Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Brazilian on Top in Rolex 24; Driver, 23, Drove Final 2 1/2-Hour Leg to Lead Prototype Ligier to Victory

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Brazilian on Top in Rolex 24; Driver, 23, Drove Final 2 1/2-Hour Leg to Lead Prototype Ligier to Victory

Article excerpt

Byline: Don Coble

DAYTONA BEACH | The Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the first sports car race in the U.S. for Brazilian driver Luis Felipe Derani.

It proved to be a trip he, and sports-car racing history, will never forget.

The 23-year-old driver drove the final leg of his team's victory on the 3.56-mile road course at the Daytona International Speedway, creating a legacy for himself and co-drivers Scott Sharp, Johannes van Overbeek and Ed Brown.

"Those last two-and-a-half hours were really intense," Derani said. "To increase the gap was amazing.

"As a Brazilian kid, I grew up looking at Formula One, but I made my choice to change to endurance racing early in my career. It was a good decision. I expected this. The atmosphere was immense and great."

Despite constant alarms inside the car, the winning Honda-powered Ligier JS P2 maintained its breakneck pace in the final two hours. Since the car never sputtered, the team decided to ignore the warnings and focus on staying a half-mile ahead of a second-place Chevrolet Corvette DP for Ricky Taylor, Jordan Taylor, Max Angelelli and Rubens Barrichello.

"We had a warning for the gear box temperature and the power steering," Derani said. "It might have been a sensor. We could turn it off, but it came back on. I was just asking [the car] to make it to the end and it did."

Derani said he had to re-set the warning system "more than 20 times" during the final stint.

The quicker P2 prototype Ligier closed quickly on the older Daytona Prototype Corvette, and it easily passed for the lead with 1 hour, 44 minutes remaining. Once it got out front, Derani added 100 yards to the margin of victory with every lap.

Angelelli drove so hard trying to make up ground he stopped on track on the cool-down lap and was transported to the hospital with an undisclosed illness. …

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