CLEARWATER, Fla. — Brazilian racer Luis Felipe “Pipo” Derani will drive for Team Pelfrey in the 2014 Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires.
Derani, 20, who hails originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil, began his racing career in karts, winning the prestigious Paulista Junior championship in 2005. He made the switch to cars in 2009, and since then has been based in Europe, competing firstly in Formula Renault before graduating into Formula 3.
He won twice in the Cooper Tires British F3 Championship in 2012 before graduating into the top–level FIA European F3 Championship this season. Again he finished eighth, highlighted by a trio of podium finishes. Now, with an eye on his long-term future, he has decided to switch his attention to North America.
“I’m looking and designing my career for 20 years from now,” said Derani, who plans to move up the Mazda Road to Indy via Pro Mazda and Indy Lights, and hopes to compete in the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500 in 2016. “Even if I had gone to GP2 or World Series it would have been difficult to ensure that even if everything went well I would be on the F-1 grid. It could be a long time and I still might not find a seat.”
Derani, who finished a strong third in last weekend’s prestigious Macau Grand Prix, enjoyed a promising Indy Lights test in September with Sam Schmidt Motorsports and found a new mentor in American investor Alan Lewis, who was instrumental in making the decision to move into the Pro Mazda Championship.
“The level of professionalism and intensity that he showed with the team and the engineers prior to getting in the car exceeded my expectations,” said Lewis. “After a few laps in the car it was clear that he was a fast learner, good communicator and very fast. On the second day of testing, with a fresh set of tires, Pipo lit up the track and broke the track record (for an Indy Lights car) by .3 seconds. I knew at that point I needed to help him find his way onto the Mazda Road to Indy ladder. Pipo has a bright future ahead of him.”