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DERANI: Nürburgring Debrief

Pipo Derani files his latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

A third podium in four races in this year’s WEC is a decent set of results, but I don’t think I’ve ever earned a podium like this one. It was really tough.

It was our first race on the Michelin tires with the Tequila Patrón ESM Ligier JS P2 Nissan and we had very little experience on the rubber heading in to the weekend at Nürburgring.

We took the race as a real learning curve, so to come away with a podium is a great start for myself and my teammates Ryan (Dalziel) and Chris (Cumming).

There is still a lot to do though, and in all honesty we got a little lucky with others problems and the Full Course Yellow situations last Sunday. Still, this is part of the game and we maximized the strategy we had very well, so big kudos to the Tequila Patrón ESM team once again.

Qualifying on Saturday was tough and we lined up seventh in LMP2. The first stint of the race I got stuck behind Filipe (Albuquerque) and one of the SMP cars as well.

As the track evolved and more rubber got laid down it came back our way a bit more. The big positive is that now we have learnt a lot and have a good amount of data to look at before we head to Mexico and COTA.

For some reason I managed to find a lot of pace in the middle of the event after Chris’ stint, and we made some really good progress. Again, we will analyze why and how that happened as it is good information for us to move forward with the Michelin tires.

The Michelin tires are really different to the Dunlop’s we previously raced on. We have to adapt to it, not just the car but also in driving style too.

We had the medium and the hard tires for the Nürburgring weekend and it wasn’t as hot as it was here last year, so maybe the soft’s could have been better, at least in the beginning of the race anyway as it was still quite ‘green’ out there.

The traffic in the race and getting through the GT cars was actually pretty good. The track is fairly narrow at Nürburgring and some sections tight so there is a tendency for the cars to bunch.

I must complement the standards of driving from the GT guys, it was all very clean.

The LMP1 cars take more risks of course and you have to be smart around them. You have to give them space and be intelligent because the quicker they get through, the less time it costs us.

In the mid-section of the race I was able to make that really good progress I mentioned, and we got clear of the SMP car and also overtook the Strakka Gibson.

When I handed over to Ryan we knew we were in the hunt for third place and he was able to hold on at the finish by just half a cars length after some nice defensive driving.

It was a really exciting end to the race and shows how competitive LMP2 is right now.

We are still fourth in the championship standings but have closed on the G-Drive Racing guys. If we can keep pushing on the tire development and continue to be consistent then we can get more podiums in the rest of the season for sure.

After the race I went straight from Nürburgring to Belgium, as this weekend I will make my GT3 debut at the Total 24 Hours of Spa.

I am really excited to drive the Garage 59 McLaren 650S and really happy to have been chosen by McLaren to race alongside Bruno (Senna) and Duncan (Tappy).

I’ll have a short break in August and then it will be to Mexico City. It will be closest I will get to a home race this year so I think it will be a great weekend.

After partnering Ricardo Gonzalez last season I know how much his country means to him so I cannot wait to see the racing passion that the Mexican fans are so famous for.

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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