Gil de Ferran Returns to Indycars

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, February 16 2010
Gil de Ferran is back in Indycars.

Gil de Ferran is back in Indycars.

Gil de Ferran, one the IndyCar Series’ most popular and successful drivers, will return to the sport this year as a co-owner of the Luczo-Dragon Racing team.

He will merge his de Ferran Motorsports team, which has competed the last two season in the American Le Mans Series, with the Luczo team, which has been competing in IndyCar since 2007 but in a full-time capacity in 2008 only. Its driver last year was Rafael Matos.

The Luczo team has been co-owned by Steve Luczo and Jay Penske, who is the youngest son of Roger Penske.

The new, merged team will be known as Luczo Dragon Racing/de Ferran Motorsports.

De Ferran will serve as co-owner, president and managing Partner.

“We have been talking to Gil about this for some time and we felt this was the perfect opportunity to combine our resources,” Luczo said. “Gil has the experience of working with major manufacturers and leading racing teams all over the world and we feel we can bring the essential business acumen and managerial expertise to the operation. Our skills are highly complementary and we all have the same vision and ambitions. We’re very excited about the direction of our team.”

De Ferran served as a driver in the CART and IndyCar series for , among others, Penske Racing, which is owned by Roger Penske.

He won the 2003 Indianapolis 500 and twice won Indycar Series championships.

De Ferran also drove part time in his team’s car in the American Le Mans Series, but announced his retirement from driving last season.

Asked during a teleconference Tuesday afternoon if he might end that retirement and drive an Indycar for the team he now co-owns, he said, no.

Not even, he said, just as a one-off at the 500.

“The two tasks (owner and driver) are too difficult to do at the same time,” de Ferran said.

The new team’s plan for 2010 is much the same as it was for 2009. It will be a one-car operation and its one driver will be Matos.

The co-owners were asked if they had any interest in top American driver Graham Rahal, who has thus far been able to land a job for 2010. They said they have their eye on Rahal, who drove for the Newman/Haas/Lanigan team since 2007, but reiterated that they will remain a one-car team for the time being.

“I think right now, that’s the plan,” Jay Penske said, “to run Raf at all the events this year with the possibility of adding other cars in the future is certainly a goal of ours. But right now, we are focused on every race, doing incrementally a better job at all the tracks Raf raced last year and the new tracks added this year.”

The goal for all teams in IndyCar right now is to become competitive with the series big two of Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi.

Both those are two-team operations.

Jay Penske was asked if he thought the his team, being a one-car operation, could challenge the big two.

“I think it’s a very good point,” he said. “Clearly the amount of data that you have by running two cars and more importantly the investment of R & D split across two cars makes a lot of sense. I think as we look to build a team, I think it’s a direction we’re trying to grow into. At the same time we proved last year winning the Rookie of the Year (with Matos) with a single‑car effort, it’s possible to have success, and we look to build upon it.

“At the same time there’s a lot of other things that go into this in terms of having someone like Gil here to provide additional communication and understanding what’s happening with the car I think will be a huge benefit to Rafa, so we hope to have a few of those gains even from the partnership here with Gil. But it is a challenge, and I think it’s something that we look forward to this year.”

De Ferran brings more than just driving experience to the merged team. In addition to his ALMS operation, he also has worked in management in Formula One with the Honda team.

Nicknamed “The Professor”, de Ferran also is widely known as a student of racing. He was asked if he felt he could take what he saw and osmosed at Team Penske and put it to use with his new team.

“Well, it’s that old debate of nature or nurture, isn’t it?” de Ferran, who won in his final IndyCar race while with Team Penske, said. “Look, I’m a professional within motorsports, you know, and what I know, I suppose, is a collection of all of my experiences ever since I was racing go‑karts in Brazil and working with my dad, who is by the way also an engineer.

“I think throughout my career I have been extremely fortunate to have driven and worked with some incredible people, you know, and to name a few, Jackie Stewart and Jim Hall and Roger Penske. And those experiences, they tend to form you and mature you. Certainly the experience I had at Team Penske will stay with me forever.

“I have a ton of respect for Team Penske. I have been in Europe, I’ve driven in Europe, I have worked at teams in Europe, and I can tell you that they have one of the best operations that I have ever seen. It’s an experience that was a big part of my formation, shall I say, and I’m sure in one way or another you probably see some cracks of it showing up here and there. I guess we have another Penske in the team, too, so he’s likely to influence the direction in that way, also.”

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, February 16 2010
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