Whelen Cadillac dominates opening three hours of Petit Le Mans

Image by LePage/LAT

Whelen Cadillac dominates opening three hours of Petit Le Mans

IMSA

Whelen Cadillac dominates opening three hours of Petit Le Mans

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Felipe Nasr put the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R into the lead at the start of today’s Motul Petit Le Mans.

Three hours later, it was still out front – leading all 135 laps at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta with Pipo Derani now at the wheel.

Mike Conway ran second in Action Express Racing’s No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac, taking over from Filipe Albuquerque as that car ran second for much of the race.

The first of two cautions waved at the 1:24 mark. Juan Pablo Montoya passed Cameron Cassels in the Esses. Cassels got slightly off line, and was tagged from behind by Helio Castroneves, sending the ORECA into the barrier. The No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports entry retired after sustaining extensive major rear-end damage, while Castroneves had broken right-front bodywork. The Penske team replaced the nose on the No. 7 during the resulting caution. Castroneves was assessed a stop-and-go penalty for incident responsibility.

Shortly after the restart, the No. 44 Lamborghini of John Potter and No. 14 Lexus of Parker Chase went off in Turn 1. Both car were able to continue, but Potter was forced to limp back to pit road with left-rear suspension damage.

“Now, it’s map 1 and head down, for the rest of the year,” co-driver Andy Lally said.

The second caution waved at 2:38 when the No. 12 Lexus of Aaron Telitz went off after contact with the Matthieu Vaxiviere exiting the Esses in what was ruled a racing incident.

Fords were running 1-2 in GTLM, with Dirk Mueller (No. 66) leading Ryan Briscoe (No. 67), with James Calado third in the No. 62 Risi Ferrari that dominated the opening hour.

Up front in GTD is Bill Auberlen in the No. 96 BMW, followed by Felipe Fraga in the No. 33 Mercedes and Marcio Seefried in the No. 48.

There’s a long way to go, and much can happen. In fact, the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac pitted at the 3:12 mark, handing the lead to Conway in the No. 5 Cadillac. Derani missed the pit opening during the second yellow, and as a result the team opted to have him stay out for the remainder of his fuel run. That dropped him to eighth, with the team eyeing the end of Hour 4 – when points will be awarded for the Michelin Endurance Cup.

Stay tuned.

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