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DERANI: From a Daydream to Reality

Pipo Derani files his final Sportscar365 column of the IMSA season after a big win at Motul Petit Le Mans…

Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA

I’m pretty sure that I am not alone in racing drivers sometimes day-dreaming about what it’s like to cross the finish line, see the checkered flag and celebrate a major win in a big endurance race.

I am so lucky to now say that I can re-live that experience after Petit Le Mans earlier this month.

In addition to my three Twelve Hours of Sebring victories I can tell you that it is one majorly sweet feeling and knowing that I can now re-live it, rather than day-dream about it, makes me feel pretty happy and satisfied.

The fact that myself and my teammates Felipe [Nasr] and Eric [Curran] managed to get the Petit Le Mans win tells you everything you need to know about what is truly important in this game – team work.

Our Action Express crew provided an excellent car again, and in the Whelen Engineering-run No. 31 Cadillac DPi-V.R, we had the means to challenge all race long, leading a lot of it and then pouncing when an opportunity to win the race came along.

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

As usual the setup was spot on from the very first laps of practice and we had a really good feeling throughout the running and right up to the race which we started from pole.

We thought we were invincible, but in racing and especially in a ten-hour race like Petit, that soon comes back to bite you a little. Sure enough it did and we got shuffled down the order and had to fight back.

Yes, we had some luck on our side, but we found ourselves in the position of having a chance to challenge and when Filipe [Albuquerque] had his problem I was able to get in front.

The pressure was huge and I can tell you that in the cockpit of the car, it was maximum concentration all the way.

Things got really tight in the final few laps and there were some tough decision to be made in traffic but when it came down to it I was not going to lose this race.

I had been close in 2017 and 2018 and this time there was no way I was not going to win that race.

Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA

The feeling of joy and relief in crossing the line was immense. The scenes of celebration were wild and I think we were justified because it was the perfect way to end a season in which we were always there even when the outright pace meant we couldn’t get wins.

This was borne out in the championship positions as we took the runners-up spot by just five points.

But we also held on to the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup trophy which was highly satisfying for the team and I think really deserved for all their hard work.

We were able to celebrate a bit that night but after such a big push and a long season with a tough event like Petit Le Mans there were no wild parties or anything.

Still, there will be a good length of time to enjoy this win. We now have a few weeks of holiday and re-grouping to go gain in 2020.

Daytona isn’t really that far away. Racing is now a 12-month, 365-day business almost. So we are already looking forward to next season at Action Express.

We are already motivated to go for more wins and another push for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship title.

More than anything though I need to thank all the great people at Action Express, Whelen, my manager Philippe Dumas and my family, especially my wife Marina who is so supportive and such a great strength.

We are all a big team together in a way, so this win is as much for them as it is for me.

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

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

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