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Pipo Derani files his latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: Drew Gibson/ESM

Photo: Drew Gibson/ESM

Last weekend in Austin was one of the toughest I have ever had in racing. The conditions were incredible with temperatures around the 100-degree mark. It was right on the limit of what was safe to be honest but of course it is the same for everyone and you just have to get on with it.

Just getting through stints was hard. The heat soak from the cars was incredible. Even as a Brazilian and being used to warm temperatures it was an ordeal getting through the race.

There was also another issue for us at COTA and that was that we just didn’t have the grip from the tires. We knew it would be hard there and even though we learned a lot about the Michelins at Nurburgring and Mexico, there was no way we could race the top guys, we just didn’t have the pace.

So, we had to do our upmost to make sure we were in the best possible position.

After qualifying we knew we were effectively nowhere and just had to do the best we could. Chris had a spin and then at the end Ryan had a battle with the SMP car but on the tires he had there was no way he could defend.

Actually, for us to actually finish in fifth position was a fine achievement in the circumstances. The team must take great credit for this. To get a decent points scoring position after being so far away from the pace says a lot about what a great team we have at Tequila Patrón ESM.

For Fuji we are just praying that the temperature will be low because this is only the real chance we will have to compete against the top runners on Dunlops. Rain too would be a great leveler and something we would appreciate.

The changes that have been made public this week concerning the No. 30 car are interesting.

On the one hand it is a shame we will not see Ed (Brown), Johannes (van Overbeek) and Scott (Sharp) in a car, but on the positive side it is nice to see new blood coming in with some guys that, like me, have come from single-seaters and want to make a name for themselves.

For us in the No. 30 car it doesn’t change too much. We will be targeting another podium after already achieving four this season.

Fuji itself is unique with such a long straight and a very technical rest of the lap. Like all the drivers I love racing in Japan and seeing the passion of the Japanese fans. I just hope we can give them a good show next month.

For me personally, I am driving just as well, if not better than I was at start of the season when we won Daytona and Sebring.

The difference now is that we are not right at the very front after the tyre change post Le Mans.

What I am determined to do though is to keep fighting and to ensure I can finish the season strongly and continue to keep on target for my aim of getting an LMP1 test in the future. That is the goal and I am intent on seeing it through. After all, in adversity you find more inner strength.

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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