Transcript of the Media Availability with HPD consultant Gil de Ferran.
THE MODERATOR (T.E. McHale, Manager Motorsports Communications, American Honda Motor Co., Inc.): Thanks for being here for this second in a series of media briefings we're going to be conducting at IndyCar Series events in 2014. Those of you who were with us in St. Petersburg know that we had Mark Crawford from HPD as our first guest of the season. This one is a little bit better known, and we're pleased to have Gil de Ferran joining us this morning. Thank you for making some time for us.
Most of you know Gil's resume, he was the 2000 and 2001 IndyCar driving champion, he achieved both of those championships with Honda Power. He won the 2003 Indianapolis 500. Scored 7 open wheel victories and 16 pole positions with Honda from 1996 from 2001. Later served as sporting director for the Honda Formula 1 Team from 2005 to 2007. Then resurrected his driving career as an owner‑driver with the Acura American Le Mans Series program in 2008, and finished second in that championship in 2009, co‑driving with current Honda IndyCar driver, Simon Pagenaud.
GIL DE FERRAN: You had to bring it up, right? Thank you for that. I almost got over it. Unfortunately, I can't be too open about this because it's still under the statute of limitations of what I'm allowed to say. But let's just say that we had a tiny problem on the engine department, you know? Actually it was just like a very small part that failed. But I'm not allowed to say what it was, so do not ask me that question.
It was a very traumatic day for me. But to be honest, rather than remembering the failure, I remember leading the race and really that was the beginning of a relationship that lasts till today. Wasn't that nice.
THE MODERATOR: That's great.
GIL DE FERRAN: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We're here today to announce an expansion of a consulting relationship that we announced about this time last year. Tell me a little bit or tell our guests a little bit about what your role has been up to this point and how it's going to change going forward?
GIL DE FERRAN: Well, let me start this answer by going back several years in fact it goes back to '96. When I first started with Honda back then, I was frankly like a kid in a candy store, and I really have a strong affinity and a great love for all things mechanical. I was going to study mechanical engineering, and I had a very deep interest in how the car works is a keen area of interest to me. When I started working with Honda, it was an immediate bond that happened from let's say a from an engineering and development perspective.
So I have, since that time, I have always been very close to the Honda engineers. I think it's fair to say from '96 to 2001, I did most of the work on developing the engine, and (No microphone). We've worked very closely together back then. But quite frankly the affinity continued over the years. The opportunity came actually it was a little over a year ago when they asked me to help them with a very specific technical merit, which is also under the statute of limitations and I don't talk about it. But that's how we restart again.
It was very fruitful and really in the last year we've been discussing how else we can do together and how can we expand this role.
THE MODERATOR: Gil comes to us with a set of unique perspectives having been associated with Honda as a driver, a team owner, as the development of a program. So, obviously, we're thrilled to have him joining us in bringing all of those various sorts of expertise to this new position.
Q. What would you say are your first few priorities to get accomplished as your role expands at HPD?
GIL DE FERRAN: Well, I'll tell you what is my ‑‑ what is always going to be a priority, but what is my first initial priority. Like I said, we all know that Honda is very much a customer focused company, right? And if you look at HPD, who are HPD's customers? HPD's customers are race teams and drivers, not only in IndyCar, but also in sports cars and all the way down through grass roots racing, and I come from that side, you know.
I've been an owner. I run teams in Formula 1, I run teams in Sports Cars, I run teams in IndyCars, and I've been a driver all the way from go‑karts to IndyCars. So I can bring HPD that perspective. In fact, that's already happening. I talk to the drivers a lot. I talk to the owners a lot, and we have a lot of internal discussions within HPD where I can bring that perspective of, hey, we can do this better for the guys and so on and so forth.
Conversely, I can help make the teams understand what is their role in making HPD a better company and deliver better products and better services.
Q. So Honda is coming back into Formula 1. Will you have any involvement in that at all?
GIL DE FERRAN: No, my involvement is in HPD. The Formula 1 program is not an HPD program.
Q. So what exactly would the USAC stuff at all?
GIL DE FERRAN: The grassroots program?
GIL DE FERRAN: Well, as it says in the press release, I'm really involved to some extent in all HPD's programs. I think the grassroots program that HPD has is an important one. I, shall we say, literally just walked through the door. Ultimately, I have a lot more knowledge of what's going on particularly in the IndyCar program, but as time goes on or goes by, I should say, it's certainly my intention to get more acquainted and gain a deeper understanding of what we're doing.
Q. From an engineering perspective, what do you think you can bring to the IndyCar program?
GIL DE FERRAN: I guess the same thing that I always have done, which is translating into engineering speak what's going on trackside without any false modesty. I thought that was always one of my key strengths, which is to say there's a variety of ways to describe what's happening, only with the organization team side and drivers' side, and making sure that this message is well understood and is actionable, and also that we prioritize things properly, it's essentially how I can interject.
Q. Speaking to the grassroots part of it again, does that extend to (No microphone)?
GIL DE FERRAN: Pretty much everything that HPD does, I really need to acquaint myself with it, and see how we can make it better, because that is what life is all about. How can we make this better, always, every day.
Q. Does that mean you like getting back in the role as a driver for a Honda, maybe a Honda Fit team spec car?
GIL DE FERRAN: Unlikely. Unlikely. He has prohibited me from it.
THE MODERATOR: Yeah, that's right.
Q. He just realized that.
THE MODERATOR: As I said, we're thrilled to have his expertise on our side. So thank you for making the time to be with us today.
GIL DE FERRAN: Thank you, everybody, I look forward to seeing you at more races because I will be attending a lot more races than I have in the past few years. Thank you.
Honda Performance Development