Derani Continues Sebring Mastery with GTP Pole-Winning Run

By John Oreovicz and Mark Robinson

IMSA Wire Service

Pipo Derani and Cadillac continued their recent mastery of Sebring International Raceway, claiming the Motul Pole Award for the 72nd running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac.

On Friday, Derani emerged fastest from a Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class qualifying session for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship that was disrupted and red-flagged by a crash involving the No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 driven by Mathieu Jaminet. That left the remaining competitors barely three minutes to post a final flying lap.

The circumstances required Derani to get the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R up to speed quickly, while also properly bedding in his Michelin tires for a hot lap. His “banker” lap timed at 1 minute, 48.152 seconds (124.491 mph) barely got him to the start/finish line in time for another attempt at the 3.74-mile road course. But Derani was slightly held up on his final effort by Louis Deletraz in the No. 40 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06.

Another WTRAndretti Acura posed an even bigger threat to Derani and the No. 31 Cadillac, however. Ricky Taylor produced a 1:48.038 lap in No. 10 Acura in the closing stages that was 0.114 seconds quicker than Derani’s best. But the No. 10 was cited for performing work on the car during qualifying, nullifying its laps and moving it to the rear of the 11-car GTP class for the race start.

That development created an all-Cadillac front row, with Derani joined by Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 01 Cadillac Racing entry prepared by Chip Ganassi Racing with a lap of 1:48.299 (124.322 mph). Deletraz wound up third fastest in the No. 40 Acura (1:48.593/123.985 mph). Matteo Cairoli qualified the No. 63 Lamborghini Iron Lynx Lamborghini SC63 eighth in the 11-car GTP field (1:53.574/118.547 mph), in the car’s IMSA debut.

Cadillac has taken the overall victory in five of the last seven years at Sebring, and two of Derani’s four Sebring wins have been achieved with the American marque. Derani is teamed with Jack Aitken and Tom Blomqvist in the No. 31 this year.

A 30-year-old-Brazilian who is a two-time champion in IMSA’s top class, Derani earned his 11th career IMSA pole.

“It’s never the nicest way to get a pole, when you know that no one was really able to achieve the full potential of their cars,” Derani said. “Nevertheless, it’s still the same for everyone – you’ve still got to put a lap in and make sure that you make no mistakes in such a pressured situation. I honestly don’t feel much pressure in those situations, and I feel like I handled it quite well in the end of the day. I’m happy with that I was able to extract the potential out of the car and there was enough for pole.”

On Saturday, he can match Dindo Capello for second on the all-time Sebring overall win list with five. Tom Kristensen holds the record with six on the historic airfield-based circuit.

“I get to love it more and more every year I come here; it’s fantastic,” Derani said. “It’s a place that suits my driving style, for sure. The car obviously is fantastic, but to be able to do that you need to have the car beneath you. And it’s not only myself or one individual, it’s a group effort.

“It’s a great result but we know it means nothing in a 12-hour race,” he added. “Well, it means something; we have a quick car. We’re going to do our best to translate it into a race win.”

The green flag waves for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at 9:40 a.m. ET Saturday. Peacock will provide flag-to-flag coverage via streaming, with USA Network joining from 4 p.m. to the finish.

Hyett Puts Fire-Breathing Spike the Dragon on LMP2 Pole

PJ Hyett made no bones about it: Winning the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) pole on Friday at Sebring ranks right up there in his life highlight reel, both on and off the track.

“Let’s just say this is probably top three moments of my life happening right now,” Hyett said after collecting his first career Motul Pole Award. “When I met my wife, birth of my children and I just got pole at Sebring in a P2. I don’t know what the hell’s happening, it’s wonderful!”

Hyett zipped around the 3.74-mile, 17-turn Sebring circuit in 1 minute, 52.142 seconds (124.491 mph) midway through the 15-minute session, a lap that held up to put “Spike the Dragon,” the purple-liveried No. 99 AO Racing ORECA LMP2 07, on the pole. In just the second WeatherTech Championship LMP2 race for driver and team, Hyett will lead the class to the green flag in Saturday’s 12-hour race.

“There’s a lot of emotions going through me right now just because of how special it feels,” said Hyett, who shares the No. 99 this weekend with Paul-Loup Chatin and Matthew Brabham. “The dragon was definitely breathing fire today.”

Hyett’s best lap was 0.171 seconds quicker than runner-up Daniel Goldburg in the No. 22 United Autosports ORECA. It also gave AO Racing a Motul Pole Award for the second race, following the Grand Touring Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) pole earned by Seb Priaulx in the team’s No. 77 Porsche 911 GT3 R – more famously known as “Rexy” for its dinosaur livery – at the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

For Hyett, who’s also the team principal, the ability to match AO’s popular marketing plan and car schemes geared at drawing new young fans to the sport with on-track performance makes the accomplishments all the sweeter.

“I love that we’ve been able to marry our fun new approach to sports car racing with actual results,” he said. “Obviously, we’ve got to do our job tomorrow; it’s going to be a long, hot race. But I couldn’t be more thrilled about what’s happening.”