Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani didn‘t necessarily expect to dominate the Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring, but that‘s exactly what they did.
Derani started from the pole position Saturday in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi V.R. and pulled ahead of the field. Nasr then took over and did much the same, crossing the finish line 36.432 seconds ahead of Ryan Briscoe to win the DPi class and finish first overall in the two-hour 40-minute race at Sebring International Raceway.
For Nasr, who missed the IMSA WeatherTech 240 on July 4 after testing positive for COVID-19, the victory was special.
“I really went through a lot the last days,” said Nasr, who experienced mild symptoms before testing negative and returning to racing. “I was frustrated, but it was something I couldn‘t control. My first intention was to protect the team. It was hard to miss Daytona.”
The victory was the first for the No. 31 team during the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, which resumed earlier this month after being delayed more than five months because of the virus. The car finished fifth July 4 with Gabby Chaves filling in for Nasr, and seventh in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona in January.
It also was Derani‘s fourth victory at Sebring; he previously won the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts three times.
“I think this place likes me,” Derani said. “It was a fantastic day for us. We had our last win last year at Petit Le Mans. This team is so used to winning, and not having the two races at Daytona go our way wasn‘t what the team expected. … I love this place. We had a dominant car the whole way. It‘s fantastic when you can roll off the truck with a setup that is as good as we had today.”
Briscoe tried to challenge Nasr during the second half, taking the lead in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R he shared with Renger van der Zande when Nasr pitted in the final 45 minutes. But when Briscoe pitted with 34 minutes remaining, Nasr took the lead and sailed away from there.
“I couldn‘t think of a better race to come back to IMSA,” he said. “I love this series. I love this track. Sebring is just amazing, and I think Sebring loves us back. … It‘s such a gift. I can‘t describe it.”
Sebastien Bourdais charged up to pass Oliver Jarvis on the final lap to give the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing/JDC-Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi V.R he shared with Joao Barbosa a third-place finish. It was their third consecutive podium result.
The season resumes July 31-Aug. 2 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.