JDC-Miller Cadillac team’s Rolex 24 podium “bittersweet”

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The #5 Mustang Sampling-sponsored JDC-Miller entry shared by Vautier, Richard Westbrook, Loic Duval and Ben Keating led home the five-strong Cadillac DPi-V.R contingent behind an Acura 1-2, matching the team’s best Rolex 24 finish in 2020.

But that was after a full-course yellow period with just under two hours to run cost the team a healthy lead of around 20 seconds.

It was at this point that Acura teams Meyer Shank Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing gained a strategic edge as they were able to complete pitstops just before the caution was called, while Westbrook pitted to hand over to Duval during the FCY period.

Duval was able to get back up to second, but was relegated to fourth at the final caution with 30 minutes left on the clock as he came in for a splash of fuel, dropping behind Pipo Derani in the Action Express Racing Cadillac.

The Frenchman managed to repass Derani but was powerless to catch the two Acuras ahead.

“We were in contention the whole way and probably the fastest car all the way to the end, so that’s what makes it feel bittersweet because we thought we could have gotten it,” said Vautier. “But, overall, my first podium in the Rolex 24.

“Big thanks to the team for the hard work over the winter to make us so competitive. We didn’t get a Rolex but we can still celebrate.”

Duval, who was also part of the team’s third-place finish in 2020, added: “Happy about our race in general, but we had it. I think we were the only Cadillac able to win the race.

“I was able to catch up [after passing Derani] but I was way too far away. Frustration because I think we had something. The whole team tried everything we could.”

JDC-Miller newcomer Westbrook, who shares the #5 Cadillac with Vautier for the full IMSA season, echoed the sentiments of his teammates.

“We had a 20-second lead and it was all comfortable,” said the Briton. “We know with IMSA racing that you can never sit on your laurels. There’s always going to be a yellow. It was just bad luck. They didn’t give us the opportunity to pit and the two Acuras did and it changed the nature of the race.

“Up to that point, it looked like we had it covered. I’m just proud of this team getting a podium. It’s a great start to my DPi journey.”

AXR’s Whelen Engineering-branded #31 Cadillac was the only other lead-lap finisher in the DPi class, as both Chip Ganassi Racing cars and AXR’s Ally Racing-entered car all hit trouble.

But the car shared by Pipo Derani, Tristan Nunez and Mike Conway struggled for pace in the closing stages, something Derani had no immediate explanation for.

“We tried and unfortunately it didn’t happen this time,” said Derani. “At least we were there to put up a good fight at the end. We had no pace after that last restart. We have to analyze why.

“We finished the race flawlessly without any problems. Just a shame we wanted a little bit more. We will focus on Sebring and the championship. Tristan did a great job in his first race with us and I am looking forward to working with him leading up to Sebring.”

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