Luis Felipe Derani admits racing for the Ferrari GTE Pro team in the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans is a dream coming true, with the Brazilian set to make his fourth start at the Circuit de la Sarthe this weekend.
Derani shares the #52 AF Corse Ferrari with Toni Vilander and Antonio Giovinazzi, and he said it was almost impossible to turn down the opportunity to race with Ferrari, particularly as his father, who sadly passed away earlier this year, was a big enthusiast of the Italian brand.
“It’s been a dream of mine to race for Ferrari since I was a little kid, and last year at Le Mans every time I was around a Ferrari it was special,” said Derani to Motorsport.com. “When we’re talking about this amazing brand with this history, and when the opportunity came with the third car to join Toni and Antonio, it was nearly impossible to refuse.
“Like I said, it was a dream of mine, and my Dad was a big enthusiast of the brand. He would be really proud to be here if he had the chance.”
Initially Derani had ambitions of following his countrymen Felipe Massa and Rubens Barrichello into Formula 1 but his career soon switched to sportscars, and it is pleasing for him to be able to represent the Prancing Horse brand at Le Mans.
“When I was about 10 years old, it was the time Felipe Massa joined Ferrari, and when you’re young you don’t know much about endurance racing,” said Derani. “If you have a dream of becoming a racing driver, it’s F1. As a young kid, you see guys like Felipe and think ‘I want to be there’.
“Obviously that didn’t materialise, but to be here today, driving for the brand in a race that’s one of the most important in the world, it’s something I’m really happy about.”
Derani set the #52’s best time during Qualifying, although his time was only good enough for fifteenth in class, but Derani says the field in the GTE Pro class is full of stars, and they will be doing everything they can to bring AF Corse victory in the twice-around-the-clock race.
“I think as you see by the numbers, we have 17 GTE Pro cars, all of which are driven by professional drivers, so just by looking at that you see how strong the field is,” said Derani.
“It won’t be an easy race but it’s one I’m really looking forward to. Myself, Toni and Antonio have gelled really well together, and this is important for a good result.
“I hope we can deliver what Ferrari deserves in terms of results, because they are bringing a third car not just to make up the numbers, it’s a third car to try and win.”