IRL: Fermin Velez loses battle with cancer

BRASELTON, Ga. (April 2, 2003) -- Former IMSA World Sports Car and Group C2 champion Fermin Velez died Monday in Barcelona, Spain, three days shy of his 44th birthday, following a battle with cancer.

Former IMSA champion Fermin Velez, who died of cancer on Monday, March 31, in Barcelona, Spain.
Photo by American Le Mans Series.
Among his career highlights were victories in the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1995 and 1997 and a 10th place in the 1997 Indianapolis 500. He was the FIA WSC C2 champion in 1987 and 1989 and IMSA World Sports Car champion in 1995 and 1997.

Most recently, Velez won the championship title in the 2000 Spanish GTB Championship class.

Velez contested 58 IMSA events from 1990 through 1998, amassing eleven wins, five in the Lights class, six in WSC. He posted sixteen runner-up finishes and seven third-place finishes for a total of 34 podium finishes.

Velez was second overall in a Ferrari 333SP in the 1997 Daytona 24 Hours. In the Daytona 24 Hours classic, he was second in Lights in 1992 and third in Lights in 1993. Following his 1995 WSC championship Velez concentrated on the Indy Racing League and the Indianapolis 500 in 1996. Driving Scandia Racing Lola T95-Cosworth Ford entries, Velez started 28th in the Indianapolis 500 but mechanical retirement placed him 21st.

In 1997 Velez drove Scandia Racing Dallara-Oldsmobile entries in the IRL, contesting four events. He started 29th in the 1997 Indianapolis 500 but rose to tenth at the finish, only five laps down.

Velez drove a Ferrari 333SP in the 1996 Le Mans 24 Hours but the car failed to finish. In 1998 he piloted the Doyle/Risi Ferrari 333SP in the Le Mans 24 Hours, finishing eighth overall and winning the LMP class.

Velez burst onto the IMSA Camel GT scene with a victory in his first start, winning the Lights class in 1990 at Miami in a Buick-powered Spice shared with Tomas Lopez.

Velez first gained notoriety by finishing fourth in points in the 1977 Spanish Formula SEAT series. He contested the British Formula 3 Championship series in 1978 and 1979, ranking 30th in 1978 points.

Velez was the 1982 Spanish Hillclimb Touring Car Champion in a Simca Rallye. He ranked third in the 1984 Spanish Hillclimb Championship driving a Lola T292-BMW and won the 1985 Spanish Hillclimb championship in the Lola T292-BMW.

He made his FIA Sports Car World Championship (SWC) debut in the 1986 Monza race in a John Fitzpatrick Racing Porsche 956, finishing tenth.

Condolences to the family can be sent to:

Marnie Lincoln
c/o Road Atlanta
5300 Winder Highway
Braselton, GA 30517.