May 15, 2013, 1:30 PM EST
This is the first in a series of posts stemming from a Tuesday interview with Gil de Ferran. Be sure to check back each day for a new installment.
Gil de Ferran can’t help but laugh over the fact that it’s been 10 years since his victory at the Indianapolis 500.
“I will tell you something – it really does not feel like 10 years,” he said with a chuckle on Tuesday afternoon from England. “I guess it’s the harsh reality of life, we’re all getting old. But I don’t feel like it’s been 10 years. It’s kind of weird to speak of an event that seems like only yesterday on very historical terms.”
The two-time CART champion, known as “The Professor” for his studious approach to the sport, accomplished one of his greatest feats in 2003 when he stopped Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves from becoming the first driver to win three consecutive “500s.” De Ferran passed Castroneves for the lead on Lap 169 but still had to withstand multiple restarts within the final 25 laps before holding off Castroneves by two-tenths of a second for the win.
After arriving at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Victory Lane, he got out of his car and let out a yell of joy with his fists outstretched toward the sky – a moment that’s been replayed time and again ever since.
“It’s a memory that’s extremely alive in my head,” said De Ferran of the entire afternoon. “I can almost recall the planning of the whole thing to pass Helio…I can recall getting ready for what seemed to be a thousand restarts at the end of the race. It’s almost like muscle memory – I can remember my feet and the way they moved in the car, which is a weird feeling.
“That’s why I say it doesn’t feel like it was 10 years, and obviously, feeling-wise, it’s just something I’m extremely proud of. Every time I remember what happened that day, it brings strong emotions to me and it remains probably, if not the greatest achievement of my career, then certainly one that’s truly at the very top. It’s a day I’ll always remember with great fondness.”
And it’s a day that almost didn’t happen.
In the second round of the 2003 season at Phoenix International Raceway, De Ferran and Michael Andretti were fighting late for fifth place when the two made contact going into Turn 1. Both cars slammed into the wall, and De Ferran sustained a concussion as well as cracks to two vertebrae.
He was forced to miss the next race in Japan, and when he returned to prepare for that year’s “500,” things initially didn’t go well.
“The opening day [of practice], I’ll never forget it — I mean, it was a disaster,” De Ferran recalled. “My timing was wrong, I was aching, the car was surprising me all the time and I’m like, ‘What the hell’s going on? I can’t drive anymore!’”
De Ferran momentarily wondered if the end of his career had finally arrived, but then decided to, in his words, “calm down a little bit” and see what the next day would bring him. Sure enough, it all started to slowly return to him and he began to find comfort in the cockpit once again.
“Wind the clock forward to Race Day, and it was such a shift from ‘That’s it, my career is over’ to the greatest achievement in my racing life – from the lowest of the low to the highest of the high,” he said. “It was an amazing feeling.”
Dec 6, 2013, 7:01 PM EST
UPDATED (7:00 p.m. ET): According to Autoweek, Penske Racing president Tim Cindric has said that team involvement in Australia’s V8 Supercars series “may be a stretch” and instead noted that it could be sponsor-based. Roger Penske’s Penske Automotive Group recently made inroads into Australia with the September purchase of the Western Star trucking company. And…
Dec 6, 2013, 6:00 PM EST
The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship announced its entry list late Friday afternoon, with nearly 70 cars confirmed across the merged series’ four classes: Prototype (P, combination of ALMS P2, Rolex Series DP and DeltaWing, Prototype Challenge (ALMS PC), GT Le Mans (ALMS GT) and GT Daytona (Rolex GT, ALMS GTC). Here’s a link to the…
Dec 6, 2013, 5:35 PM EST
Reigning Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson added some more trophies to his mantle during yesterday’s NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon. But he’s not the only driver that was honored during the event. Among the major awards given out yesterday was the NMPA Myers Brothers Award, which went to three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart. “Smoke”…
Dec 6, 2013, 4:30 PM EST
It’s happened before for Lotus. Can it happen again? In 2013, Romain Grosjean was able to transform from one of Formula One’s most inconsistent drivers to one of its better ones, closing the year with four podiums in the final six races. Now, the Frenchman will be paired with the incoming Pastor Maldonado (pictured), who…
Dec 6, 2013, 3:15 PM EST
At last night’s NASCAR After The Lap show in Las Vegas, Jimmie Johnson indicated that he and his Hendrick Motorsports team’s efforts to re-create “The Hangover” weren’t quite done yet. Sure enough, he was telling the truth. In their re-creations, the group have used everything from stuffed chickens and tigers to a toy baby. Even…
Dec 6, 2013, 2:10 PM EST
Formula One’s top developmental league, the GP2 Series, will embark on an 11-race schedule next season with new stops at Austria’s Red Bull Ring and Russia’s new street circuit at Sochi Olympic Park. All 11 events will be held as support races on Formula One Grand Prix weekends. The season will unofficially begin in March…
Dec 6, 2013, 1:25 PM EST
It’s very rare in modern racing you hear of “racing for the sake of racing.” But with the 2013 season largely in the books, championships decided, top-10 lists written and all the rest, it’s rare you get as close to a pure event full of “run what you brung” machinery that runs the gamut from…
Dec 6, 2013, 12:14 PM EST
As a rookie stepping into one of the top seats in Formula One, Kevin Magnussen is under no illusions about the challenge he’ll face at McLaren in 2014. The Dane seems to have the right attitude, though, as he has basically been preparing for this role for nearly 20 years. “McLaren has been part of…
Dec 6, 2013, 12:00 PM EST
On Thursday, the Coca-Cola Company was awarded the 2013 NASCAR Marketing Achievement Award at the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon held in the Encore Ballroom at Wynn Las Vegas. This marked the third time Coca-Cola has achieved this award, the first time any company has won that. Since 1998, although Coca-Cola has not opted to…
Dec 6, 2013, 11:45 AM EST
After talking about the big stories and ranking our Top 10 drivers from the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, my colleague Tony DiZinno and I are now going to start taking a look back on how each of the 13 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders fared this past year. Placing sixth in the…
Dec 6, 2013, 11:15 AM EST
After talking about the big stories and ranking our Top 10 drivers from the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, my colleague Tony DiZinno and I are now going to start taking a look back on how each of the 13 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders fared this past year. Now comes our fifth-place…
Dec 6, 2013, 10:45 AM EST
After talking about the big stories and ranking our Top 10 drivers from the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, my colleague Tony DiZinno and I are now going to start taking a look back on how each of the 13 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders fared this past year. We’ll continue on with…
Dec 6, 2013, 10:15 AM EST
Antonio Felix da Costa has been named a Red Bull Racing reserve driver for 2014, alongside Sebastien Buemi who continues in the role for a second season. Da Costa was widely tipped to replace Daniel Ricciardo at Scuderia Toro Rosso, but the team opted for Daniil Kvyat instead. Da Costa finished third in this year’s…
Dec 6, 2013, 9:44 AM EST
Jean Todt has won re-election as FIA President to a second four-year term, with the path made slightly easier by the fact he ran unopposed. David Ward, who announced his candidacy in August, withdrew in November. Over the next four years, Todt called his outline “ambitious,” but “built on the solid foundations of reforms” from…
Dec 5, 2013, 5:54 PM EST
It was a trying Formula One season altogether for Williams, but their young driver Valtteri Bottas still managed to have some nice moments in his rookie F1 campaign, including his first points-paying finish at the United States Grand Prix. Bottas appears to have a good future ahead of him in F1 and will return to…
Dec 5, 2013, 4:09 PM EST
Dale Earnhardt Jr. broke a tie with Bill Elliott by earning his 11th consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Most Popular Driver award during today’s NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon in Las Vegas. Earnhardt, who finished fifth in the 2013 Sprint Cup Series championship, has won the award every year since the 2003 season. The…
Dec 5, 2013, 2:39 PM EST
NASCAR CEO Brian France mentioned lots of accomplishments for his organization during the 2013 Sprint Cup Series season this morning in Las Vegas, but noted that it’s also preparing diligently for the year to come. In a wide-ranging session with reporters, France talked about the ongoing testing for the Gen-6 cars that debuted this past…
Dec 5, 2013, 1:30 PM EST
Multiple changes have been announced this morning by NASCAR regarding drivers’ eligibility for being elected into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Going forward, drivers that have competed for at least 10 seasons and have turned 55 years old on or before Dec. 31 of the year prior to the nominating year are eligible. Additionally, drivers…
Dec 5, 2013, 1:15 PM EST
We wish a happy 27th birthday today to IndyCar’s lone full-time confirmed Canadian for 2014, James Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda for Andretti Autosport. As Hinchcliffe ticks another year off this year, we figure it would be a good time to look back and see how he’s grown in…
Dec 5, 2013, 12:30 PM EST
Virgin Racing has signed up with the new FIA Formula E Championship as the series’ ninth team. Alex Tai will operate the squad as team principal and the effort has the full support and backing of Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson. Virgin has spent some of its large sum in motorsports before, as a partner…
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