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IMSA Road Atlanta

Nasr knew Taylor wouldn’t make corner in IMSA title-deciding lunge

Felipe Nasr says he knew Ricky Taylor wouldn’t succeed in his IMSA SportsCar Championship title-deciding passing attempt on the final lap of the Petit Le Mans season finale.

#31 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi, DPi: Mike Conway, Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani celebrate winning the championship in victory lane

The battle for Prototype championship honours came down to a final-stint battle between Nasr's Action Express Racing Cadillac and Taylor in the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-05 that had led the standings coming into the Road Atlanta race.

Whoever ended the race ahead would take away the championship title.

After surrendering the race lead to Harry Tincknell's eventual race-winning Mazda with just over 20 minutes remaining in the 10-hour contest, Nasr came under increasing pressure from Taylor.

The two-time IMSA champion went for an ambitious lunge at Turn 10 on the last lap, but arrived too fast and went across the gravel, allowing Nasr to reclaim second on corner exit to clinch the crown for himself and full-season team-mate Pipo Derani in the car they shared with Mike Conway.

It marked the second IMSA Prototype title in four seasons for ex-Formula 1 racer Nasr, who is leaving AXR ahead of a widely-anticipated move to join Porsche ahead of the German manufacturer’s LMDh effort.

“That was intense,” said Nasr, who previously won the title with Eric Curran in 2018.

“I’m at a loss for words. I have to say we’ve worked hard for this moment – the whole team.

“I’m so proud of everyone from Whelen Engineering for putting in a great drive today.

"Winning the race was possible. I got a little unlucky with traffic [when the Mazda passed] and then I saw the #10 car [Taylor] coming. Why does it have to be so hard?

#31 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi, DPi: Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani, Mike Conway

#31 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi, DPi: Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani, Mike Conway

Photo by: Art Fleischmann

"Coming down into the final corner, I saw the #10 make a very late move and I knew he wasn’t going to make the corner. So, I just focused on getting the exit and we got the job done.

"I have so much love and respect for the boys that I work with. This will be my final race here, that gives me a lot of emotions too.

“I want to thank Mike, Pipo and every single member of the team. I want to thank Cadillac as well. They gave us everything we needed to fight for this championship. I’m just so happy.”

Derani, who won the IMSA Prototype title for the first time, added: “I just can’t believe we’re champions. It was such a difficult end to last season and a difficult beginning to this year.

"With a lot of belief in God, and in my family, I rebuilt my trust and here I am a 2021 IMSA champion. It’s just incredible.”

Taylor and his team-mate in the #10 WTR entry, Filipe Albuquerque, narrowly missed out on making it three titles in a row for Acura, although the pair and their endurance co-driver Alexander Rossi did come away with Michelin Endurance Cup honours.

“I mean, we’re racing really hard," reflected Taylor.

"The championship literally came down to the last corner. After last year, I’m happy for those guys [AXR]. They deserve it; they had a great year.

"I hate it for Filipe; he drove such a great stint to pass them. I made a little mistake on my out lap [after the last pitstop].

"I’m really bummed, but Daytona is close. This is a short offseason, and we’re a great team.”

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