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CART Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  CART

CART Media Conference

Gil de Ferran
November 1, 2000

T.E. McHALE: Our guest today is the 2000 FedEx Championship Series champion Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske. Good afternoon, Gil. Congratulations, and thank you for being with us during this afternoon in the midst of a hectic Champions Tour.

GIL de FERRAN: Good afternoon, T.E. Thank you. It is really a pleasure to be talking to you from this position on the corner of 45 and Broadway.

T.E. McHALE: As we mentioned earlier, Gil is in New York City doing a Champions Tour today. Let me give a quick intro and some information on the season he had en route to the FedEx Championship Series Championship, and then we'll open it up for questions. In his third place finish Monday's conclusion of the Marlboro 500 presented by Toyota at California Speedway, Gil, the driver of the No. 2 Honda Reynard, clinched his first FedEx championship and the eighth in the history of Marlboro Team Penske. Gil joins three-time champion Rick Mears, who won in 1979, '81 and '82; Al Unser, Senior, who won in 1983 and '85; Danny Sullivan who won in 1998 and Al Unser, Junior who won in 1994. Gil ended the season with 168 championship points and finished ten points ahead of Adrian Fernandez of Patrick Racing, who took runner-up honors in the Championship with 158 points. Gil's seasoned included victories at Nazareth, the 100th in the history of Penske Racing in Portland, and pole positions at Long Beach, Mid-Ohio, Houston and California Speedway, where he established the world's closed-course speed record with a qualifying lap of 241.428 miles per hour. He qualified 15th or better for 16 of his 20 FedEx Championship Series starts. With a side note, Gil is in New York City today where he's preparing for a guest appears on CBS TV's The Late Show with David Letterman this evening. The program airs at 11:30 PM Eastern time in most markets. And with that, we'll open it up for questions.

Q. Talk a little bit about when you first came over here and tested for Jim Hall and if you thought it would be the only time you ever came over here, if you thought you'd race here a year and then go back to Formula 1, what Jackie Stewart advised to you do and just how this whole thing -- you ended up being an American and an American champion?

GIL de FERRAN: Well, it's funny you say that. When I went to the airport in L.A. yesterday morning, I was just kind of looking and staring out at the window, I guess and, you know I was talking to my wife, Angela, and, you know, we were driving through a neighborhood and it looked like where we used to live in the U.K., and I guess my mind had started to travel a little bit, and I was like, you know, this has been an amazing journey, really. And it has really been unbelievable for me to go through all this and be here where I am now. I guess when I first came over, I had no intention of going anywhere else. I mean, I came over here with the intent -- inaudible to be very honest with you, I came two years after Mauricio came, and to me, he was the World Champion and so if the series was worthwhile enough for him to come here to try to win it, it was actually worthwhile for me. So, you know, in my mind, all I wanted to do was to try to put one of those championships to bed. And having achieved that, it's been an unbelievable journey.

Q. When Jim Hall gave you a test and it went well and you signed a contract, did you ever think at that time, or did Jackie Stewart ever indicate to you, hey, we want to bring you back here in a couple years, just go get some seasoning? Is that kind of deal, or is it just: I'll make a career over here?

GIL de FERRAN: Jackie was actually -- I know he placed a phone call to Jim to make a recommendation back then, and, you know, I think that obviously helps Jim make up his mind to put an offer, I guess, on the table. And over the years that I've been here, I had, you know, a few approaches and opportunities to do other things in Europe, especially Formula 1, but in a way, I always ended up choosing the opportunities I had over here, and I think it has worked out fantastically well for me.

Q. Could you tell us what has been the reaction in Brazil to your championship?

GIL de FERRAN: Well, it has been a great reaction from what I understand. I really didn't know what to expect, but apparently we were on like the front cover of every major newspaper in the country, and the TV ratings for the race has been unbelievable. And we've been on the news all the time and all that, and the phone has been ringing nonstop and it has really been unbelievable, much more than I could have ever foreseen or expected. To give you an idea, a friend of mine that runs a private Web site, he's a journalist that does the commentary for Brazilian TV, he said only in his column on Monday there was over a million people reading that thing. So that's been unbelievable.

Q. Is there any plans for you to go back home soon and celebrate with a parade or anything like that?

GIL de FERRAN: I think the reaction has been so overwhelming, I decided to at least go there and talk to the guys over there, the media and the friends, and so I'm going to go there Thursday night. I'm going to leave to go there and just be there on the Friday.

Q. In 1982 when you started your career in racing and go-carts, you obviously had a hero, and who was that? And then the follow-up, are there a loot of young Brazilians that call you for advice about how to get to CART?

GIL de FERRAN: Yeah, I guess, you know, at the time when I started, the big guy was Nelson Pica (ph). Obviously, I watched a lot of racing and he was so involved in the mid-70s, but I was very, very young then, and as I became more involved in racing, Nelson was really the number one Brazilian driver in international racing. And I was just sort of slowly coming into the scene (inaudible) -- and those are the two guys that I eventually follow, but if you remember, Nelson won the championship in '81, and I started the year after, so it was a hot time for Brazilian auto racing.

Q. Do you get a lot of calls today?

GIL de FERRAN: Oh, yeah, I guess we do get a lot of calls. We've got a site where a lot of young guys also write me, asking for advice and all that kind of stuff. So, yeah, it's funny to be in that position, actually, because I remember very, very well years ago talking to Emerson about it.

Q. After you go home are you going to come back up here and be near time to start on the new season, what are your plans or do you have any at the moment for not necessarily what you'd like to accomplish, obviously repeat as champion, but what are the plans for testing new car at this stage?

GIL de FERRAN: Well, the plans as we speak is another day in New York, down to Brazil, back to Florida; then my yearly holiday in November, I will spend about ten days in the Caribbean, which will be very nice. And hopefully up until that I won't be thinking about anything but the Caribbean itself, and then -- but late November, we already start working on next season. I should be testing early, early December. I can't quite recall exactly where we're going to be, but I should be testing early December, and, you know, full blast to try to repeat again next season.

Q. When will you have your cars? Do you know that yet?

GIL de FERRAN: I think it is late November, early December.

Q. Do you have any thoughts on Texas? I know there was a lot of talk this weekend about the speeds at Texas, possibly running the road course?

GIL de FERRAN: To be quite honest with you, I shut myself off completely from that sort of discussion. I know there's some concern there about the speeds and the feasibility of our cars running there, but I have not really involved myself at all in that discussion. Obviously, I have more important things to do.

Q. (Inaudible) ... is it amazing that he ends up being at the top of his deal, you guys were teammates ten years ago, maybe just some reflections on that?

GIL de FERRAN: Yeah, I think it is amazing, especially since we are from such different back grounds. I mean, obviously he's Scottish, from way up north and I'm from way down south. So it's really funny, but I tell you, we got along really well back when I met him first time in 1990, and we became very, very good friends. And for me, it was a very neat and extremely nice that he turned up. He kind of surprised me. Called me the week before the race and said, look, I'm going down there, just to make sure you do all right. And it was great to have him there and, you know, I also -- you know a lot of the people that I felt was very important in my career were there, too, friends and family. So it was a nice touch and an emotional touch for me with these people who I -- you know, are very important to me over there on probably the most important day of my life.

T.E. McHALE: Gil, we're going to let you go on to the next thing. I appreciate you taking the time to be with us this afternoon. Congratulations again on the FedEx Championship Series Championship, and really, enjoy your off-season.

GIL de FERRAN: Well, thank you very much. I'm sorry we were a little late going into the call, and I apologize for the rush in which we had to tackle this. But I really appreciate what all you guys did for me this year, and hopefully have a lot of fun next year. Thank you.

T.E. McHALE: Thank you, Gil. Thanks you to all of you who took the time to be with us this afternoon. Have a good after season, we'll talk to you soon. Good afternoon.

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