Photo courtesy of IMSA

Pipo Derani confirmed for Patron ESM return in 2018

Leave a comment

Ending any speculation he might have been on other prototype team’s shopping lists, Tequila Patron ESM announced Tuesday that Brazilian star Pipo Derani will be in one of the team’s Nissan Onroak DPi cars next season. He’s the first of four full-season drivers confirmed; the team’s current contract with Nissan NISMO is set to continue through 2018, as a partnership between Tequila Patrón ESM, Nissan NISMO, and Onroak Automotive.

Derani has had a hodgepodge 2017 season where instead of being in one full-time role, he’s been in multiple seats.

He’s driven a handful of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races with Patron ESM in both its Nos. 2 and 22 cars – breaking through to win co-driving with Johannes van Overbeek a little over a week ago at Road America in the No. 22 car. He also ran the opening three races of the FIA World Endurance Championship in one of the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs in the GTE-Pro class, and then did the 6 Hours of Nürburgring with Rebellion Racing in a fill-in role in LMP2. He also made his first Verizon IndyCar Series test with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in March at Sebring.

This solidifies him with the team where he’s made his name on the international sports car scene, having delivered two back-to-back wins at Daytona and Sebring to kick off the 2016 season that established him as a star on the rise.

“I am really happy to confirm I will continue to race for Tequila Patrón ESM next season in what I am sure it will be a super competitive IMSA WeatherTech championship,” Derani said in a release. “All of us at Tequila Patron ESM share a big desire to win and this team spirit is the fuel we need to continue to perform at the highest level possible at every track we go.

“I would like to thank Scott and Ed for their trust, and the entire team for their tireless job this year in order to bring our Nissan DPi to victory lane after a difficult start to our season. I am sure this is just the beginning and I can’t wait for 2018!”

“We are super excited to announce that Pipo will be back for a third year with Tequila Patrón ESM next season,” added team owner Scott Sharp. “On and off the track, Pipo has been exemplary and become part of the ESM family as he shows his talent again and again! We are working hard on all fronts for our 2018 program and Pipo will spearhead that attack!”

Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

Getty Images
Leave a comment

There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.