August 26, 2003 IRL Teleconference Transcript Gil de Ferran and Sam Hornish, Jr Part 1 of 3 MODERATOR: Welcome to the IndyCarTM Series press conference. We have visiting with us today IndyCar Series drivers Gil de Ferran and Sam Hornish Jr.
August 26, 2003
IRL Teleconference Transcript
Gil de Ferran and Sam Hornish, Jr
Part 1 of 3
MODERATOR: Welcome to the IndyCarTM Series press conference. We have visiting with us today IndyCar Series drivers Gil de Ferran and Sam Hornish Jr. Our first guest is Gil de Ferran. He currently drives the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone and has two victories to his credit this year, those being the 2003 Indianapolis 500, as well as the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway, and he currently stands second in the IndyCar Series points standings, just 25 points shy of current leader and current teammate Helio Castroneves. And yesterday it was announced that Gil would be retiring at the conclusion of the 2003 season. Gil, good morning and thanks for joining us today.
GIL de FERRAN: Good morning.
MODERATOR: The decision to retire ranks as one of the biggest decisions a person makes in their lifetime. If you can take us through some of your thoughts and the decisions that led up to you making this announcement.
GIL de FERRAN: Sure. First of all, I want to say it was a very difficult and emotional decision for me because being a race-car driver, it's all I have known really since I was a teenager; that's what I aimed to do since I was a kid, so it was a very big decision, very big decision for me. I think this thought was bouncing in my mind since very early this year. To be honest, even before the season started, it was something that I was thinking about, and I guess the very fact that I was thinking about it I didn't perceive as being a good sign. Certainly, after we won the Indy 500 this year, and as we were approaching the middle of the season, I felt it was important for me to make a call whether I was going to continue or not. Really more in regards to -- with regards to the team and our partners and everybody else involved. I don't think it was fair for me to wait until the last race of the season to finally say, 'Well, that's it, I have finished,' which, to be quite honest with you, from a purely selfish standpoint, it probably is what I would have preferred to do, but it was not really a realistic and fair option in my mind. From that point onwards, early July, I told Roger (Penske) that I would not be continuing, and I guess I felt it was important to leave while I was at the peak of my career and move on to different things and look forward to an onwards and upwards career doing something else.
MODERATOR: Did your victory at Indianapolis this year help ease the decision or solidify the decision to retire?
GIL de FERRAN: Yes and no. I guess it helped, you know, underlying the fact, my feeling that I have accomplished here more than I could possibly dream of. It felt like the Indy 500 was a big factor on that front, but on the other hand, I guess I am trying to guess whether--what the peak of my career is. And right now, I just won the Indy 500, and this season I am still in the fight for the championship. I guess, you know, if I could just look back in a few year's time, 'Look, I won my last championship, and I won my last race, and I won the last Indy 500 I competed on,' that, I guess, would be the kind of memory I would like to have, rather than, 'Yeah, my last couple of years I didn't enjoy, I didn't enjoy my last couple of years in racing not as much as, you know, as I did before,' and so on and so forth.
MODERATOR: Looking back on your career, specifically with Team Penske, you joined the team at a time when it was going through some struggles, but since joining them, you have helped give them several series championships and Indianapolis 500 victories. When you look back on your time with Team Penske, there has to be a feeling of accomplishment.
GIL de FERRAN: Absolutely. Certainly, my time at Team Penske is probably one of the most enjoyable times of my life, both from a professional and a personal standpoint. What we were able to accomplish together in my mind is incredible, and you know, I will forever cherish the memory of this last full season.
Q: Is there more pressure on you now that you have made the announcement or is there less pressure that you made the announcement?
GIL de FERRAN: I don't think it changes all that much. I guess because, you know, the motivation to win the last three races and to try to win the championship is within me. I guess I have been racing with that decision taken, even though it hasn't been announced, since early July, and I hope you think that it hasn't really changed the way I approach my races and my driving. So I guess, in my mind, it doesn't really change much going forward to these last three races.
Q: How much or did the fact that you were injured last year and you were injured this year factor in?
GIL de FERRAN: I guess in my mind, for me to be able to race properly and to be competitive and to drive at my best, I had to put both accidents behind me. I couldn't really sit in the car with fear in my heart and afraid of possible consequences. I am very rational like that. You either race and drive, you know, full-hearted and with all enthusiasm and aggression that you have, or you don't do it at all. So from a psychological standpoint, I had to put them behind me even before I got in the car. So I guess, in my mind, I would say that it did not play a very big part in this decision. For me, the decision was more about not wanting to go to a decline. You see what I mean. I guess the very fact that I was questioning whether I should continue or not was a sign that perhaps, you know, at some point in the near future I was maybe about to turn a corner. And I did not really want to go through that, that period of, you know, thinking of, 'Well, maybe last year I would have done a better job at this.' That, for the way I operate in my mind, that's very important for me. I really couldn't live with the thought that I am not doing as good a job as I did in the past.
Q: What is next?
GIL de FERRAN: Right now, there's no concrete plans, I guess, to be announced. I think the only one decision so far is that driving will no longer be the main focus of my life. You know, looking forward, I guess I have been racing for 21 years, and I guess I gathered a lot of experience with racing, all aspects of racing with cars and a little bit with business, and I developed and formed some good relationships over the years. Certainly, the one with the Penske organization and Roger, him and the guys there, it probably ranks as one of the most important ones. I would like to make good use of these experiences and these relationships in the future. In what way, shape, or form exactly, (laughs), I have not come to that decision yet. Right now, I am focused on finishing this championship on a high note.
Q: You still do a better job of singing 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame' than Ozzy Osborne. At least you knew the words?
GIL de FERRAN: Maybe I should do a record. What do you think? He was very successful.
Q: I don't know about that. Anyway, Rick Mears retired when he was 41. You are retiring just six years younger than that. A lot of people thought that Rick's career ended far too early. How, in your mind, do you keep from the self-doubt that, 'Maybe I've still got it in me, I still want to go out there and do it.' How do you suppress the competitive desires that a race driver has?
GIL de FERRAN: I don't know. That's the problem I have to deal with going forward. To be honest with you, I am sure I am going to have a few itches here and there in the future because I love racing. I always did, and I probably always will, you know, and in a way, I do not know the answer to that question. But the other side of the coin, a lot of funny stories that happened yesterday, you know, yesterday I was trying to contact a few people that were friends or people that I felt played a very important role in my life and my career, certainly one of those people was Jackie Stewart. So I called Jackie and he said, first thing he said, he says, 'How old are you.' I said, '35.' He said, 'Oh, you lasted one more year than I did.' (Laughs). So I don't know, it's hard to know exactly when the time is to stop and at what age and so on and so forth. I guess I just felt it was my time.
Q: Rick (Mears) did a really good job when he got out of the car. He never ever even came close to getting back in, never showed any signs of wanting to do it. When he quit, he quit. Have you spoken with him? Has he given you advice because there probably will be a transition period where it's going to be a little difficult for you?
GIL de FERRAN: Absolutely. I mean, you know, Rick was very young, he felt very strongly about that because you know, it was discussed a lot, and I share his opinion on that. I think it's difficult for you to be competitive when you are not doing this full-time. It's hard enough for you to be in the thick of it when you are doing it 24/7, and you are thinking about it all the time, and you are training all the time, and you are driving all the time, even then you don't win every race. So to do it in a spur of the moment, it's even more difficult. Currently, I have no plans to do any race or do any driving and stuff like that. My mind right now is that, you know, driving is not something I want to focus on, going forward. I have no plans to do any sporadic races or anything like that. That's it.
Q: At your age, you have a lot more years left in life. What is it that you would like to do? What are your other interests? What can you see yourself doing as a post-racing career?
GIL de FERRAN: I love racing, like I said. I love cars. I love technology. I always did. I went to engineering school because it was something that I really wanted to do. I wanted to learn more about cars and technology and how things are built, made and developed. That has been a passion of mine that maybe I will dedicate myself to, going forward. But like I said, there's a lot of things that I'd like to do that I guess I suppressed for the sake of my focusing on my driving career that now I will try to open those fires back again after October and explore things going forward. In a way, I am not in a great hurry to make a big decision here.
Q: A couple of years ago when the Penske team moved into the IRL, you were a little less than excited about the possibility of full-time oval racing. Looking into the future, did that help to expedite your decision to leave? Would you have stayed if there was some road racing in the IRL's future schedule?
GIL de FERRAN: Well, I know that was widely talked about when we made the move to the IRL, but those feelings were far from what I was feeling at the time. Never made any secret that I missed road racing, but as far as I was concerned, I was excited about staying with Team Penske and doing what we are doing. And I guess, trying to answer your question, I did miss road racing, and I guess I will, in a way, miss road racing. But my decision had more to do with trying to catch me ride the wave, you know, while I am at the crest of the wave rather than waiting for the wave to break.
Q: Your name has great value, but it ends up being attached to another form of racing. Have you talked specifically to Roger about taking on a role like Rick has?
GIL de FERRAN: I don't know. I feel like I have a good relationship with Roger and the team and, you know, I like racing. I enjoy racing very much, but I haven't made a specific decision as to what I am going to do going forward. I guess there will be another conference somewhere in the future.
Q: Does that future include the United States? Will you return to Brazil or maybe is Europe the next horizon, the next frontier for you?
GIL de FERRAN: I guess, you know, part of my family is in Brazil. My wife is British, so the other part of my family is in the U.K. I have also some family in France, but I have to tell you that I have been in America, I guess for nine years now, and I certainly very much enjoy living here. I feel very much at home where I am right now, so, you know, I guess if duty calls me somewhere else, I will have to go somewhere else, but currently I have no plans to move. I really enjoy where I am, and I have got no plans to go anywhere else.
Q: Could you imagine, going back to '99 when Roger first talked to you, that in these four years since you would have accomplished as much as you did?
GIL de FERRAN: Well, I guess from my standpoint, winning four championships and winning 50% (laughs), sometimes I sit back and I think about it and I say, 'Wow, it's been an amazing relationship.' Certainly, if I am fortunate enough to win this one, that will be 75% of the championship (inaudible) with Roger, and that really would be amazing. It's been a great journey. Driving for Team Penske is not anything that I could have hoped for, and it's really been a dream come true for me. I have enjoyed it not only from a professional perspective, and because of the success on the racetrack and the accolades and so on so forth, but from a personal standpoint, it's really been a wonderful time for me. I guess you may have caught some of that, you know, during interviews and the conversations that we had over the years, even from 2001 and 2002, but I guess I am here to repeat that again.
Q: When Roger called you, he was in the middle of a slump -- which, by the way, you ended -- but did you ever think you were taking a little risk with your career?
GIL de FERRAN: Well, I think with every decision that goes, there is a risk. Nothing is perfect. There's no guaranteed anything in life, I don't believe, but I have to tell you that when I spoke to Roger back in early 1999, it only took me a few minutes to realize, you know, how much commitment he had going forward to bring the team back to success. And certainly, his track record and the commitment he portrayed, I mean, in my mind, that was the best possible. I certainly didn't want to be on the other end of it, you know, fighting against him, from what I heard. And it proved--I guess it proved to be the right decision.