Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr did everything they needed to do during Saturday’s Motul Petit Le Mans amid difficult circumstances, with the duo clinching the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype crown in the #31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac.
Curran and Nasr went into the event with a narrow advantage over the #54 CORE Autosport Oreca pairing of Jon Bennett and Colin Braun but despite only finishing eighth after an issue cost them some pace and a strategy that required Nasr to save fuel, the fact their rivals could only muster seventh themselves ensured the title went their way.
It is Curran’s second title in three years with Action Express Racing in the #31, but unlike in other campaigns, the car was able to also win the North American Endurance Cup alongside the main title.
“It was amazing to pull it off at the end,” said Curran on axracing.com. “The last 20 minutes were just on the edge, and it really wasn’t looking good for us. We had Felipe (Nasr) back off on the fuel and save as much as he could, so we wouldn’t have to do one more stop.
“Our Whelen Cadillac was strong the whole race long. It’s interesting to win a championship by going slow. It’s a funny way to do it. What an unbelievable team-mate! Felipe and I won the Tequila Patron Endurance Cup as well, and Gabby (Chaves) did a great job in the car. It’s been an unbelievable year.
“For sure, winning the Patron Endurance Cup is a big deal for the team. It’s fun for us on the No. 31 side, but the No. 5 car has been amazing – they’ve won it year after year after year. Action Express as a whole really gets it done.”
Nasr admitted the final three-hour stint was exhausting but bringing the car home in a position good enough for the title more than made up for it. He was forced to manage things when the power issue struck but excelled when it mattered.
He also took time to thank Petit Le Mans third driver Gabby Chaves, as well as Mike Conway, who had joined the team for the other three endurance races earlier in the season.
“It was an exhausting last stint, to be honest, three-plus hours in the car,” admitted Nasr. “Somehow, we lost power halfway through the stint so the only chance we had to make it happen was to look at that fuel mileage and hitting that target perfectly on every lap.
“I want to thank Eric, Gabby and Mike (Conway). Even though Mike wasn’t here this weekend, he’s been a great part of the team. And thanks to all the Action Express guys who made all the calls, all our sponsors, everyone who is behind this effort.
“The Whelen car has won two championships! I’m so excited. This is my first year in the series, and getting the championship, I couldn’t ask for a better way for the season to go. It seemed impossible, but somehow, we made it. I just need time for it all to sink in.”
Action Express Racing owner Bob Johnson says the title is the best yet in their history and he does not know how they will be able to top it going forward.
“This is definitely the best yet,” said Johnson. “This was so exciting, I don’t know how you top this. Thank goodness we’ve got these young drivers like Felipe (Nasr) who can do the endurance events and spend three hours in the car there at the end!
“This was very big. It was a great job up on the top of the box, a phenomenal strategy. The entire team did a great job, and this feels fantastic!”