by Jack Durbin - Motorsport.com
Gil de Ferran in his No 1 Marlboro Team Penske Honda Reynard clinched his second consecutive CART FedEx Series Championship by finishing fourth today in the Honda 300 on the Gold Coast of Australia. He becomes only the fourth driver in the history of CART to accomplish this feat. The others are: Rick Mears (1981-82); Bobby Rahal (1986-87); and Alex Zanardi (1997-98). "I guess it hasn't completely sunk in yet. I know that I am a very fortunate person to be driving for a guy like Roger (Penske) and a Team like Marlboro Team Penske." de Ferran.
Driving the red and white cars had been a dream for the Brazilian, but he never expected to win two championship, much less two in a row. "To me, it's like I've been living in a dream since I joined this Team two years ago -- my life has been wonderful from a personal and a professional standpoint. I've been able to drive better than I ever have which has enabled me to keep reaching new heights. Never in a million years did I ever think I would achieve this much success. For me to be speaking here as a two-time Champion is very special."
Gil de Ferran started his career racing karts in his native country in 1982; by 1985 he was competing in the Brazilian Formula Ford 1600 series. In 1987 he dominated the series with seven wins; the next year he moved to England to compete in the Esso British Formula Ford 1600 series. In 1989 he raced in both the Esso British Formula Ford series and the RAC British Formula Ford series.
1990 found de Ferran competing in the British Vauxhall Lotus and European Opel Lotus Championships. He captured the 1992 British Formula 3 championship in only his second year in the series. He also did some testing for the Williams Formula One team. The next two years he ran the FIA International Formula 3 series. During 1993, he also tested for the Footwork Formula One team.
In 1994, de Ferran tested with the CART Hall Racing team, which led to his being named their driver for the 1995 season. That year he won the 'Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award'. His late season charge brought him his first podium in Vancouver and he followed it with a win at Laguna Seca. He also claimed his first pole at Cleveland that year. The following year, he won at Cleveland before moving to Walker Racing for the next three years. The three years at Walker Racing produced one win, and second place in the 1997 driver's championship.
He moved to Marlboro Team Penske in 2000 as Roger Penske did a complete revamping of his team; changing engines, chassis, and drivers. Under the guidance of the "captain", de Ferran has blossomed. He gave Penske his 100th Champ Car victory at Nazareth. He also won at Portland and he picked up the lead in the driver's championship at Laguna Seca. He clinched the Championship at the final race of the season where he also set a world closed course speed record of 241.428 (30.255 second) on the two mile California Speedway oval at Fontana.
This year de Ferran once again was the master of consistency. De Ferran has completed 88% of the laps run this season and led 14% of them. He has qualified on the front row seven times this year (37%), including the last five events, winning at both Rockingham and Houston.
Marlboro Team Penske drivers have had a total of 11 podium appearances in the 19 races this season. The Team has had at least one driver on the podium at ten races (53%).
This marks Team Penske's record setting 11th National Title and 9th CART Championship, the Team has a record 110 race wins and 135 pole positions.