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Gil de Ferran

11th November 1967 (Age 52)
Paris, Ile-de-France (F)
Most recent race (in database):

Born in Paris to Brazilian parents, Gil de Ferran was karting by 1982 although his university education soon took precedence. Despite that, he graduated to Brazilian Formula Ford 1600 in 1985 and dominated in his third season in the series.

European racing career

That success prompted de Ferran to follow boyhood hero Emerson Fittipaldi and move to England in 1988. Third in both the RAC and Esso British FF1600 Championships a year later with a Fulmar-run Reynard, de Ferran joined Paul Stewart Racing for the 1990 GM-Lotus season.

Third in the Euroseries and runner-up in Britain, he graduated to British Formula 3 in 1991 with Edenbridge Racing’s Reynard 913-Mugen and was third in the standings. A return to PSR for 1992 included seven victories as he dominated the British F3 Championship. He also tested for Williams that year and Arrows the next but that was as close de Ferran would come to becoming a Formula 1 driver.

De Ferran began his Formula 3000 career on the front row at Donington Park and his PSR Reynard 93D-Cosworth won next time out at Silverstone. Also second at the Nürburgring and Spa-Francorchamps, de Ferran had slipped to fifth in the standings by the end of 1993.

His sophomore campaign included victories at Pau and Enna-Pergusa but late-season accidents blunted his challenge. De Ferran still entered the final round with a shot at the title although he eventually finished third overall.

Champ Cars with Jim Hall and Walker Racing

Without a route to F1, de Ferran accepted an offer to race Jim Hall’s Pennzoil Reynard 95I-Mercedes-Benz in the 1995 Champ Car World Series. All-but-unknown in America at the start of the year, de Ferran won the final race at Laguna Seca to clinch the Rookie of the Year award. A dominant victory at Long Beach in 1996 was lost due to a minor technical problem but de Ferran won again at Cleveland.

He moved to Walker Racing for 1997 and finished as runner-up despite not winning a race. The closest he came to victory that year was at Portland when just 0.027 seconds behind Mark Blundell at the finish. He remained with Walker until 1999 (scoring his only victory for the team at Portland that year) before de Ferran accepted the opportunity to join Penske Racing.

Champion and Indy 500 winner for Penske

That proved an inspired move for team and driver alike. De Ferran set a new closed circuit record speed of 241.428mph when qualifying at Fontana and won twice to clinch the 2000 Champ Car title. Just 1.7373 seconds separated de Ferran from victory in the 2001 Indianapolis 500 when beaten by Penske team-mate Hélio Castroneves but he retained the title with a dramatic last-gasp victory at Rockingham Speedway in England among his two victories.

Penske, and therefore de Ferran, switched to the Indy Racing League in 2002 and he was third after crashing at the finale. Victory in the 2003 Indianapolis 500 completed an impressive American open-wheel c.v. before he retired from racing at the end of the year.

Retirement and subsequent career

The urbane de Ferran finally graduated to F1 as Sporting Director of BAR-Honda but he returned to the cockpit himself in the 2008 American Le Mans Series as lead driver for his own, new team. Sharing an Acura ARX-02a with Simon Pagenaud, they won five times during 2009 to finish third in the championship before the Brazilian retired once more.

He was briefly an Indycar entrant with De Ferran Dragon Racing but 2011 plans to run Tony Kanaan were thwarted on the eve of the season when sufficient backing could not be found.  De Ferran returned to F1 in 2018 when appointed sporting director by struggling giants McLaren.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
2011 Australian V8 Supercar Championship 61st 150
2009 American Le Mans Series
De Ferran Motorsports
5 0 5 5 0
2003 IRL IndyCar Series
Marlboro Team Penske
15 1 8 3
20% win rate
2nd 489
2002 Indy Racing League
Marlboro Team Penske
14 4 7 2
15% win rate
3rd 443
2001 Indy Racing Northern Light Series
Marlboro Team Penske
Penske Racing
2 0 1 0
0% win rate
28th 46
2001 FedEx Championship Series
Marlboro Team Penske
20 (1) 5 8 2
10% win rate
1st 199
2000 FedEx Championship Series
Marlboro Team Penske
20 5 7 2
10% win rate
1st 168
1999 FedEx Championship Series
Walker Racing
20 2 4 1
5% win rate
8th 108
1998 FedEx Championship Series
Walker Racing
19 0 2 0
0% win rate
12th 67
1997 PPG CART World Series
Walker Racing
17 2 7 0
0% win rate
2nd 162
1996 PPG Indycar World Series
Hall Racing
16 1 4 1
7% win rate
6th 104
1995 PPG Indycar World Series
Hall Racing
17 1 2 1
6% win rate
14th 56
1994 FIA International F3000 Championship
Paul Stewart Racing
8 1 4 2
25% win rate
3rd 28
1993 FIA International F3000 Championship
Paul Stewart Racing
9 1 3 1
12% win rate
4th 21
1992 British F3 Championship
Paul Stewart Racing
7 3 7 7 1st 102
1991 British F3 Championship
Edenbridge Racing
3 3 3 3 3rd 54