Race Weekend Central

Pipo Derani Claims IMSA Long Beach Pole

Action Express Racing’s Pipo Derani won the pole Friday (April 19) for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach with a lap at 99.244 mph. It is the team’s third overall pole in a row.

“Today, the car has been on rails. The Whelen Engineering Cadillac has been fantastic,” Derani told NBC Sports after the session. “We took [the car] off the rails a little on the final lap, but we quickly came back to it. I’m glad to be on pole.”

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Derani won the pole by a mere 0.009 seconds over BMW M Team RLL’s Nick Yelloly. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais used an alternate strategy to use minimal laps in qualifying and nearly got pole. He’ll have to settle for third on the grid. Porsche Penske Motorsport teammates Nick Tandy and Dane Cameron were fourth and fifth.

Derani’s lap is not a track record. In fact, the pole lap is 1.4 seconds slower than last year’s pole.

Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Global’s Filipe Albuquerque first put his Acura on top. It was quickly beaten by Derani’s Cadillac. Cameron briefly usurped Derani, but Derani took the pole back 10 seconds later.

Derani pitted his Cadillac with a little more than five minutes to go, allowing the rest of the GTP field to take their shots at him while he cooled his tires. At the time, Derani was six-tenths of a second faster than anyone else. It turned out that he needed every bit of that.

Right at the end of the session, Derani was on a faster lap and went too fast into turn 9 at the end of Seaside Way. He locked up his tires and slid into the tire barrier, damaging his Cadillac. Since time had already expired and Derani was able to resume, it did not cause a red flag. Despite that, Derani’s Whelen Cadillac had significant damage from the contact.

In GTD, qualifying lineups were shifted a bit due to the tight confines and the minimum drive-time in the race being only 35 minutes. As a result, some drivers were pressed into qualifying duties who do not normally qualify.

One of these drivers is Parker Thompson, who is typically the pro driver in VasserSullivan’s No. 12 Lexus alongside Frankie Montecalvo. However, with the GTD Pro class off this weekend, VasserSullivan brought its second car and renumbered it No. 89. Thompson was moved out of the No. 12 and paired with Ben Barnicoat.

Thompson was fast quickly, putting himself on top of the charts with Montecalvo close behind. Conquest Racing’s Albert Costa, another pro qualifier, was right up there in his Ferrari.

Ultimately, Thompson’s lap at 91.586 mph held up to give Thompson his second pole of the year. He won the pole in the No. 12 Lexus for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Thompson led a VasserSullivan sweep of the front row as he beat Montecalvo to pole by 0.262 seconds. Costa will start third in his Ferrari, then The Heart of Racing’s Roman DeAngelis. Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Global’s Danny Formal, who was second in Practice No. 2, will start fifth in his Lamborghini.

Mikael Grenier qualified sixth in class in his Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes. That came after a crash in the hairpin during the opening practice session that forced the team to miss the second session. Points leader Russell Ward will start ninth.

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Starting Lineup

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is scheduled to go green at 4:35 p.m. ET Saturday afternoon. Coverage of the race will air live on USA Network starting at 4:30 p.m. ET.

About the author

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

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