Rising endurance star Pipo Derani has joined Ford Chip Ganassi Racing for the opening three rounds of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship season, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Derani, 23, made his WEC debut in the LMP2 class in 2015 with G-Drive, before joining Extreme Speed Motorsports last year.
As part of his Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup program, Derani won both the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring to kick off his 2016 in style. However, he failed to pick up any victories for the team in the WEC, finishing the year fourth in the final LMP2 drivers’ championship.
On Thursday, Ford announced that, alongside his NAEC program with Tequila Patron ESM, Derani would be making his debut in the WEC’s GTE Pro category in 2017, racing alongside Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell in the No. 67 Ford GT for the opening three rounds of the season.
“I am delighted and proud to have been chosen to represent such a successful and respected manufacturer like Ford,” Derani said.
“To compete for a team like Ford Chip Ganassi Racing has been one of my aims since starting in racing and to be recognized and selected by them is a big deal for me. I especially want to thank George-Howard Chappell for his trust and belief in order to give me this opportunity.
“The way that the Ford GT has performed in endurance racing over the last 12 months has been exceptional and I am very much looking forward to working with the team to try and bring more success in the FIA World Endurance Championship and to defend the Le Mans LM GTE Pro title.”
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing will field two cars throughout the 2017 WEC season – the No. 66 and No. 67 entries – before adding its No. 68 and No. 69 cars for Le Mans, giving it a full contingent of four Ford GTs with which to defend its class victory from 2016. The lineups again feature Billy Johnson, Sebastien Bourdais and Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais as the extra Le Mans drives in the Nos. 66, 68 and 69 cars, respectively.
“We are really looking forward to getting back to Le Mans with the Ford GT this year,” Chip Ganassi said.
“Although we came home with the win last year, I think we also learned a great deal about that race, the Ford GT and what it takes to compete for the win.
“I feel like we will be even better prepared this time around. In addition, we will also once again take four cars and 12 of the best racing drivers in the world so I can’t wait to get back there and defend our title.”