87th Indianapolis 500-Mile Race Gil De Ferran Monday Winner'S Press Conference Monday, May 26, 2003 Part 1 of 2 Moderator: Good morning, Gil. de Ferran: Good morning, sir. Moderator: Congratulations. I want to remind everybody that Gil's...
87th Indianapolis 500-Mile Race
Gil De Ferran Monday Winner'S Press Conference
Monday, May 26, 2003
Part 1 of 2
Moderator: Good morning, Gil.
de Ferran: Good morning, sir.
Moderator: Congratulations. I want to remind everybody that Gil's press conference this morning is being transcribed. So still need to get the mike to you if I possibly can. What have the last 15, 18 hours been like, Gil?
de Ferran: Yeah, I tell you, it's been unbelievable. No, it's been incredible. You know, nonstop really. I mean, I hardly had time to really take it all in and realize what has been going on. It's just been one thing after the other. I'm really still sort of floating in the air. Haven't really sat down and said, "Oh, my God, you know, this is really happening." So I don't know. I think it will take a few days.
Moderator: I'm curious, did you get any sleep last night?
de Ferran: Not very much. Not very much. Probably about three or four hours, but I'm all right.
Moderator: Let's get questions.
Q: Gil, going back to the accident, how did that play on your mind, thinking that you might not be able to get to the '500' and now you have turned around and won it?
de Ferran: Well, I'm a big believer that you shouldn't worry about things that you don't control, you know? And so certainly when I was sitting in -- I should say lying in -- hospital there on that Sunday night after the accident, for me it was a matter of taking things one step at a time. You know, I had the doctors telling me on the subsequent days that I had yet another concussion and broke a couple of vertebras, and at that point I didn't really know what was going to happen. And priority number one in my mind was just to get myself fit again, get my head straight, get my bones healed, just one step at a time. And I think that kind of serves me well anyway.
Q: Gil, I'm going to be doing a story for Brazil Magazine on the history of Brazilian racing and Brazil's love affair with racing. I think people in the United States are beginning to understand just how significant that is. Now that you've got a role, a place in that history that is a significant one, I have really kind of a two-part question. One, if you can relate to me something about the history of racing in Brazil that stands out in your mind as sort of a watershed moment in that history for establishing Brazilians in the racing community, whether it was Senna or Fittipaldi? And then secondly, I'm curious to know about your own place in that history now. The Brazilians don't seem to understand Indy open-wheel the way that they do Formula One. It hasn't gained the same kind of popularity. What do you think is going to happen with that?
de Ferran: Well, I think the number-one part of your question, I would say there now has become a tradition of having Brazilian drivers in the forefront of international motorsports that really started with Emerson. I think it cascaded from there. Emerson inspired a new generation, which included Nelson Piquet, that inspired yet another generation that included Ayrton Senna, you know, and Ayrton was certainly the most inspiring of all. If you ever watched Ayrton drive, it was just an awesome sight. I certainly had the privilege to watch him drive and it was really captivating. It was an awesome sight to see. As far as my own place in the history of motorsports or within that tradition, it's really for all of us to decide, not really for me. All I worry about is doing a good job on Sunday afternoons and, you know, let the rest follow through.
Q: Gil, Michael Andretti has been one of the most dominant figures in this sport for about the last 20 years, give or take, that's arguable, but yet never won this race. Some people think that that really is just the near great, not a great. Could you put that in perspective with this win and your career?
de Ferran: Well, I think regardless of the fact that Michael did or did not win this race, I think he certainly stands in the -- he obviously retired yesterday -- he always will stand as one of the greatest drivers of this sport along with his dad. I have a lot of admiration for Michael. I raced against him for many, many years and I've seen him do some incredible things. And Michael does certainly have a very high place in our history, in the history of our sport.
Q: Did you talk to him after the race?
de Ferran: No, not after the race. I talked to him before the race. I asked him, I said: "How are you feeling? How does it feel?" you know. He said, "I'm focused on the race." I said, "I guess it's going to be a lot different Monday morning," and he said, "Yeah, I think that's right."
Q: Gil, you said yesterday there are a lot of things going on behind the scenes at Penske to get you to the point on Sunday. Could you explain a few of those, share a few thoughts?
de Ferran: Sure. It was late March when we decided that maybe there is an advantage to having the (Panoz) G Force, you know, and we had to make that call relatively early. So it was late March that they started to work on the possibility of bringing the G Force chassis here to Indy, as well as the Dallara that we were using. So to see that all coming together, I mean, because it's not simply like going to the shop and saying, "OK, give me one of those and put it over there on show." I mean, there's a whole logistical issue with spare parts for all the cars. And certainly to have a real choice, you have to have four running cars because if Helio happened to choose the same thing. So basically they had to prepare eight cars coming into this event. And bear in mind that I nearly destroyed one car in Phoenix, and Helio nearly destroyed one car in Japan. There was an awesome amount of work going on in the background. To put that together with the fact that we build our own engines and we need a lot of engines for, you know, a lot of the Toyota engines for the month of May, just seeing all this come together from our organization and logistics was really incredible because they were developing, trying to develop and understand two types of cars, putting in enough parts and everything together to run two types of cars. It's really unbelievable to see it all coming together. I mean, these guys, they usually work hard, but from really late March all the way throughout this month, the hours that they put in, they were even more than normal.
Q: Gil, is Indianapolis still a month-long event? Should it be a month-long event? And if so, what can they do to make it more compelling and vibrant for the fans throughout the course of those 30 days?
de Ferran: Well, I tell you, I'm sort of a traditionalist, I guess I would classify myself. So I guess an event like Indianapolis is a very traditional event and has been run a certain way throughout its history with few modifications. And I am not a believer in changing things around just to spice up the show. I don't think that that's a good thing to do, you know. The sport is the way it is, and some people like it, and some people don't. That's their problem. I don't believe you should mess with the sport, you know, to make it look more interesting or anything like that. There will be days when there will be an amazing show, and there will be other days that perhaps it won't be quite as amazing. But that's the way the sport is, and that's what makes it a sport, not just show business.
Moderator: Gil, could you talk a little bit about the addition of Tim Cindric and what that has meant over the last three years to the team?
de Ferran: Oh, let me tell you, Tim is a remarkable man for his young age. I mean, he's my age, I think, maybe even a little bit younger. He's a tremendous leader, you know, extremely mature. He always has a unique perspective to everything that's going on. He really has done a tremendous job organizing all the human powerhouse that Penske Racing is, because you get so many smart people and that group has so much power that I think you need to put everybody going in the same direction at the same time. And Tim has done an amazing job of doing all that. He's really essential to the success of our team.
Q: I don't know that you used the word "relief" in regards to this victory yet, but are you relieved by this? Is there any sense of if nothing else happens in the rest of your career, that you've done this?
de Ferran: No, I guess I haven't used the word "relief" because I don't feel relief, you know. I mean, it's, I don't know, how can I say? I was not searching for "relief," let me put it this way. I guess that's why I don't feel it. I think for me it's always been a dream of pushing myself further, and certainly the only way you have to measure this is by new and greater accomplishments. Certainly the Indy 500 is as great an accomplishment as one could hope for. That's how I conducted my life, you know. It's pushing the boundaries more and more and more and more and more. I enjoy that process. You know, it's not like, OK, once I get there, OK, I'm done now. It hasn't been that way for me. I don't know. That's not how I think about it.