Gil de Ferran
Gil de Ferran (born November 11, 1967) in Paris, France to Brazilian parents, is a former racing driver. De Ferran was the 2000 and 2001 Champ Car champion and the winner of the 2003 Indianapolis 500.
Inspired by the success of fellow Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi, de Ferran began his career in kart racing in the early 1980s. He graduated to Formula Ford level in 1987 and Formula Three in 1991. De Ferran won the British Formula Three Championship in 1992, scoring seven wins in the process. 1993 and 1994 were spent driving for Paul Stewart Racing in Formula 3000. De Ferran finished fourth in the series in 1993 and third in 1994.
At the end of 1994 de Ferran was invited to test an IndyCar (now Champ Car) by the Jim Hall team. Despite the worries of the team's sponsor Pennzoil that de Ferran was not famous enough name for their car, the team was sufficiently impressed to offer de Ferran a drive for 1995. With no top-line Formula One drive available de Ferran took up the offer to drive in America.
In 1996 de Ferran was a consistent challenger but only scored one win, at Cleveland. This win was the last for veteran car owner and driver Jim Hall who retired from the sport at the end of 1996. Hall's retirement also spelled the end of the Pennzoil Hall team. Despite rumours that he would be a driver for the new Stewart Grand Prix Formula One team, de Ferran stayed in America for 1997, joining the Derrick Walker/Valvoline team.
De Ferran finished 1997 as runner-up to Alex Zanardi with ten top-ten finishes but failed to score a single victory. He looked on course to win the season opener at Homestead but was knocked out of the lead by a lapped driver. At Portland he lost out to Mark Blundell in the closest finish in Champ Car history.
The expected championship challenge never materialised in 1998, unreliability, driver errors and the inferior performance of the Goodyear tires compared to the Firestone tires all combined to leave de Ferran 12th in the standings, again with no wins in the year.
In 1999 the breakthrough finally came as de Ferran beat Juan Pablo Montoya at Portland to take his first win since mid-1996 and the Walker team's first since early-1995. However that victory would be the end of an era as Goodyear and Valvoline both left Champ Car racing at the end of 1999. De Ferran signed for a ride with Penske Racing racing for 2000, partnering highly rated Canadian Greg Moore. When Moore was killed in the last race of 1999, the seat went to fellow Brazilian Hélio Castroneves.
The Penske years saw de Ferran finally fulfil the promise of his earlier career with two Champ Car titles and an Indy 500 victory. His analytical approach earned him comparisons with Penske's first driver, the late Mark Donohue. He also garnered praise for his politeness and integrity: when Penske controversially switched to the Indy Racing League in 2002, he did not criticize the move even though it meant he could not defend his Champcar title. Once in the IRL he also did not deride the rival Champ Car series like Al Unser, Jr. and others who had switched sides had done.
Following his Indianapolis triumph de Ferran decided to retire at the end of 2003. He won his final race, although the moment was soured by a terrifying crash during the race that left fellow Indy winner Kenny Bräck seriously injured.
In 2005, he moved to BAR Honda Formula One as their Sports Director.
Champ Car career results
2 championships, 7 victories
Indy Racing League career results
0 championships, 5 victories
Indianapolis 500 results
|Indianapolis 500 Winners|
Harroun • Dawson • Goux • Thomas • DePalma • Resta • Wilcox • Chevrolet • Murphy • Corum • Boyer • DePaolo • Lockhart • Souders • Keech • Arnold • Schneider • Frame • Cummings • Petillo • Roberts • Davis • Robson • Holland • Parsons • Wallard • Ruttman • Sweikert • Flaherty • Hanks • Bryan • Rathmann • Jones • Clark • Hill • Andretti • Donohue • Sneva • Sullivan • Rahal • Villeneuve • Lazier • Cheever • Brack • Montoya • de Ferran • Rice • Wheldon • Hornish