Indy 500 champion Gil de Ferran visits, thanks Panoz G Force employees.
BRASELTON, Ga.- Gil de Ferran will never forget the thrill of winning the 2003 Indianapolis 500 and is grateful to all who helped him capture one of the world's most important automobile races.
On Wednesday, he took the opportunity to meet and thank the people who built the Panoz G Force chassis that he drove to victory at Indianapolis for Marlboro Team Penske as he made his first visit to the headquarters of Elan Motorsports Technologies (EMT) in Braselton, Ga. Panoz G Force is a division of EMT.
"Thank you for the wonderful job you did," the Brazilian driver said as he addressed EMT employees after a tour of the facility. "From the first time I sat in the car at Indy, I knew it was going to be good. I was up to speed in no time. I really liked the way the car drove through the corners at Indy."
De Ferran toured the EMT facilities with David Bowes, CEO of EMT, as well as Scott Atherton, President and CEO of the Panoz Motor Sports Group. Bowes and EMT Chief Designer Simon Marshall showed de Ferran a new Panoz G Force chassis under construction for the 2004 Indy Racing League IndyCar season.
"I was very impressed with the facilities," said de Ferran, who announced his retirement from the IRL at the end of the 2003 season. "I enjoy being around machine shops, assembly areas, and just nuts and bolts, and it's a part of being a racing driver that has always been fun for me. I felt right at home."
Asked about plans for the post-driving stage of his career, de Ferran indicated he was unsure at this point. "I don't have anything set yet, but I hope to stay involved in some aspect of the sport," he said.
In addition to winning the Indianapolis 500, Panoz G Force was also the chassis that won the 2003 IRL IndyCar title for driver Scott Dixon and the Target Chip Ganassi racing team. A growing list of IRL teams will utilize Panoz G Force chassis in the 2004 season.
Founded in 1990 in England, G Force was acquired by Elan Motorsports Technologies and relocated to Georgia in 1999. The company was one of the first to build the new-generation Indy Racing League cars in 1997 and has been a chassis manufacturer for the IRL ever since. EMT is a multi-faceted motorsports company founded by entrepreneur Don Panoz.
"It was definitely a superb season," said Bowes. "The vision of Don Panoz was to have an American-built chassis win the Indianapolis 500, and we accomplished that and then won the championship as well. We look forward to doing more in 2004."
The 2004 IndyCar season begins with the Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, February 29.