Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript August 5, 2003 Gil de Ferran Part 1 of 2 K. Johnson: We welcome everyone to the Indy Racing conference call for this week, Tuesday, August 5. Today we are visiting with IRL IndyCarTM ...
Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
August 5, 2003
Gil de Ferran
Part 1 of 2
K. Johnson: We welcome everyone to the Indy Racing conference call for this week, Tuesday, August 5.
Today we are visiting with IRL IndyCarTM Series driver Gil de Ferran. de Ferran drives the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone. He currently 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 third in the IndyCar Series point standings, just three points shy of current leader Scott Dixon.
Gil, welcome and good morning.
G. de Ferran: Good morning.
K. Johnson: Taking a quick look back at your season thus far, you started off with a decent run at Homestead, but then suffered an injury at Phoenix which caused you to miss the Motegi race. That in itself could have really brought your season down, but you come back to win the Indianapolis 500, and since that time you have been the hottest driver on the circuit. Tell us about your season.
G. de Ferran: I would say that my season, overall, has been a great season with an interruption. I guess that is how I would put it. Certainly, prior to the season starting, we felt that, due to our winter testing form, we were going to be competitive and in contention. Certainly, our first race reassured us that that was most likely going to be the case, but then we had the interruption, I guess, which came with the accident in Phoenix. When we got back, we picked it up where we left off. We have been fighting tooth and nail there at the front ever since. But I think the important thing is really from now on. We have six or seven races to go, if I am not mistaken. The championship is really anybody's at this point. So, we have to just concentrate on the races lying ahead.
K. Johnson: You talk about concentrating on racing and all that, but to anyone that has been around you at the track or away from the track, you also seem to really be having fun, both in the car as well as the doing things associated with being with the team.
G. de Ferran: Yes, absolutely. I think it has been a very enjoyable season in more ways than one. Certainly the races have been great. Generally speaking, I enjoy what I do, so I have a good time. My relationship with the team is a very, how could I say, a friendly one, which I think also tends to brew a good atmosphere and good spirits with everyone involved.
K. Johnson: You mentioned your relationship with the team. Certainly, the most visible is your relationship with your teammate Helio Castroneves. You guys seem to get along extremely well. But how is it when you get in the car and buckle on that helmet, that you can get the mindset of 'I have to go out and beat that guy?'
G. de Ferran: Well, you either have that mindset, or you don't. Otherwise, there is really no point in entering a competition, I suppose. That is our 'raison d'etre', our reason of being, is to have that mindset, not only for Helio, but towards anybody. As long as you enter a race, you have to be willing to and really wanting to overcome all your opponents.
K. Johnson: Let's talk a little about your team and equipment. You headed into this year, like every other participant in the IndyCar Series, with a new chassis and a new engine. You have to be absolutely ecstatic with the performance that Toyota has given you this year.
G. de Ferran: Yes, I would say that they have done a fantastic job this year. But in a way, though, I mean, being perhaps privileged to information and to knowledge that not everybody is, I am not that surprised. I have been working closely with them since the middle of last year. I have been also privileged to see the way they work from very close quarters and the amount of preparation they went through for the season. I know how much work they put in. I know how much talent they have in-house. I know how much thinking and planning went on behind before the season even started. I mean, certainly-- How can I say? --awesome and noteworthy that the success that they have achieved so far this season, being their first season in IRL racing. But, being an insider to the process, I am not that surprised.
K. Johnson: Now, with the IndyCar Series points race as tight as it is, you are in third, and you're only three points out of first place. What is going to be the key, as a driver, to winning this championship?
G. de Ferran: Why, you just have to be consistently upfront, basically. Win when you can, and when you cannot, you have to finish second. If you cannot even finish second, you have to finish third. You just have to stay, hopefully, in the top three in the last six races. It is very important to finish every race here and keep doing well.
Q: Gil, Chevrolet came out with a new engine, and I am sure it is going to affect you someway. They appear to have a little more power. Does Toyota have anything different to bring out, or how are you going to adjust to this?
G. de Ferran: Well, Toyota is constantly working on development of the engine, and I can assure you that the engine that we used the last race is more powerful than the engine we used in Homestead. Engine power is never a constant. At least, if you are working with an engine manufacturer, like we are, it is never a constant throughout the year. So, they keep pushing the boundaries on and on and on. As far as I know, they have not backed off from continuing to pursue further development in the engine.
Q: Are there plans for them to come out with a different engine to finish the season?
G. de Ferran: I do not think a different engine, because I do not believe the IRL rules allow for that, and I do not think that was in the plan, anyway. But certainly, like I said, I think continue to develop the current engine.
Q: Thank you.
G. de Ferran: No problem.
Q: When you look at this race coming up this weekend, and the opportunity that you have to take the points lead, how do you approach this race? Is it mentally just another race, or is it a chance to put Tony (Kanaan) on the deep end by you taking the offense and the lead?
G. de Ferran: I think I regard it as just another race, and really I think whether you are first or third or second in the championship, at this point you have to be on the offense all the way through the last round. Even if I take the lead on this weekend, I mean, the likelihood is you never have enough of a gap so that you can actually play defensively. What I mean by that is that you can play percentages and plan your finish in accordance to your points. So, at this point, I think you have to race just like any other race, just try to do the best you can for the best/maximum number of points and keep going. Because really, the top four or five are so close, particularly the top four are so close in points, that Helio can take the championship lead. I can take the championship lead, or Tony. Anything can change in every single round going forward.
Q: When you look at this season and the fact that you missed out at Phoenix and Motegi, to be in this position, are you doing, in your opinion, the best driving that you have done in your career?
G. de Ferran: Well, I would like to think that is probably the case. Perhaps I am not at a steeper learner curve as I was a few years ago. But I still would like to think that every year I have been able to polish my craft a little bit more, and I think, yes, perhaps you are right. Perhaps, this year, I have been able to take a little bit of the sharper edges that was left off. And I continue to do that, because I also enjoy that process. I am one that whenever I do a test or a race or something, I sit back after the race and I think about what went wrong, what went right, what I could have done to change the outcome of the race or of the test for the better.
Q: I heard you earlier, and I have heard drivers for years say that in a championship fight, you go for the win, but if you cannot get the win, you settle for what you can get in that situation. Now, here is the question: At what point does it occur to you or does it come from the team to say, 'We cannot win, just get what you can get?'
G. de Ferran: Well, you really never give up the win. That is the mechanics, I think, of every race. You start the race gunning for a win or as high as spot as you can get, and basically, reality slowly sets in throughout the race, you know, because you are fighting for position or because you are fighting a handling difficulty or something like that. You may be running third with five laps to go, and there are two guys ahead of you are not only a few seconds up the road but pulling away, as well. At that point you say, 'Well, it is unrealistic for you to win the race.' There is no point, and every race is different. I guess that is the point I am getting to. Then sometimes when you think, 'Well, unless something really changes here, that is probably where I am going to end up,' then you get a yellow late in the race, and then you get an opportunity to make another position or something like that. Basically, that point does not really exist. It is just a judgment call that you have to make throughout the race.
Q: Even though there was a lot of time left in the season when you came back, to make up what you had lost due to the injury, did you have any kind of timetable when you would get back in contention? I mean, has it happened a lot sooner than you thought, or has it been pretty much on schedule?
G. de Ferran: Basically, I did not really set myself any schedule, per se. The way my head worked, it was that 'OK, I am ready to get back in the car, therefore I go back in the car.' Ready in my mind meant ready to give 100 percent to drive, 100 percent of my abilities, and hopefully, be in contention for every race that I enter. So, from that standpoint, it was just a matter to see where the cards fell, like any other championship. I remember talking about, prior to the Indy 500 start, that for me it was like a new start of the season, and that is very much how I saw it. I guess the championship for me has been, especially since the accident, like any other championship. You have good races. You get bad races. You move up and down the points table accordingly.
Q: As a follow-up, Gil, even though you have won in CART and everything, was Indy, in a sense, a breakthrough for you in terms of your career, and the confidence that you gained from that seems to be showing right now?
G. de Ferran: No, I disagree with that notion. Indy certainly, probably, is the highest that I have been able to attain. But it has not been any psychological breakthrough for me or any personal breakthrough or anything like that. It is definitely, probably, the highest prize I have obtained for my career. But I do not think my driving or the way I approach the races has all of a sudden jumped up ten-fold, or anything like that. In reference to an answer I gave earlier, I still feel that every year, I drive a little better. But it has been a continuous progress rather than any big step in performance.
Q: Do you feel like this season is somewhat reminiscent of the stretch you were on last year, just looking at how tight it was between the top three? Do you have any kind of flashbacks of that?
G. de Ferran: Yes, last year it was shaping up, and it was extremely tight. When I went out of the championship running with one race to go, I was just one point behind the lead with one race to go. I actually predicted this year that it is going to be even tighter. We have all the ingredients, I think, to arrive at the last race with four or five guys fighting for the championship.