CHAMPCAR/CART: Marlboro Team Penske pit notes prior to EuroSpeedway Lausitz

GIL DE FERRAN RETURNS "HOME" AS CART FEDEX SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP POINT LEADER With his second place finish at last week's Molson Indy Vancouver, defending FedEx Series Champion Gil de Ferran has taken the points lead in the series for the first...

GIL DE FERRAN RETURNS "HOME" AS CART FEDEX SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP POINT LEADER

With his second place finish at last week's Molson Indy Vancouver, defending FedEx Series Champion Gil de Ferran has taken the points lead in the series for the first time since he captured his inaugural CART Championship at last year's Marlboro 500. While the Champ Cars are heading to Europe for the first time in the history of CART, it will be a sort of "homecoming" for de Ferran who raced in Europe throughout the early 1990s.

To advance his racing career, de Ferran first moved to England in 1988 when he raced in the British Formula Ford 1600 Championship for Amity Racing. In 1989 he joined the Fulmar Team, which was the works Reynard Formula Ford 1600 Team. In 1990 he signed with the newly formed Paul Stewart Racing and competed in the British Vauxhall Lotus and European Opel Lotus Championships, placing second and third in the two series respectively. In 1991 and 1992 he raced exclusively in England in the British Formula 3 Series. He competed for the Edenbridge Racing Team, the Reynard R&D Team, in 1991 before returning to the Paul Stewart Team in 1992 and capturing the Championship. He returned to the European circuit in 1993 and 1994 as he competed in the FIA International Formula 3000 Series for Paul Stewart Racing before heading to the United States in 1995 for his Champ Car debut with Jim Hall. While racing in Formula 3000, he had three victories and finished fourth overall in 1993 and third overall in 1994.

"While I obviously have never raced on the new Eurospeedway in Lausitz, I have raced quite a bit in Germany in 1990 and then again in 1993 and 1994, so I am looking forward to returning there to compete," said de Ferran. "I have an even stronger connection to England, in that my wife is English (the two met while Angela worked for Paul Stewart Racing) and my daughter Anna was born there, so we'll have a lot of family and friends to cheer for us."

"It will be nice to return to Europe as the points leader, but to be perfectly honest it doesn't really change my attitude or how I will approach the race weekend. This is not a time to rest on our laurels - there is still a lot or racing left in the season, and with our series being so competitive, nothing is ever a given. Last year, it wasn't until the final lap of the Marlboro 500 (the last race of the season) that I knew I had won the Championship."

De Ferran scored his first oval victory last season when he captured Penske Racing's historic 100th win at Nazareth Speedway. He has scored three poles on ovals - Japan - 1999, Homestead and Fontana - 2000. His pole at last year's season-ending Marlboro 500 set the world's closed course speed record with a lap of 241.428 mph

HELIO CASTRONEVES ALSO RACED ABROAD

De Ferran's Marlboro Team Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves, also raced in England before coming to the United States to drive in the Indy Lights Series in 1996. In 1994 and 1995 he competed in the British Formula 3 Series for Paul Stewart Racing. He scored his first victory at Donington Park in 1995 en route to a third place finish in the Championship and being named the "Most Exciting New Driver" in the series.

Castroneves arrives in Germany tied for second place with Kenny Brack in the FedEx Series Championship point standings - just five points behind leader de Ferran. He scored his first career oval victory earlier this season at the Indianapolis 500 and has qualified in the front row in three of the five ovals races this season - 1st in Japan, 2nd in Milwaukee and Chicago.

"The new EuroSpeedway in Germany should be very fast. It's a two-mile tri-oval with plenty of banking and it's very wide so it should make for an exciting race," said Castroneves. " I think there are a lot of Germans and Europeans who want to see our Series and check out our cars and drivers, so we're hoping there will be a good turnout. We're all looking forward to going there and showing the European race fans how competitive CART is and how exciting Champ car racing is on the ovals."

CASTRONEVES AT US OPEN

Prior to departing for Europe, Castroneves was in New York City to watch the finals of the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament. An avid tennis player himself, Castroneves saw Venus Williams defeat her sister Serena in the Women's finals on Saturday evening and Australian Lleyton Hewitt defeat Pete Sampras in three straight sets at the Men's Finals on Sunday.

"It was my first Grand Slam tournament and I really enjoyed myself," said Castroneves. "I had met Sampras at an event in Indianapolis in 1999 so I was rooting for him to win, however, it just wasn't his day. I was sitting courtside for the match and it really was an amazing display of athleticism. Being a tennis player myself, I really have a lot of respect for these players and their level of competition."

<pre> CART FEDEX SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP POINT STANDINGS

1       Gil de Ferran           115
2       Kenny Brack             110
3       Helio Castroneves       110
4       Michael Andretti        103
5       Dario Franchitti        85
6       Scott Dixon             82
7       Cristiano da Matta      78
8       Roberto Moreno          74
9       Patrick Carpentier      69
10      Tony Kanaan             66
11      Paul Tracy              65
12      Christian Fittipaldi    56

-MTP-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Kenny Brack , Paul Stewart , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Williams , Team Penske