Pipo Derani heads to Le Mans with Ferrari

June 6, 2018

Pipo Derani heads to Le Mans with Ferrari

June 6, 2018

One of the intriguing entries as part of this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans GTE-Pro class grid is AF Corse’s third Ferrari 488 GTE EVO.

Toni Vilander, Pipo Derani and Antonio Giovinazzi will be in the team’s bright red No. 52 Ferrari. This is the only car of 17 in the class that isn’t a full-season entry in either the FIA World Endurance Championship or IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Ferrari has decided to run a third car to help its win chances.

It’s a unique driver lineup, too. Most cars opt to run their full-season lineups at Le Mans. This car brings together a Ferrari GT veteran and two-time Le Mans class winner in Vilander, a young, fast Brazilian in Derani who will make his fourth Le Mans start and an up-and-coming Ferrari junior driver in Giovinazzi who will make his Le Mans debut.

In Derani’s case, he’s the only full-season IMSA driver as a part of this lineup. He races for the Patron ESM Nissan team in the Prototype class, and was part of the winning overall car at this year’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. He also won the pole at Detroit last weekend.

Now, he’ll embark on his fourth Le Mans race, and second in the GTE-Pro class. He finished second last year co-driving the No. 67 Ford GT with Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx. His first two starts came in 2015 and 2016, in the LMP2 class.

“Ferrari has been a dream of mine since I was a little kid,” Derani says. “Obviously being from Brazil, Ferrari Formula 1 was the first dream. Driving a Ferrari for one of the biggest races in the world is something I looked up to as a kid.

“My dad was passionate about the brand as well. He raced a Ferrari. It’s very special for me to be involved with such a prestigious manufacturer in the biggest endurance race in the world.”

Derani has had a couple tests with AF Corse and Ferrari since the announcement. They’ve run at Monza and just this week completed the Le Mans Test Day. They were 12th in the GTE-Pro class at the Test Day. However at only 1.7 seconds off the class leaders, this is not that far off with such a long track length.

He expects to soak up a lot of knowledge about the race and about Ferrari’s GT program from Vilander. And he has a relationship with Giovinazzi from when the Italian made a brief entry into the FIA WEC in 2016, with the Patron ESM team.

“It should be a very nice lineup because we’re glueing together quite nicely. New car, new lineup, new engineer, new mechanics,” he said. “Toni has been with Ferrari for over 10 years. He brings so much, especially for me as this is my first time in the new car, and Antonio’s first time in Le Mans.”

Derani races for overall victories in IMSA in the Prototype class. At Le Mans, he welcomes the opportunity to race in the manufacturer hotbed that is the GTE-Pro class.

“It’s not going to be easy. There’s 17 Pro cars, and all of them have a lot of Pro drivers that do this for a living! Once again GTE-Pro is the most difficult category at Le Mans. So I’m really looking forward to being there with Ferrari.”

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