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DERANI: Le Mans Debrief

Pipo Derani files his latest Sportscar365 column after Le Mans…

Photo: Drew Gibson/Ford

What a remarkable Le Mans!

Every year we say it can’t get more dramatic or exciting and then it does exactly that. What an event.

Now, a few days on from the race, I still feel quite exhilarated. Especially after the finish where we snatched second place. It was memorable and dramatic and exactly what endurance racing is about – be there at the finish and you never know what can happen, even on the last few corners!

Looking back to qualifying now we can be proud of the work we did at Ford Chip Ganassi Racing. We had an issue in the first session which meant we had to use qualifying to get the set-up we wanted for the race. We ended up starting in ninth position but at Le Mans nobody remembers who was on pole after the race do they?

The team atmosphere and motivation was incredibly high as we went in to the race. I got to meet Edsel Ford II and the legendary A.J. Foyt. Let me tell you, it was something else to listen to A.J. talk about 1967. These are totally unforgettable memories and they provided extra incentive for us as we entered the race.

We made great progress early on as first Andy and then Harry did some exceptional stints. When I got in the No. 67 Ford GT we were up to second place and I was able to hand the car back over to Andy with us right on the tail of the lead Aston Martin, so that was nice from a personal point of view.

But it is all about the team at Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, and we were feeling good about challenging for the win.

Then, as Le Mans so often does, we had to re-group after a small gearbox issue cost us some time. The team and crew did an awesome job getting us back out there and still on the lead lap.

We recovered and we were gaining on the lead Aston and Corvette. Harry did the final stints and we all saw that incredible last lap and what happened.

The team radio was amazing when we realized Taylor was in trouble. I saw that Harry said it was ‘like a movie’ and he was not wrong. Exiting the Porsche Curves he took the Corvette and the atmosphere on the radio and from the cockpit was electric as we sealed the runners-up place.

We also knew it was good for Andy and Harry in the WEC championship standings, so it was a satisfying day as we extracted the maximum from this great car.

The podium was insane! You have to try and slow everything down and take in all the emotion and just what you are seeing up there. It is by far the most incredible experience I have had in racing. It now just makes me want to do it again, but from the top step this time!

When we got back to the Ford hospitality the atmosphere was brilliant. The team stood up and clapped us in, it was very humbling. Really it should be us drivers who clapped the team because the job they did was sensational.

That was my last race for Ford this year, and while this makes me sad, it also leaves me with a feeling of being very grateful of the opportunity I had to race for them. Working with them has been a pleasure and I feel that I contributed as much as I could to the first phase of the WEC season.

To Andy and Harry, I just want to publicly say thank you for being such mega teammates and for your professionalism and support from day one. You are the best and I wish you continued success for the rest of the WEC campaign. I’ll be rooting for you guys all the way.

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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