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DERANI: The Dog Days of Summer

Pipo Derani files his latest column for Sportscar365 after a busy summer of racing…

Photo: MPS Agency

The last time I posted my Sportscar365 column I was talking about a really hectic period that was full of travel and a great variety in the cars I was driving.

Well, guess what? It seemed to have got even more frantic since July, with additional great challenges coming my way. This makes me feel quite blessed to be doing what I love doing and also to get some success along the way which is after all the name of this game.

At the end of July I was over in Belgium for the 24 Hours of Spa with Bentley. I have to be honest and say it was a difficult weekend for us and quite a frustrating one for lots of reasons.

However, on the plus side it was a great chance to get to know Bentley and how they work as one of the most prestigious manufacturers in all of motorsport.

Photo: IMSA

Straight after Spa it was back across the Atlantic for the Road America IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship round.

Road America and Spa on back-to-back weekends was pretty special and to be racing on two of the best drivers circuits in the world was so cool.

The challenges of Road America are incredible as the track has pretty much everything. The surrounding area is actually pretty similar to Spa in a way. Wisconsin is such a beautiful area of the U.S. and it is always a pleasure to race there.

I had won there in 2017 with ESM but this time around it didn’t go our way and the best we could manage was fourth in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R. But we stayed in the hunt for the title and with two rounds remaining there is still a chance for myself and Felipe [Nasr] and we sit just seven points behind Dane Cameron and Juan-Pablo Montoya.

Photo: Pipo Derani

I managed to get a small amount of time to head back to Brazil to see friends and family. We hung out at the beach as we Brazilians like to do of course!

We went out on a boat and generally relaxed and had a nice catch up. This included catching up with my best buddies Simba and Gnocchi our dogs (pictured above).

Simba is a Golden Retriever and Gnocchi is a Frenchie. They are best buddies and go everywhere together and are great fun, so it was nice to see what tricks they were up to as well.

While the second half of August was a big holiday for many in the industry, I was planning ahead and we were holding negotiations and discussions with the Rebellion Racing team about the opening FIA WEC race of Season 8 at Silverstone.

We managed to complete this which was great and then it was a case of training and studying the info from Rebellion about driving an LMP1 car which was something I was obviously really looking forward to.

Photo: Rebellion Racing

At the end of 2016, I tested the Toyota LMP1 Hybrid which was a tremendous experience but obviously it is a completely different deal to race. I flew across to the UK in the last week of August and started to get prepared and get acquainted with the team.

I had driven in a one-off race for Rebellion at the Nürburgring in 2017 when they were racing in LMP2 but actually the team has changed quite a lot with many more ORECA guys in the squad now.

Obviously there was a lot of work to do to get properly acquainted with everything but the good thing was that I knew Nat [Berthon] from my few races at Murphy Prototypes in ELMS back in 2014 so it was nice to catch up.

As you can imagine Loic was the consummate professional and it was a pleasure to work with someone who has tasted title success in WEC and of course at Le Mans too.

There was obviously a lot of talk about the EoT but really we just had to focus on getting comfortable in the car and then working through our programs and plans.

Photo: MPS Agency

We did this and going in to the race it worked pretty well and we had a solid run. A few issues here and there and some penalties but overall coming away with a third place was pretty satisfying especially for me in my LMP1 debut.

What does the future hold in WEC for me? It was a question I was asked a lot last week and honestly it is still a bit up in the air at the moment.

It would be awesome to be back with Rebellion Racing next year, potentially for Spa and Le Mans, but we will just have to wait and see. All I can say is that I showed what is possible last weekend and I’m pretty hungry for more.

Now I am getting prepared for Laguna in a few weeks and getting back in to IMSA mode. It is another great circuit and one that I always relish visiting, so I look forward to telling you all about my adventures there and at Petit Le Mans next month.

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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