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AXR’s Brazilian Co-Drivers Return to U.S to Beat Travel Ban

Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani had to react quickly to get back to the U.S before Brazil ban comes into effect…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

Action Express Racing’s Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani have returned to the U.S. and beaten the country’s ban on arrivals from Brazil which begins tonight.

The Brazilian DPi driving duo needed to make sure they were each back in the U.S. by 11:59 p.m. on May 26 to guarantee that they would not be locked out of the country and placed in doubt for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s resumption in July.

U.S. President Donald Trump originally announced that the travel ban would start on May 28, but yesterday it was confirmed that this motion would be brought forward.

Derani flew on Sunday, May 24 having spent most of Brazil’s lockdown at his family’s home near Sao Paulo, while Nasr traveled from his family home in Brasilia on Monday.

Nasr explained that it was a “pretty close call” to arrange the necessary travel once the ban details were announced.

“They were talking about a month ago to cancel flights from Brazil to the U.S,” the 2018 IMSA DPi champion told Sportscar365.

“So I was monitoring, and I was in touch with the team and IMSA itself, which was giving us drivers feedback if we could do something to get back into the U.S.

“When I saw the tension was building up and it came down to this week, I bought my ticket for Monday, and the next day we saw the news [of the ban moving forward].

“I’m glad I’m here. Because my job is here driving for Action Express Racing, I took all my precautions to be here in time.

“At least they can guarantee two drivers that are already in the U.S so that in case the championship goes ahead as is the plan, we are both here and ready to go.”

Derani said that his flight options were limited but he was able to get a seat on a plane out of Sao Paulo on Sunday.

The three-time Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring winner, who has partnered Nasr in the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac DPi-V.R since the start of last year, received an early tip-off from motorsport attorney Dustin Hesseltine that the ban would be coming forward to today.

Both drivers were also in close contact with Action Express Racing team director Gary Nelson, who advised them to travel to the U.S as soon as possible.

“The moment I realized that it could close the door, which was last Thursday, I immediately bought my ticket and flew back to the U.S,” Derani told Sportscar365.

“There were less options because all the airline companies are not flying as frequently as before, but I managed to get the flight on Sunday. There were no flights available on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

“I took the first option back to the U.S and I made it just in time. Unfortunately, all of this is going to cause a lot of problems for a lot of drivers, not only from Brazil but also from Europe.”

The United States’ ban on flights from Brazil was put in place amid the recent growth of COVID-19 cases in South America’s largest country.

Brazil has registered a total of 363,211 coronavirus cases including 15,813 newly reported on May 26, according to the latest World Health Organization data.

Waiting for IMSA Racing to Resume

Both Nasr and Derani are now stationed in Miami and are preparing for the next round of the WeatherTech Championship at Daytona on July 3-4.

The two drivers said that they are planning to get back into their fitness regimes ahead of the 2020 season’s resumption, six months after the opening round took place.

“I think Felipe and I are lucky to have each other as teammates,” said Derani.

“It wouldn’t be very nice for us to miss the races. For the team itself, they put a lot of trust in us and I think we have to give that trust back to them, for whenever they need us.

“For me it’s a normal life now, just hoping that we can resume racing as quickly as possible and making sure I’m prepared for when that happens.”

Nasr added: “I’ve got a place here in Miami and Pipo is doing the same, so we just have to wait and see what is going to pan out in terms of the championship itself.

“I’m glad they have a date and a calendar that we can work on. I really hope we can go forward with that.

“On the other side, there are a lot of foreign drivers that compete in IMSA and I don’t know how the restrictions will affect them, for different countries.

“Luckily, we made ourselves clear and it’s one thing less to worry about.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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