When Olivier Pla starts the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship round at Belle Isle he will have raced all four IMSA DPi cars.
First was the Nissan Onroak DPi with Tequila Patron ESM. Then came the Mazda RT-24P followed by the Acura ARX-05. Now the veteran French driver is preparing to take the controls of the No. 31 Cadillac DPi-V.R. with Whelen Engineering and Action Express Racing.
“The opportunity to race for a team like Action Express, it’s a fantastic opportunity for me,” Pla said. “It’s a difficult task to arrive here in a car that is new for you but it’s a learning process for me.”
Pla completed a test at Road Atlanta last week and said that with every lap he completes, he gets more comfortable with the car. The torque that the Cadillac engine produces to propel the car out of the corner was a welcome surprise for him.
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“The engine is fantastic. The torque that the engine produces is unbelievable. It’s really nice and smooth to use so it’s a very good engine for sure,” Pla said. He added that the newfound torque is very useful when navigating traffic and maintaining pace over a stint.
While the car and team may be new to him, Pla is no stranger to his teammate, Pipo Derani. They will not only share the No. 31 Cadillac this weekend but will also fly to France at the conclusion of Saturday’s race to join Romain Dumas in the No. 708 Glickenhaus 007 for the Le Mans test day.
In fact, the working relationship between Derani and Pla dates back to the start of the Ford GTE program in 2016.
“It’s great — we plug in very well together,” Derani said of Pla. “With Olivier, he is plug and play. We like the car to be very similar to each other. It’s very good to work with him because the car goes in the same direction.
“He has proven why he is one of the best endurance drivers out there and so having him on the team, it’s great for us to learn and improve and hopefully get a win this year,” Derani said.
Despite haven driven all four DPi machines, Pla has never completed a full IMSA season. In 2021, he came within one race of doing so but was dropped by Meyer Shank Racing before Petit Le Mans.
Pla is not dwelling on last year’s shortcomings, saying that “last year was last year” and that this program with Whelen Engineering and Action Express is a new opportunity to show what he can do.
“I’m really happy to be here and to race for these guys. They are fantastic and I’ve been working with the team really well,” Pla said. “I’m looking forward and I want to do the best that I can.”