Gil de Ferran
De Ferran was the 2000 and 2001 Champ Car champion and the winner of the 2003 Indianapolis 500.
Gil de Ferran was born in Paris, France to Brazilian parents who moved to Sao Paulo with him when he was 9 months old. De Ferran was the 2000 and 2001 Champ Car champion and the winner of the 2003 Indianapolis 500.
de Ferran began racing in karts in the early 1980s and graduated to Formula Ford in 1987. In 1991 he stepped up to Formula Three and won the British Formula Three Championship the following year.
He joined Paul Stewart Racing in 1993 and spent the next two years in Formula 3000, finishing fourth in the series in 1993 and third in 1994.
Surprisingly no F1 drive was on offer so de Ferran tested for Jim Hall's Champ Car team. He impressed and was offered a drive for 1995.
De Ferran won the rookie of the year award, finishing 14th in the Championship and winning his first Champ Car win in the last race of the year at Laguna Seca.
Throughout 1996 de Ferran was constantly on the pace but only took one win, at Cleveland. Jim Hall retired at the end of 1996, which also spelt the end of the Pennzoil Hall team. Despite the possibility of an F1 drive for the new Stewart Grand Prix team, de Ferran stayed in America, joining the Derrick Walker/Valvoline team for 1997.
Without a win in 1997, De Ferran still finished as runner-up to Alex Zanardi due to his consistency and ten top ten finishes. He had looked on course to win the season opener at Homestead but was taken out by a lapped driver while leading and at Portland he lost out to Mark Blundell in the closest finish in Champ Car history.
The strong challenge that was expected in 1998 never happened. Hampered by mistakes, unreliability and poor tyre performance left him 12th and without a win for the second year running.
In 1999 however things finally turned around. He beat Juan Pablo Montoya at Portland to take his first win since the middle of 1996. However that victory also marked the end of an era as Goodyear and Valvoline both left Champ Car racing.
De Ferran signed with Penske Racing for 2000, partnering Greg Moore. But when Moore was killed in the last race of 1999, the seat went to fellow Brazilian Hélio Castroneves.
de Ferran finally fulfilled his early promise with two Champ Car titles and an Indy 500 victory.
Renowned for his politeness and integrity, when Penske switched to the Indy Racing League in 2002, he supported him even though it meant he could not defend his Champcar title. He also never criticised the rival Champ Car series unlike others who had switched sides at the same time.
de Ferran decided to retire at the end of 2003. He won his final race, although soured by Kenny Bräck's accident in which he sustained serious injuries.
In 2005, he moved to BAR Honda Formula One as their Sports Director.
De Ferran currently lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with his English wife Angela and children Anna and Luke. Met his wife Angela when she was working for Paul Stewart Racing Team. His wife's family publishing company produces Motoring News a leading motor sports journal in the UK.