Gil de Ferran Winner - 2001 FedEx Cart Championship QHow does it feel to have won your second championship? Gil - I guess it hasn't completely sunk in yet. All I can think of is that I am a very fortunate person to be driving for a guy ...
Gil de Ferran Winner - 2001 FedEx Cart Championship
QHow does it feel to have won your second championship?
Gil - I guess it hasn't completely sunk in yet. All I can think of is that I am a very fortunate person to be driving for a guy like Roger (Penske) and for a team like the one we have. All I can think of is how much I like this guy and how much they mean to me because, you know, its really through them that I am able to lead this. To me, I'm like living in a dream since I joined the team two years ago. My life has really been wonderful, both from a personal and Professional standpoint. Hopefully, I've been able to drive better and keep reaching for new heights. Even though I have a lot of grey hair, I feel I am getting better. This means a lot to me, never in a million years would I thought that I was going to achieve this much. You know, when I started years ago as a kid, you know guys that won a championship like this, you would put posters on your wall in your bedroom and stuff. For me to be speaking here, a two-time champion, it's very special. I guess we keep going. I got a good race today. I was just running my own pace today and I got a lot of issues to contend with. I had a good start today and we got to the braking area ahead of Moreno, so I thought well, you know, I'll just brake here and if he's on the inside I'll let him go, and if he's not, I 'll turn. And he was fantastic, I have to say, he didn't push the issue or anything like that and I turned and there was room for everybody. There was no problem there and thankfully I wen through the first turn OK, got a clean first lap and from there on I was just pushing hard, trying not to make a mistake. The car was very good at that point and everything was running well. Then, on the middle of the second stint, we came in a lap early and we lost the lead, but that was OK, we knew exactly what we were doin out there, and then I started to get some brake troubles. The pedal started to go down quite a bit, and started to look up the rears a lot, and a couple of big moments out there. At that point on I was really nursing the car as much as I could. trying to take care of the gearbox and trying to take car of the brakes and everything was OK. I had to deal with this brake issue all the way to the end of the race. At the end, I think there was a little bit of an issue with the motor, so I had to be careful of that too. Everything held up fine and we were happy, certainly its never over until its over, because I had it all under control really, I thought I had no-one in front of me, and that's the way I wanted it because of my brake problems. You know, everytime I had someone in front of me, my brakes just disappeared basically. So Tag and Paul were off in the distance, and that was very good and then on the last lap Paul had some sort of problem with the gearbox and oil EVERYWHERE, I almost fell off two corners from the finish. A bit of a silly thing, but thankfully we got to the end. There you go. That was a long answer wasn't it.
Q: It was an excellent answer.
Q: A wonderful, emotional moment for you at the end of the race on the phone to your wife I think, and all those fantastic fans, weren't they great?
de Ferran: I tell you I was just. You know, you have to keep everything just bottled up as much as you can. Not really the right word, but you have to put it away from your mind. The emotions you may have, what it may mean to you on a personal level and all that. You have to try to block that out of your mind, certainly, because you want it so much. It's difficult to exercise that. Just to be as cool and calculating as you can. And I guess when you talk to a few people that you love and you see all that party going on out there its hard to keep inside, certainly after you take the chequered flag you open the flood gates and everything comes rushing in. it was a very emotional event for me.
Q: You said you got a good start, there was some sort of suggestion you may have jumped the start. What's your perspective on that?
de Ferran: To be honest, we just tried to accelerate together, and I was slightly ahead of Moreno by the line, so, I thought, maybe they wont throw the green, but at that point you can't back off, because if you back off, you get run over from the back, and I guess they threw the green, so I thought well, I'll just keep going and see what happens, but I did think that they might not have thrown the green, because I couldn't see exactly when we crossed the line, I was either slightly ahead or just beside of Moreno, I figured that we were very close together, they decided to throw the green, it's no big deal. Having a clean start here is a bonus, if you know what I mean.
Q: Probably too soon to pick a defining moment, Last year in your championship, you said Houston. Can you find a defining moment in your championship this year?
de Ferran: I think for me it was England. I think, because as you know, I had a couple of big accidents that kept me out of the car for a long time in the preseason. We were not doing particularly well on the ovals, they were certainly our weak England, and we were at a type of track that weren't doing all that great. So we decided to change everything, and I was able to run an extremely competitive race, and come out with a well publicised win. I thin from there on we should, I was more confident in the other races. It was hitting the nail right on the head, in Houston and that third place in Laguna was also very important.
Q: You mentioned the gearbox in the race, and the Reynards have been a little sensitive in the gearbox area on the road courses this year. Was that a reaction to something that happened in this race or did you go into the race today thinking you may have to nurse your box.
de Ferran: No, we went into the race think we would have no problems, It's notoriously hard on equipment this race. As soon as I started having brake problems, lets not forget that I have got to get to the end. I was trying to drive as smoothly as I could, lets put it this way. I remember my Dad telling me when I was thirteen, " I do not want to feel your downshift". And I guess that was the way I was trying to drive.
Q: You had two podium finishes at the beginning of the season, but afterward, at one point in the season, your standing was eighth, you didn't really give up the championship at that moment. You didn't think about giving up.
de Ferran: Never give up. As long as I am alive, I will never give up. As far I was concerned, we were running real fast and strongly. Just that every weekend, we didn't really have a smooth weekend, I remember in Toronto, where everything went smoothly in practice and qualifying and then we had a problem in the race in Toronto. Everything seemed to be happening, most of it out of our control. Red flags in qualifying and stuff like that. I just kept my head together, just one day at a time.
Q: How much pressure were you under there from Kenny Brack, obviously he had to get past you.
de Ferran: None. To be honest. No problem, Roger suggested that I let him by at that point there but, I didn' really want to do that because of my bake problems, and I knew I was a lot faster than he was. I was just driving and looking at the mirror and get as much distance between us and Paul and Tagliani there. I have to admit it was not particularly difficult to stay ahead of him.
Q: Was it more difficult to win the championship, and if so, how much more satisfying.
de Ferran: I tell you it was a very satisfying championship. I felt that we were better this year than we were last year. I guess that the number of points we have shows that. We were consistently faster this year and I guess that it is a reflection of our second year together, you know the second year with the same group of guys. Same chief mechanic, Mike JONES. and all the same mechanics and same engineer, Tom German, I have to say here is probably one of the brightest persons I have ever come across. I think we understand each other better. Just running stronger all the time.
Q: I hate to remind you but two years in a row you never did a lap. You start OK and there then was a yellow. did you start to think, OK what can go wrong now?
de Ferran: No I tell you when I went by the first lap here, I thought, YES, one more lap that I ever completed here. So, I'm on the plus already. You just have to keep your eye on the ball. One lap at a time. Sometimes, I just wish this race would be just like a formula three race, 20 laps and just finish after half an hour and go home, its two hours, its way too long (Laughter)
Q - Did you think twice about coming to Australia after the Terrorist attacks in America. Did that concern you at all?
de Ferran: Not at all. I have to say that we were in Germany when the whole thing happened. It was a difficult time, not just for me, but most people in the communities left there families behind. My wife and two children were back in America. Once we got back and understood everything that was going on I think it is important we continue life as we once did. and we got to keep going. I love coming to Australia and there was no way they were going to keep me from coming here.
Q: Tell me about the pass of Moreno at the start of the race.
de Ferran: I had a good start basically, we kind of accelerated together and I guess I got a little bit of a jump on him there. To be honest I was in doubt whether they were going to throw the green or not. But I certainly wasn't about to back off, primarily for safety reasons. More than trying to stay ahead of Moreno, because always you get to the first turn and get everybody a bit crowded its always trouble there. I guess we alongside close enough and they threw the green and in the braking I was slightly ahead, I thought to myself, I am just going to brake and I will leave him plenty of room, if hes there I wont turn. If he isn't I'll turn. And you know, I braked, all credit to Moreno, he was basically there, he just backed off and fell in line. it was ok. He knows, I was trying to stay ahead of him, I wasn't about to fight him hard.
Q: So you were actually ahead going into that first turn.
de Ferran: Yes I was. In a similar situation that I was in last year, to be honest. I thought, oh no.
Q: Emotionally you must feel fantastic, but how are you physically?
de Ferran: Not that great to be honest. I had this little bug since I arrived. My voice is a little funny. Not feeling too good. So I was feeling a little sick when I got out of the car. I'm improving, let's say that.
Q: You really outdrove Kenny in England, and his championship kind of fell away after that. That must have been a huge psychological win at that point.
de Ferran: Well, I never saw it from that standpoint to be honest with you. I mean, for me, I was never beaten down anyway, so, I was never in need of a boost if you see what I mean. Certainly, it was a very exciting win for me, the whole thing last lap, last turn and I was AAARGH, and he was AARGH, aggression sort of thing you know. But once that's finished, your back to square one again, so , I am not so sure I would agree with that statement.
Q: But certainly he had the edge over you on ovals early in the season?
de Ferran: Yeh, like Louis asked earlier, that was a crucial win, because it was the type of racetrack we hadn't done well, we had the problems in the pre season preparation. We were making wholesale changes at that time of the year, and to get a win at a track, you were thinking, we will run in the point's or something like that, it was really important so, from then on I knew we were strong in the street circuits and the road courses as well, It was a very important win for us. Probably not from a psychological standpoint but from a strategic point of view it really turned the tables there.