By: Kobe Lambeth
Last weekend, the annual Roar Before the 24 took place at the historic Daytona International Speedway. Old faces, some in new places, and a few newcomers to the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship. One driver was very impressive in his first trip to Daytona and that driver is Pipo Derani.
I watched Derani race in the FIA World Endurance Championship last season and I was impressed with the speed displayed by “the rookie.” He is definitely going to be a driver to watch for many years to come. Last season, Derani drove for G-Drive Racing in one of their Ligier JS P2-Nissans. It was fantastic to watch a newcomer to a world championship drive just like a veteran. Derani reflected on his rookie season with G-Drive Racing.
“It was amazing to have this opportunity to race in WEC with G-Drive and definitely an opportunity which I will remember for the rest of my career. It was an amazing season working with great people and with a big team spirit which allowed us to achieve great results and eventually finish 3rd in the championship fighting for the world title until the end. It was a great first season in the World Endurance Championship and I’m looking forward to 2016.”
Derani did well in his first season, but I had no idea how he found himself to LMP2 racing on the world stage.
He answered, “I did European Formula 3 in 2013 and also finished 3rd in the Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix in this same year. In 2014, I did 2 races in the European Le Mans Series with Murphy Prototypes in LMP2 which then gave me the opportunity to move on to WEC in 2015.”
What an interesting way to get to the big leagues! He is entering his second year in the FIA World Endurance Championship but with a new team. He will drive for the American squad, Tequila Patrón ESM, which will be taken over by the famous OAK Racing team.
Derani said, “I’m delighted to be racing for such a great team and such a great brand. They have great history in the world of sportscar racing and I am looking forward to continuing that legacy with all the other team members. Hopefully, we can achieve great results together.”
I am so excited to see Pipo Derani join one of my favorite teams in the world championship. He will definitely bring his “A” game as he will contribute to Tequila Patrón ESM’s efforts to obtain the trophy at the end of the season. Luckily, Derani got to work with the team earlier than expected at the Roar Before the 24. He turned a lot of heads in the sportscar community after getting up to speed right out of hauler!
Derani said,”It was a nice learning experience at Roar. I had to learn the track which wasn’t the only new thing to me. I also had to learn the Continental tires and drive the Honda for the first time but as I raced with Ligier in WEC and I already knew the car, it made my life a little bit easier. The objective at this test was obviously to setup the car for the race and for myself to acclimatize with the new team and I think we achieved our objectives.”
Surprisingly, Derani might not compete in the race, which would be a MAJOR disappointment to sportscar racing fans.
“I’m still waiting for the team to confirm if I am doing the race with them and an official announcement so I would prefer not to say anything about it.”
It would be a shame if Derani does not race at Daytona because he was one of the fastest drivers at the Roar! Hopefully, we will get an announcement that the talented racer will “officially” compete for the hard-earned Rolex watches. As I have said before, Pipo Derani is a talented driver and I expect him to have an amazing career. This made me wonder, will he become a factory driver in LMP1? Could he move to IMSA in 2017 with the new Daytona Prototype International (DPi) Regulations?
Derani responded, “Today racing in WEC full time my main objective is to drive for one of those LMP1 manufacturers although the new IMSA rules for 2017 are also very attractive not only for me but for manufacturers as well. The ultimate goal is to become a factory driver either in the US or in the World stage.”
I hope that all of Derani’s dreams come true. He has tremendous upside and is going to be a star for many years to come. Where do you think Pipo Derani’s career is headed sportscar racing fans?
*Special thanks to Fernanda Goncalves for making this interview possible. I also wish Pipo Derani a successful 2016 racing season!*