Honda Racing / IZOD IndyCar Series / RacingLine
Gil de Ferran Enters 'Next Career' with B.A.R Honda Team
Gil de Ferran always wanted to be in Formula One and, thanks to his racingsavvy personality, engineering background, smarts and excellent record with Honda's open-wheel programs in America, he's finally made it.
He's not on the track, as he aspired when he began racing go-karts in his native Brazil, but rather trackside and behind the scenes for the B.A.R Honda team.
"What I'm doing now has nothing to do with any sort of unfinished business. This is just a new avenue and a great opportunity," said de Ferran, whose title is Sporting Director for B.A.R Honda. "I've always been fascinated with F-1, watching Emerson [Fittipaldi] and Jackie [Stewart] battle as a kid, and it was no secret I wanted to drive in F-1.
"But my road took me in a different direction and it was just as fulfilling."
Despite his road-racing prowess in the European feeder system, the personable 37-year-old came to CART in 1995 when he got a drive with legendary Jim Hall. After finishing as the championship runner-up with car owner Derrick Walker in 1997, de Ferran landed the plum seat with Roger Penske in 2000.
He captured CART driving championships in 2000 and 2001 with Honda power before Penske took him to the Indy Racing League in 2002. After finishing second that year to teammate Helio Castroneves at Indianapolis, he bested his Penske partner in 2003 and drank the milk in victory lane.
"I had a lot of fullfillment in my driving career and I finished very satisfied," said de Ferran, who retired at the end of 2003. "But what I learned since then was that I missed the competitive side, because I'm a racer at heart.
"I didn't necessarily want to get back to driving, but I missed the competition."
Following a b r e a k t h r o u g h season in 2004 (second in the C o n s t r u c t o r s ' C h a m p i o n s h i p behind Ferrari), B.A.R Honda got off to a tough start in '05, and de Ferran got the call in early April.
"It's the type of role I had in mind when I quit driving," he said. "It answers all my emotional and intellectual needs and it's an amazing opportunity for me to develop my life and my career.
"It's a very exciting time in my life."
Always a favorite of Honda Performance Development's Tom Elliott and Robert Clarke because of his professionalism, de Ferran is working with Jenson Button and Takuma Sato and trying to grasp the ever-changing rules of F-1.
"I've been doing a lot of observing because there are several nuances of this team I don't know about yet, but it's obviously a good team," he said. "Hopefully, my contribution will increase with time and, at the end of the day, a lot of the characteristics and ingredients in racing are common worldwide.
"I'm going to miss my friends in the United States. This is the beginning of my next career."