Derani drives Ligier P2 to Rolex 24 win, as NASCAR stars are sidelined

By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Appropriately enough, after 24 hours of seemingly non-stop action, the fastest car still running was the overall winner of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Luis Felipe “Pipo” Derani, a baby-faced 22-year old racing prodigy from Brazil, took the checkered flag on Sunday afternoon in the No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Honda-powered Ligier JS P2, 26.166 seconds ahead of 2005 overall winner Max Angelleli in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP.

Derani brought home victory for teammates Scott Sharp, a Rolex 24 winner in 1996 (partnered, coincidentally, with Wayne Taylor), Ed Brown and Johannes van Overbeek.

Derani, who also gave Honda its first win in the season-opening event in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, is the fourth youngest overall winner of the race.

“The last two-and-a-half hours were pretty tough, pretty intense, with the Taylor brothers (Ricky and Jordan in the No. 10) pushing us really hard,” Derani said. “So to not make any mistakes and increase the gap up to the end was amazing.”

In the factory-backed GT Le Mans Class, Oliver Gavin held off Corvette Racing teammate Antonio Garcia in a side-by-side battle at the stripe to win the classification by .034 seconds in the No. 4 Corvette C7.R.

With two laps left, Garcia passed Gavin to the outside in the tri-oval, but with a deft crossover move, Gavin retook the top spot as the cars entered Turn 1.

“To race against Antonio is a pleasure,” Gavin said. “He’s an amazing teammate, and I knew I was going to have my work cut out to beat him.”

In GT Daytona, Magnus Racing’s Rene Rast nursed his No. 44 Audi R8 LMS GT3 to the finish line to hold off Nicky Catsburg in the No. 540 Porsche GT3 R by 3.048 seconds.

Rast’s co-drivers were John Potter, Marco Seefried and 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunoco rookie of the year Andy Lally, who picked up his fifth class win (and fourth in a GT car) in the Rolex 24.

In a gut-wrenching late-race decision by the team, Rast let the No. 28 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 driven by Fabio Babini pass him with eight minutes left, calculating the Lamborghini wouldn’t be able to finish the race on fuel. The gamble paid off.

But the Audi was short on fuel, too. Rast ran out of gas on the backstretch after taking the checkered flag.

“This means my little sister gets a watch,” said Lally, who has won a total of eight Rolexes (and given six of the previous seven away) with his five class wins and three series titles. “This was teamwork. This was amazing. …

“We were the little engine that could today. We probably had the slowest top speeds of everybody, but we had a really good-handling car, and we had superstars that were driving this thing who were my teammates.”

Chris Miller, Stephen Simpson, Misha Goikhberg and Kenton Koch drove the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Chevrolet-powered ORECA FLM 09 to a convincing four-lap victory in the Prototype Challenge class.

Finishing third in PC, nine laps down was the pole-winning No. 20 BAR1 Motorsports team that included full-time NASCAR driver Brendan Gaughan.

The No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2 was the equal of the overall race winner, if not better, but engine failure in the eighth hour sidelined the entry piloted by NASCAR driver AJ Allmendinger, Oswaldo Negri, John Pew and Olivier Pla.

In fact, soon after Allmendinger turned over the car to Negri as the clock approached midnight on Saturday, the car expired while leading.

The defending overall champion No. 02 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Prototype raced by NASCAR drivers Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson and IndyCar stars Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan suffered brake problems while running second and lost five laps in the eighth hour.

But the coup de grace to the team’s hopes for back-to-back wins came with 2 hours 50 minutes left, when Larson went off course in the West Hairpin and slammed nose-first into the tire barrier.

Again, brakes were the culprit.

“The four laps previous we started getting brake issues again,” Larson said afterwards. “They said it looked like I had just lost all my rear brake, but it was locking my fronts up pretty easy, so I started braking really early. …

“It didn’t slow down enough to make the corner, and I drilled the barrier. We didn’t have a shot to win anyway, but it does suck that we tore up a race car, and I’m disappointed.”

The car left the track on a roll-back (though it did return after repairs), but Larson was unhurt in the crash. Now he can turn his attention to his full-time job, competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in the No. 42 Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

“I’m going toward the tire barriers really fast, and you’re just like, ‘I’ve never hit anything like that,’” Larson said. “So I was just kind of hoping it was going to be soft. It was pretty soft. I don’t even remember anything hurting at all or whiplash or nothing.

“I’m glad I’m going to be here in two weeks in a stock car.”

Note: As soon as the race was over, Angelelli was taken to a local hospital for observation and evaluation. Specific information about his condition was not available, other than that Angelelli was “conscious and stable.”


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