The 29-year-old Brazilian, along with co-driver Alexander Sims, sit atop the overall standings, with their Cadillac V-Series.R scoring victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring and two additional podiums [Laguna, Watkins Glen] through eight rounds.
The Action Express Racing duo enter this weekend’s Petit Le Mans with 2,460 points. The gap at the top is narrow, though, as Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque (Wayne Taylor Racing)trail by just three points, with Nicky Tandy and Mathieu Jaminet (Porsche Penske Motorsport) only five behind, and Connor De Phillippi and Nick Yelloly (BMW M Team RLL) still in it at 38 points behind and fourth in the standings.
With this year being the first of the GTP era in IMSA, the learning curve has delivered the added variable of unpredictability and lack of consistency.
Among the four teams, only WTR have failed to find Victory Lane, but like AXR have only two finishes outside the top five. Jaminet and Tandy have two wins this year, including the most recent at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course last month, but three results outside the top five. Lastly, BMW have scored the most podiums among the contenders with four, including a win at The Glen (following a post-race penalty to Jaminet and Tandy, who were originally declared the winners), but have had the most erratic results with their three finishes of eighth or worse.
“Obviously, it has been a crazy season for everyone,” said Derani, the 2021 IMSA DPi [now GTP] class champion. “Quite honestly, it’s inconsistency that has led to every one of us being within five points of each other. I think IMSA, in defense, couldn’t have asked for more in this new era of GTP racing. I think everyone feels like they left a lot on the table at times.
“We won a race that we shouldn’t have won, but we feel like we gave up two or three other possible race wins with mistakes and errors. And I think the other two cars could potentially say the same thing, which is amazing in a way because we know the level of the championship, we know the level of the teams that are involved and manufacturers.”
#31 Whelen Engineering Racing, Cadillac VSeries.R, GTP: Pipo Derani, Alexander Sims
Photo by: Jake Galstad
One of the unique factors is that each of the teams set to do battle are represented by four different manufacturers: Acura, BMW, Cadillac and Porsche.
“For the fans and for everyone involved, the championship itself, to have the four manufacturers fighting for the championship in the first year of GTP, it’s fantastic,” Derani said. “But when you ask me what is it going to take to win? I think having been involved in a championship fight and having been involved in a race win situation at Petit Le Mans, everything can come down to the wire. There’s so many things that can happen during a 10-hour race, especially with those GTP cars, which are very complex and you have to go through 10 hours of racing before you think about a championship. It’s going to be exciting.”
Additionally, with the aid of co-driver Jack Aitken for the extended rounds, Derani and Sims also lead the Michelin Endurance Cup battle going into the 10-hour event.
“There’s also the endurance championship that is happening and we are leading that one as well,” Derani said. “It’s going to be an interesting race for everyone. Obviously, it’s going to be a dog fight at the end because being so close, it only means that you got to be ahead.
“There’s no playing games. There’s no math. There’s nothing. It’s pure and it’s very simple; you got to be ahead. It’s going to be an eye-catcher. I think it’s going to attract many fans because not only we have a fight for the championship, but we have four cars fighting for the championship, and that alone is going to be epic.”