Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript August 5, 2003 Gil de Ferran Part 2 of 2 Q: Two questions or a two-part question. Do you remember when you first became aware of Roger Penske? And then, just secondly, what...
Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
August 5, 2003
Gil de Ferran
Part 2 of 2
Q: Two questions or a two-part question. Do you remember when you first became aware of Roger Penske? And then, just secondly, what separates Penske from other race organizations? What makes them so able to sustain success with so many different drivers?
G. de Ferran: How long have you got? Actually, I first became aware of them, I think, in the early 80's. I guess I was in my low teens. My interest in auto racing, it was there even before that age, but I guess at that age you start to become more aware of everything. I started to read more about it and collect pictures and stuff like that. I became aware of the Penske name, I think, the first on a Goodyear Racing calendar. They had a front row Indy picture. They had a car, I think it was-- I cannot recall exactly, but one or two of the cars that Penske owned. I guess that was the first time I became aware of the name. Then, I think from then on, I just started to buy magazines, buy books and so on and so forth, and read, read, read, read, read, and then I became more and more aware about the team and eventually about Roger, I suppose. I think that's the second part of your question. It is sort of hard, I think, to pinpoint one reason. I think part of it is that they are very good at a lot of the aspects of what a racing team should do. Certainly, if you talk about the people, we have an extremely talented group of guys, throughout. All the way from the guy that drives the truck to the team president. We have, probably, the best guys at what they do, in their position, in the industry. Also, I would say that these people are working on an extremely well motivated level. I think the environment within Penske Racing is such that everybody seems to reach a little further than they initially thought could and deliver a little more.
Q: How does Roger set that tone?
G. de Ferran: I do not know how he does that. Actually, it is a good case study. That is very apparent, I think, to where people really go beyond their own possibilities when they are within Penske Racing. That really produces a sort of high-performance environment there. There is not really pressure felt. I would say that that is not really the case. At least, I do not perceive it. It is just, how can I say, an exciting environment, a nice exciting environment where everybody is looking forward to the next big thing.
Q: You won CART titles. What would it mean to you to win the IRL title to go with them?
G. de Ferran: Well, it would mean a bunch for me. How could I say? It is the highest priority of my agenda here, and I guess if it were not important to me, I would not even be sitting here talking to you. That is really what I am there pursuing, and it would mean a lot. This competition is stiff. The races are challenging, therefore the championship has a high value attached to it. I guess I feel that I am racing against some very, very good guys. I guess that how I value a championship is by how tough the competition is. Certainly, this year it is the championship of the highest level.
Q: Are you surprised young (Scott) Dixon is up there in front? Did you know much about him? He came into CART two years ago as a 20-year-old. What are your thoughts about him as a driver?
G. de Ferran: As you rightly pointed out, we came across him two or three years ago, when he entered CART driving for PacWest. I guess you could tell from day one that he was a very competitive driver. My first impression was that he was a smart guy, despite the fact that he was young. He also knew what he was doing and was overly talented, too. For me, it was just a matter of time before he matured into a very, very competitive proposition, which is what we see today.
Q: Last year at Gateway, you and Helio ran one-two, just like you did in the 500 this year. What are you expecting over there, with the track and all?
G. de Ferran: Well, last year was a very competitive race, and this year, everybody has been testing there already. I think, judging from the testing form, it is going to be a very tight one again and a very, very difficult race I think it is going to be.
Q: It sounds like you have a new, deep voice. Do you have a head cold or something?
G. de Ferran: Yes, I have been a little bit ill for the last three days.
Q: I am sure you will recover by Friday. I have a question for you about the team. A lot of times, when you are with a group for awhile, it tends to become, can we say, a bit stale. How do you keep yourself and how does the team just keep reaching, reaching, reaching? It seems like every time, you guys get better together. How do you stop from getting stale?
G. de Ferran: I do not know. That is a hard question for me to answer, because the whole thing just comes naturally to me. I do not really have a problem getting out of bed and searching for new heights. You see what I mean? It is part of my daily routine. So, I do not know. It is hard for me to pinpoint, exactly, why that is, because it is hard for me to imagine the other end of the coin. But perhaps I would say it is the excitement that everybody feels with their success. Do you see what I mean? And once they experience that once, then they want to keep getting the same feel. And, I think, because everybody really likes what they do.
Q: And they like you a lot, too?
G. de Ferran: I am sorry?
Q: And they like you a lot, too? They think you have a good sense of humor. Go figure. But you just feel great working around these guys. It is easy for you to get up in the morning and think about going to work?
G. de Ferran: For me it is. Racing as work has all this negative connotation in other peoples' minds. But for me, it is in a way nothing like that. I am always looking forward it. To me it is exciting. Even testing is exciting.
Q: Well, you have always been a great tester.
G. de Ferran: I just enjoy the whole process.
Q: I have one quick question here. How easy of a transition do you think it is going to be to take these chassis from what they are right now and make them adapt to a road course? Do you think these chassis are going to be one that could produce a pretty good road race in the future?
G. de Ferran: I guess, from a non-expert point of view, I have not spent a long time looking at the car and stuff like that and analyzing it from that standpoint, but just on the surface, I would say it is probably not that difficult, so you would probably have to stick a differential in it, maybe do some adaptations to the brakes, particularly the left side suspension. I cannot see too much trouble to make the car and turn the car into a road racer.
Q: I bet you are excited to see those races come back on the schedule?
G. de Ferran: Oh, certainly. As I said before, I think from a purely selfish standpoint, I would welcome such a move. I never made any secrets of the fact that I miss road racing.
Q: Gil, I have to admit, you sound like you feel lousy. How sick have you been?
G. de Ferran: I was running a little fever on Sunday, so I have been getting better since then.
Q: Are you to the point, are you able to work out, or have you put your workouts on hold?
G. de Ferran: No, I had to pretty much not do much for the last week or so.
Q: How difficult is it on a race week to be ill? How much of a concern is it? It's Tuesday, and you will be at the track in a couple of days. Does it affect your preparation for this weekend's race?
G. de Ferran: Yes, it certainly affects my preparation, and it is not an ideal scenario, but it is the card I have been dealt with, and I guess I have to play it the best I can.
Q: You know, I remember after you got out of the car last year, and obviously, during the broadcast, we had you there from Victory Lane. I remember you saying how physical the race was. Gateway is a very demanding racetrack, physically. Could you tell us why that is, and what makes it such a difficult track in terms of stamina?
G. de Ferran: First of all, it is a short oval, and on short ovals, you tend to pull more g's, and I think because of that that they are physically more demanding. I think that would be the number one reason. Last year was also quite hot, if I recall. Gateway itself, it is just a busy racetrack. There is always a lot going on. There are a few different patches on the racetrack, so the car is twitching around all the time. It is just not an easy racetrack. Last year, the pace of the race was very, very hot. There is close racing. I was either being pursued by Helio or pursuing Helio very, very hot. It was either one or the other. And I recall, at the end of the race, I mean, we were just driving qualifying pace all the time.
Q: Given that, Gil, would there ever be a point where it physically, say, for example, this situation with you being ill, where you would say to yourself or to Roger or to Tim, 'You know guys, physically I just do not feel like I could be good for this race this Sunday?' Would an illness like this ever force you to step out of the car?
G. de Ferran: Well, I guess I will have to be pretty ill to make that call. But at the moment, that is not really even close to happening.
Q: If, 10 years ago, someone would have said to you that you are going to be contending for an all-oval championship, or even longer ago, when you were a younger guy and coming up through the ranks, would that have surprised you?
G. de Ferran: That would have been a really far-out statement. I think primarily because, initially, my career was totally geared towards going Formula One. Oval racing was something that was quite foreign to me at that point. But I guess 10 years ago, when I was seriously considering a move over here, perhaps such a statement would not have been that foreign to me.
Q: Gil, your whole Penske Team seems to function as a whole family and is one team. I think everybody recognizes that. But is there a competition between you and the team, between your team and Helio's team, that maybe you do not see?
G. de Ferran: I think there is a friendly competition there. Certainly, Helio's crew wants to do well, especially when you see them working on pit stops against my crew and vice versa. Do you see what I mean? But it is never a destructive one. I think very much in the same light as anyone I compete against on the racetrack. And never once has anybody on the team that perhaps are more closely involved on Helio's car, I never saw once any hint of bitterness or sadness on the fact that I did better than Helio or even vice versa from my team towards Helio. There is some competition there, but it is a very healthy one, I would say.
Q: That is always great. It always seemed like you function as a family. It is great to have friendly competition. Thank you.
G. de Ferran: Thank you.
K. Johnson: Gil, you are the defending champion at Gateway International Raceway. Heading back there this weekend, what are going to be the keys to your success?
G. de Ferran: Well, I think part of the key to my success I have already laid down last week when we went testing there. I think the key to any success is preparation, in fact, good preparation. So I think our preparation went well last week, and then it is on to trying to turn that good preparation into a good race weekend. It has to be good qualifying and a clean race, good strategy and great pit stops. It sounds like a cliche, but there is not really one key to it. A race is like a house; you have to build it little by little. There is no magic way of building one.
K. Johnson: Gil, we certainly appreciate you taking time to join us today. Congratulations on your season thus far and best of luck this weekend.
G. de Ferran: Thank you all so much.