Gil de Ferran (born November 11, 1967 in Paris, France, to Brazilian parents), is a professional racing driver and team owner. De Ferran was the 2000 and 2001 Champ Car champion driving for the Penske Honda Team 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. Driving for Edenbridge Racing, De Ferran finished the 1991 British Formula Three season in third, only behind Rubens Barrichello and David Coulthard. For the 1992 season, De Ferran moved to Paul Stewart Racing and won the title, scoring seven wins in the process.
1993 and 1994 were spent driving for Paul Stewart Racing in International Formula 3000. De Ferran finished fourth in the series in 1993 and then took the championship down to the wire in 1994, ultimately finishing third. In 1993, De Ferran tested for a day the Footwork Arrows Formula One team along with Dutch racer Jos Verstappen. His day was seriously compromised after he bumped his head while walking nearby the motorhome and also due to Verstappen's impressive test times.
At the end of 1994, de Ferran was invited to test a Champ Car by Hall/VDS Racing. 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.
De Ferran won the rookie of the year award in 1995 by finishing 14th. He scored his first Champ Car win in the last race of the year at Laguna Seca.
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 Walker Racing.
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, Dennis Vitolo. At the Grand Prix of Portland he lost out to PacWest Racing's Mark Blundell in the closest finish in Champ Car history.
The expected championship challenge never materialized 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. Toward the end of that season, de Ferran and Greg Moore were signed to Marlboro Team Penske to replace Al Unser, Jr. and the rotating arrangement of drivers employed after Andre Ribeiro retired. However, Moore was killed in a crash in the season finale and de Ferran's fellow countryman Helio Castroneves joined him.
On October 28, 2000, during CART qualifying at Auto Club Speedway, de Ferran set the track record for fastest lap at 241.426 mph (388.537 km/h). As of March 2012, this stands as the fastest lap speed ever recorded at an official race meeting.
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, Mark Donohue. He also garnered praise for his politeness and integrity: when Penske switched to the Indy Racing League in 2002, he did not criticize the move even though it meant he could not defend his Champ Car title.
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 the BAR-Honda Formula One team as their Sports Director. He resigned from this position in July 2007 after becoming "increasingly uncomfortable" with the team.
On January 29, 2008 de Ferran announced that he will return to the cockpit and field a factory-backed LMP2 class Acura ARX-01b prototype in the American Le Mans Series. The team began competing around the mid-way point of the 2008 season, with De Ferran running the team and sharing driving duties with Simon Pagenaud.
Success again was immediate and de Ferran Motorsports took four front row grid positions, led six races and scored three podium finishes in just eight starts.
2009 saw another challenge when de Ferran Motorsports was chosen by Honda to develop the Acura ARX-02a for competition in the LMP1 division of the American Le Mans Series. The team scored five outright wins, seven poles, seven fastest laps and finished runners up in the ALMS LMP1 Championship.
Half way through 2009 de Ferran announced his decision to retire from the cockpit at the end of the racing season, expressing his intention to concentrate all his resources on expanding his team, making public his desire to return to IndyCar racing as a front running team owner. Prior to the start of the 2010 IZOD IndyCar season, Gil merged de Ferran Motorsports with Luczo Dragon Racing, a team started by Jay Penske, the son of Gil’s former boss Roger Penske, and Steve Luczo, a successful technology leader and racing enthusiast. The new team was named de Ferran Dragon Racing and is the realization of Gil’s ambition to return to IndyCar racing as well as the beginning of another exciting chapter in the de Ferran success story.
De Ferran Dragon Racing, with driver Raphael Matos, earned four Top Ten finishes in its debut campaign and led 15 laps during the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
In 2010, IndyCar also began planning for a completely new car concept, to debut during the 2012 season. Due to his technical knowledge, motorsports experience across different series and roles, as well as the widespread respect he holds within the racing industry, de Ferran was chosen by his team owner peers to represent their interests in the development of the future IndyCar. As part of the prestigious ICONIC committee, Gil was instrumental in creating the innovative concept for the future of IndyCar Racing.
In 2011 Deferran Dragon racing closed its doors due to lack of funding, having attempted to stay operational for the new season - however this has allowed this versatile racing personality to further utilize his creative technical thinking and broad motorsports experience to pursue new projects in the industry.
De Ferran currently lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with his English wife Angela and children Anna (born 1995) and Luke (born 1997).
... Year Entrant Class Chassis Engine Tyres 11 ... Rank Points 2008 de Ferran Motorsports LMP2 Acura ARX-01b Acura 3.4L V8 M SEB STP LNB UTA LIM MID AME MOS DET PET MON 9th 2009 ... de Ferran Motorsports LMP1 Acura ARX-02a Acura 4.0L V8 M SEB STP LNB UTA LIM MID AME MOS PET MON 2nd 162. ...
... and tricky chicane) Unser tangled with rookie Gil de Ferran in a battle for 7th ... Unser continued but de Ferran, who was on the outside, was flung into the air after wheel contact and struck the barrier ... De Ferran's team managed to prepare the backup car for the second start ...
1 Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami Presented by Toyota Gil de Ferran Juan Pablo Montoya Max Papis Team Rahal Report 2 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Gil de Ferran Gil ... Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco Hélio Castroneves Kenny Bräck Gil de Ferran Team Penske Report 9 The Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar Roberto Moreno Juan Pablo Montoya Roberto Moreno Patrick Racing ...
... Greg Moore Forsythe Racing Report 2 Firestone Firehawk 500K Twin Ring Motegi Motegi, Japan April 9 Gil de Ferran Hélio Castroneves Adrián Fernández Patrick Racing ... Portland, Oregon June 20 Juan Pablo Montoya Michael Andretti Gil de Ferran Walker Racing Report 9 Medic Drug Grand Prix of Cleveland Cleveland Burke ...
... Pekka Herva 4 Brands Hatch 28 April Rickard Rydell Gil de Ferran David Coulthard Paul Stewart Racing Pekka Herva 19 ... May Gil de Ferran Gil de Ferran Gil de Ferran Edenbridge Racing Rob Mears 6 Thruxton 27 May ...