Derani Delivers Third Consecutive Motul Pole Award of ’24 at Long Beach

By Tony DiZinno

IMSA Wire Service

The Motul Pole Award streak rolls on for Pipo Derani.

The 30-year-old Brazilian, the two-time and defending top prototype class champion in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, added another mark to his resume with his first Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) pole position on the streets of Long Beach ahead of Saturday’s 100-minute Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach race.

It’s Derani’s third consecutive pole overall and 12th in his IMSA career, after also scoring the top spot in qualifying at the first two races of 2024 – the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac.

This one saw Derani bank his eventual pole lap of 1 minute, 11.388 seconds (99.243 mph) on his sixth lap, driving the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R.

It was fortunate that he set the lap when he did because, when trying to improve it toward the end of the 15-minute session, he nosed his car into the Turn 9 tire barrier.

Derani was able to reverse out and make it back to the pit lane to avoid losing his pole-winning flag for causing a red-flag stoppage, whereupon he covered up the left front quarter panel damage with an astutely placed Motul Pole Award sign.

“I put the lap in early and it was enough,” said Derani, who shares the car with Jack Aitken. “The last flying lap I requested the team not to talk over the radio. I came to the end a little bit quicker. I thought I’d try it to push an extra gap if necessary.

“It starts to get a bit quicker. I locked up and went into the barriers. I had to come off the barriers quickly and had to remind myself how to get it done. I knew how important it was to get on pole here. We can swap the nose. A race here is so important to start on pole.”

Coming up just shy of the pole was Nick Yelloly, only 0.009 seconds in arrears, in the No. 25 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8. The Englishman and teammate Connor De Phillippi will roll off second, the same position they finished this race last year.

Cadillac Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais came close to knocking Derani off the pole despite not taking the track until five minutes were left due to an electrical issue with the Chip Ganassi Racing-prepared No. 01 Cadillac V-Series.R. Limited to two laps at speed, Bourdais dodged slower GTP traffic twice but made it only up to third fastest on his final lap, just 0.023 seconds back of pole.

“I think we were on the money, just obviously had a hybrid fault and couldn’t start the car,” Bourdais said. “The guys managed to find a default position that disabled something and managed to get us going. I got impeded on two of those three laps that we had, and particularly the quick lap. It’s a shame but at the same time it’s mixed feelings. … Starting P3 is a lot better than not putting a lap in and starting P10.”

The pair of Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 cars line up fourth and fifth, with defending race winners Mathieu Jaminet and Nick Tandy fourth in the No. 6 Porsche 963 and Dane Cameron and Felipe Nasr fifth in their No. 7 Porsche 963.

Jordan Taylor placed the No. 40 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06 sixth, best of the two Acuras, just over three-tenths of a second in arrears of the pole. Taylor shares the car with Long Beach debutante Louis Deletraz.

Heading into Saturday’s race that airs live at 4:30 p.m. ET on USA Network, Peacock and IMSA Radio, Nasr and Cameron, with 732 points, hold a one-point lead in the championship points over Taylor and Deletraz.