DAYTONA BEACH, Fla, (January 31, 2016) – Today at Daytona International Speedway, Tequila Patrón ESM celebrated its first Rolex 24 at Daytona win today in dominating fashion. The team ran expertly for 736 laps during the course of 24 grueling hours to bring the No. 2 Ligier JS P2 Honda home on the top step.
Twenty-two year old Brazilian driver Luís Felipe “Pipo” Derani qualified the car in 2nd, and in the opening lap of the race, took the overall lead in the 54 car field. From there, the car ran issue free, with drivers Derani, Johannes van Overbeek, Scott Sharp and Ed Brown expertly avoiding detrimental contact, maintaining position on the lead lap.
The P2 Honda raced impressively in a field of Daytona Prototypes, showing strength and consistency that would lead to a strong finish. As the hours passed on, and the car casualty count continued to rise, the drivers raced into the night. The No. 2 Tequila Patrón ESM Honda never strayed more than a lap away from the leaders, using caution periods and lap around procedures to get back on the lead lap and overtake the competition. As the sun rose over the track, expert handling in the morning and afternoon by Sharp and van Overbeek kept the car out front.
With just two hours to go, the team put Derani back in the car with 75 seconds to the top position. In just 30 minutes, the young racer not only closed the gap, but took the lead, and extended his own gap over Ricky Taylor in the No. 10 Corvette DP by 6.7 seconds. Tensions were high in the final hour, as the No. 2 pitted for fuel only, rejoining to retain the lead over the No. 10, which had pitted several laps later for tires, fuel and a driver change. As the minutes wound down, Derani maintained and continued to extend the lead over the DP car, winning by an impressive 26.166 seconds.
We had such a struggle last year. Three chassis, going to Europe for our first time, and Asia; We thought we were going to walk in there and win a bunch of races. We didn’t win any. But the team has really come together and I’m so proud of them. The new HPD power plan was just fantastic. We knew at the Roar we really had something. It was the best car I ever drove in my life. The goal was to not screw her up. It was just a thing you keep worrying about. We screwed her up a few times and did some stupid things, but the team just kept bouncing back. The guys did an unbelievable job bringing her home.
For us, as a team with ESM to be so incredibly supported by Tequila Patron for six years, these are the kind of races you want to reward them with. These are the kind of races you want to win. Especially after last year, things were a bit bleak. We had a rough year changing chassis, going to new tracks, just the whole WEC experience. We made a lot of changes post the last race of the year, and to see all that come together so quickly is very rewarding. It’s a great way to start the season, and I’m pretty excited about what this year is going to hold.
It’s unbelievable. I’m speechless. I’m so proud to be affiliated with these guys. I know how hard they work. Scott and Ed have made a lot of changes in the team and it’s paid off. Winning this race, it’s one of the marquee sports car races in the world. To not only win it, but win it overall is amazing.
To win this race is something really tough, and to be able to win this one with Patron and ESM is pretty mega. It all comes together with a great team, great personnel and engineering, and obviously the other drivers. If we weren’t a team, we wouldn’t have achieved this. It’s amazing to be here. At the end of the day, we have to focus all our time at this final moment. We were making sure we never made any mistakes. Keeping it on the track the whole race was really important. The pit stops were fast and the car was really good. I think coming from the Roar we knew we had a great car, but we had to keep working because we knew many of the DPs were going to come quicker for the race, which they did. We just had to keep pushing ourselves.