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DERANI: A New Era Dawns

Pipo Derani files his first Sportscar365 column of the year after joining Action Express Racing…

Photo: Richard Prince/GM

A new era really is dawning for me in my career as I get set to make my debut with Whelen Engineering Racing next weekend at Daytona.

It was really good to be working with the team for the first time at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test a few weeks ago.

In the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R we were able to get straight into it and go through a nice and detailed program at the test.

The basic element of a first major test is to understand fully how a team that you are new to works and communicates. Of course, they do the same with me, so it is very much a natural and mutual thing that happens.

Getting into the operational and technical mindset of each other is paramount because we will be spending so much time together in the coming months that every detail becomes a factor and a possible advantage for us as a collective team.

The good thing was that these processes and synchronizations between us really got off to a positive start and we accomplished a lot of these aims and objectives nicely.

I really couldn’t be any happier joining Whelen Engineering Racing. They are the reigning champions and you can see why as soon as you step inside the team.

With guys like Bob [Johnson], Gary [Nelson], Chris [Mitchum] and Iain [Watt] at the helm, the team has a truly formidable structure. This is evidenced by the success that they have achieved in its racing history

There is a focus and intensity which I like about the team, but there is also a squad full of passionate racers, so they have the best of both worlds really.

Photo: IMSA

Of course there is a certain amount of pressure because the team wants to keep their ‘champion status.’ But this pressure you thrive off, because it’s only positive.

I believe that we are really engaged together with one common goal, which is a great baseline to begin with. In fact, I would go as far to say it’s vital because the direct opposition is so tough in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season again.

My first three days with the No. 31 Cadillac DPi-V.R was great sharing the cockpit with Felipe [Nasr] and Eric [Curran].

These two guys are very easy going, which is a massive bonus because you want to bond with your teammates quickly. At the same time they have great drive and motivation, and as we saw last season super speed and racecraft too.

Felipe is a fellow Brazilian and of a similar age to me, so we have a good connection. I think as a team we are really well balanced between me, Felipe and Eric, so hopefully this will translate in to successes this season.

We accomplished everything we set out to do at the Roar test earlier this month.

Felipe set fifth fastest time, but as ever with these tests, the real story was how we went through a selection of pre-defined programs.

I’m glad to say there were very few issues and we concentrated on a variety of mechanical and setup possibilities for the race, which was positive.

Now, it’s all about details this week, as get set to prepare everything for the big race this weekend.

Photo: IMSA

Generally I think that the WeatherTech Championship is looking really good for another excellent season of close and competitive racing.

When you see the quality of teams and drivers on the entry list, you realize what good health this discipline of racing is in at present.

It will, as always, be great to see the fans that come to the Rolex 24 at Daytona. They will see some unbelievable action and it is always a pleasure to meet those guys and girls before we go in to the race.

It actually doesn’t seem possible that it’s almost three years since the win for me at Daytona.

Those memories will live on forever, but I can tell you that I am burning to make new ones too with Action Express Racing.

I can’t wait to get started and am really looking forward to telling Sportscar365 readers all about our quests throughout 2019.

Photo: Richard Prince/GM

Pipo Derani (@PipoDerani) is the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona winner and two-time Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring winner, driving for Whelen Engineering Racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

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