Thrilling victory for de Ferran Motorsports as team boss bows out of his driving career in style
Monterey Ca, (October 10, 2009) -- de Ferran Motorsports brought the 2009 American Le Mans Series to its season end today at Laguna Seca with a nail-biting victory for the No. 66 XM Radio de Ferran Motorsports Acura ARX-02a . At the hands of an emotional team owner, Gil de Ferran - who completed his final race as a professional driver today - the car crossed the line after four hours hard racing less than half a second ahead of the second place driver, Adrian Fernandez. The LMP1 championship title, however, proved to be just out of reach and despite a season tally of five wins, seven poles and seven fastest laps to their credit the maths just did not add up today.
The championship crown had been a slim hope coming into this weekend and the team had always vowed to concentrate on winning and the rest would be out of their hands. They certainly met their objectives and de Ferran was delighted to be first to the chequered flag in his final race.
"That was not easy," he said. "I did not have a chance to think about anything in those last few laps except how to keep Adrian behind me. We had problems maintaining the heat in the tyres so we opted not to change tyres in my final stop and we were very very low on fuel; so I had to concentrate on keeping the car on the track on worn out tyres while preserving fuel. Adrian gave it his best shot and one small mistake and he would have taken me, but I used the traffic to my advantage, took a few risks to get a reasonable run into the straights and was just able to hang on to the lead. I have to thank to my team mate Simon Pagenaud for building up such a lead in his stint, he gave me the tools to take it to the chequered flag."
De Ferran's tribute to his young team mate was certainly well founded. The 25-year old Frenchman put on a dominant display for the first half of the race, proving once again that he is a world class talent and repaying de Ferran's faith in him with a fastest lap today and a substantial lead when he handed over to his boss.
"The car was fantastic," said Simon, "we had some issues at the beginning of the weekend but we worked around the problems and the car was a joy to drive. I had a real blast, I even enjoyed the traffic. It was very special for me to start the race for de Ferran Motorsports today in Gil's final event. I was determined to have a really good stint and hand the car over in good shape."
The victory was the icing on the cake for de Ferran who determined to make the tenth and final round of the American Le Mans Series one for everyone to remember. As well as his last race, Laguna Seca was also the scene of his first ever IndyCar victory in 1995 when he was driving for the legendary Jim Hall. In honor of Jim and his iconic Chaparral marque, Gil has run the number 66 on his car since his sports car team hit the track at Salt Lake City in 2008. In order to bring the synergy alive he invited Jim Hall to join him this weekend with two of his most treasured Chaparrals -- the 2 and the 2E and as a final tribute Gil unveiled his Acura with a ‘one-off' milk white livery for the weekend.
"It is great to have won here again in front of Jim and with the car in this fantastic livery," said Gil. "It seems to bring my career to a full circle whilst honoring one of the true greats of our sport. I have loved every minute of driving this sports car and I am now commiting myself to the business of running the team. I have a fantastic group of guys at de Ferran Motorsports. We have all been on an incredible journey over the past 18 months and this victory and all the successes this year are a tribute to them. There have been some very hard times but days like to today make it all worthwhile."