Throughout the year, Continental Tire will focus on celebrating the fans, media, drivers, and teams and their contributions to sports car racing, including a weekly trip down memory lane in Sportscar365’s Continental Tire IMSA Reflections series.
This week, Tequila Patron ESM driver Pipo Derani reflects on his breakout 2016 campaign that included wins in both the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
What are your memories of your first Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2016?
“Daytona 2016 was amazing. I remember arriving there and thinking how blessed I was just to be there and to be sharing the track with giants of the world of sports cars, IndyCar, and Formula 1. It was an awesome weekend all around and we ended up taking a Rolex back home.”
You followed up that win with a win at Sebring. What memories do you have of that race?
“Sebring was really special. You always want to win every race you go to but I was so happy that I had won Daytona, that a podium in Sebring would have made me already really really happy.
“The last time a team had won both races in the same year was in 1998, and the reason why this race was so special to me was because of the way it finished. Coming from fourth on the last restart to winning the race.
“That day people started looking me differently and I am sure it was a career changing moment.”
In both races you were trusted with the final stint and had to race your way to the front. How much did it mean to you to be given that closing role?
“It meant a lot because as I said before I believe those closing stages from both races, especially Sebring, were the ones that changed my career forever.
“In endurance racing as you share the car with other two or three drivers, there are drivers that can win big races even if they are not the best or fastest. If you keep your nose clean sometimes is enough.
“I was truly lucky that the team trusted me in such an important part of the race and blessed that I found myself in a position where it wasn’t only about keeping my nose clean but attacking and taking the car to the front.
“It really was a career and life changing moment.”
How much did those wins, and the trust put in you by ESM, help shape your career?
“ESM means the world to me because they trusted me when I was nobody. They gave me a chance to come and race Daytona 24 when this deal was supposed to be for a very successful IndyCar champion.
“So I am extremely grateful for Scott Sharp and Ed Brown for taking this decision because not only it was life changing in my career around the world but it opened the door to one of the best motorsports in the world.
“Racing in USA and IMSA is something I really enjoy and I hope I can continue to fight for those amazing races for a long time. If it wasn’t for ESM I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today”