get to learn a new team. It’s just a situation where you’re in a very competitive championship and instead of focusing on details you’re focusing on the driver who’s in the car is getting up to speed quickly. That, in itself, you’re starting on the back foot already. In such a competitive championship, this can’t happen.

“We’re definitely not missing speed; we’ve been close to a couple of pole positions this year that just didn’t materialize for maybe just a little bit of time. We led more than 50 percent of the 12 Hours of Sebring…

“I would say that’s down [to] not being fully in sync with one another, especially on the driver front. We’re working hard on that. I hope we can have a strong finish to the season. It hasn’t been easy, but Olivier has been up to speed especially in the last two races. From now on it’s a bit of fine-tuning to be back at where we should be…

“I think if we put everything together there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be where we belong.”

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