Pipo Derani’s standout performance to lead the Tequila Patron Extreme Speed Motorsports to its first-ever Rolex 24 Hours victory at Daytona has been hailed by team boss and co-driver Scott Sharp as “a heck of a job”.
Derani, who won America’s most prestigious sportscar race at his first attempt, said the closing laps were nailbiting due to a gearbox temperature alarm going off in his cockpit – as well as pressure from the chasing Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette Daytona Prototype.
“It was a tough one, a pretty intense one with the Taylor brothers pushing us really hard,” said Derani, 22. “To close the victory, to not make any mistakes and increase the gap until the end was amazing.
“This is my first sportscar race in America and Daytona 24 Hours. We had an alarm of the gearbox temperature and powersteering, which was a little bit scary. Maybe it was just a sensor, my engineer kept me relaxed, but it was a bit scary for the last 30 minutes.
“It came on many times, we can turn it off, but it will keep coming on. More than 20 times, I’d say.”
Who is Pipo Derani?
After a successful career in karts in South America, Derani made a name for himself on the European single-seater scene, enjoying success in Formula Renault 2-litre series and in British Formula 3.
He took two race wins in the 2012 British F3 Championship with Fortec, before scoring a fine podium position at the 2013 Macau Grand Prix.
For 2014 Derani switched to endurance racing, making his debut at the Paul Ricard ELMS race where he sensationally led after starting from pole position in a Murphy-run ORECA 03.
Last year was his first full season in the FIA WEC, where he took LMP2 pole on his debut and then went on to score six podium positions and finish third in the standings with the G-Drive Racing team.
For 2016 Derani continues to race in the FIA WEC with the ESM team. He also continues as a development driver for the Onroak Automotive company, which designs and builds the Ligier LMP cars.
“As a Brazilian kid, I grew up looking to F1,” he said. “I made my choice to change to endurance racing early in my career, and I couldn’t have made a better decision.
"The atmosphere here this weekend was immense, and to make it to Victory Lane is amazing.”
Sharp delighted with new star
Former IndyCar racer Sharp, who co-owns the ESM outfit with his teammate Ed Brown, was full of praise for Derani after the victory.
“We all knew the DPs would come on strong in the race,” said Sharp. “Pipo did a heck of a job in the beginning, but they showed they could lap pretty close to us. He couldn’t shake them at the end. It was rewarding to beat them.
“Continuity is very important to us at ESM, Ed and I are best friends and Johannes [van Overbeek] has been here all along.
“We’re going to take care of Pipo week-in, week-out, just like we did with Ryan Dalziel.”