FONTANA, Calif., Thursday, Dec. 19, 2002 -- Gil de Ferran and Marlboro Team Penske tested the 2003 Dallara chassis equipped with a new Toyota Indy V8 engine Dec. 18 and 19 at California Speedway.
It marked the first time the 2003 Dallara had been on track. The new 2003 Panoz G Force made its debut on Dec. 17 at Texas Motor Speedway with Target Chip Ganassi drivers Scott Dixon and Tomas Scheckter.
De Ferran, 35, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, was pleased to test the chassis and engine combination he will be competing with in 2003.
"We have been able to get out in the new car prior to Christmas break," De Ferran said. "We are well on schedule and maybe even ahead on preparation plans for next season with the new engine and car. We haven't fallen behind at all, which is good. We have been concentrating on completing our own plan and hope it is good enough and that we did our homework."
De Ferran finished third in the 2002 IRL point standings after capturing consecutive CART titles in 2000 and 2001.
"Our goals are no different from what they have been in the past and that is to win the championship like everyone else," De Ferran said. "We have done everything we think is correct. I think as far as we are concerned, we need to get our heads down and get on with the job at hand."
Although both the chassis and engine are new for 2003, Tim Cindric, president of Penske Racing, is confident the team's preseason testing has prepared them for their second season in IRL competition.
"It's been a bit different with IRL being a new series for us," Cindric said. "Last year, we didn't know what to expect. We've had since September to plan for the (season opener) in March. We have the new gearbox that was introduced in November, and now we have put the whole package together. We will know whether it has paid off when we put our cards on the table in January.
"The key is continuity for us. We have changed engine suppliers for next year but have the same team, same driver and same goals. For the most part continuity is there."
The 16-race IRL season starts with the Toyota Indy 300 March 2, 2003, at Homestead-Miami Speedway.