Pipo Derani’s transition from Action Express Racing rival to teammate took less than 48 hours after the checkered flag waved over Petit Le Mans.
The Brazilian was in the hunt for back-to-back wins in his final race for the Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPi outfit on Saturday, and while he and the team were unable to go out on a high, the new AXR man was given an opportunity to turn the page and sample the No. 31 Cadillac DPi-V.R he’ll share with Felipe Nasr as part of a Michelin tire test held on Monday.
“The first thing is I’m really grateful for the time I’ve had with ESM and everything they’ve done for me is amazing,” he told RACER. “We had a great time together, and now I’ve had a chance to do my first laps in my new home for next year with Action Express. It was just a few laps, but I’m extremely happy to be involved with a group that’s extremely professional to start a new chapter in my career.”
AXR, along with a select number of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship teams, stayed over to provide feedback for the series’ new tire supplier, and while there, Derani got a taste of the DPi model he’s been fighting against since the first round of 2017. The change from Continental to Michelin, however, made Nissan-to-Cadillac comparisons hard to offer.
“The cars are different concepts and it’s difficult to say how one is different from the other with different tires as well,” he added. “It’s always good to learn something new, and as a driver, you are always looking to improve and I think to do that, when you have a chance to experience new cars and mentalities and ways to work, it’s very helpful.”
Coming into the No. 31 entry, which earned the Prototype championship Saturday night, Derani says it’s still hard to believe he’ll have Nasr and Eric Curran as teammates, and the dominant prototype team of the new IMSA era behind him as his career takes another step forward.
“Getting to work with this team, and Felipe and Eric, is going to make me grow as a driver and a person,” he said. “How could you not have a smile? It’s a dream for many drivers to be in the position I am. I’m proud that I get to go from ESM to Action Express, and stepping from [the Cadillac], of course it’s a big smile for me. That’s what I want to have — big smiles with them, all the time.”