87th Indianapolis 500-Mile Race May 25, 2003, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Winner's Press Conference Transcript Gil De Ferran Part 1 of 2 MODERATOR: Gil, you have won championships, yet this month in press conferences here, there were a few ...
87th Indianapolis 500-Mile Race
May 25, 2003, Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Winner's Press Conference Transcript Gil De Ferran
Part 1 of 2
MODERATOR: Gil, you have won championships, yet this month in press conferences here, there were a few questions that asked if the focus was on Helio (Castroneves). The tears after the race, would you just share your feelings on what it means to win this and just put it all in perspective?
GIL DE FERRAN: Well, thank you. First of all, I just wanted to say that I always saw what was going on during the month, particularly with Helio, as something very natural. And let me tell you, I have no bitterness towards him or no jealousy. I mean, to me, Helio is a great driver, and he deserves all the attention that he's getting because he's certainly one of the best in the business, and he has accomplished a lot, particularly here. And for me, it was just about staying focused.
And I tell you, when I crossed that line, I don't know, it was a lot of things going on in my head. You try not to think about it beforehand because I think that really gets your eye off the ball. So whenever something like this happens, it always comes as a surprise. I never know how I am going to feel, and it was an unbelievable feeling, certainly coming back from the accident, and again, I had a great feeling of pride for belonging - and I say this not just because Roger and Tim are here - but belonging to this organization.
You have no idea what went on behind the scenes. I could speak here all day, and you still won't understand what went on behind the scenes for this month of May to turn out the way it was, and really I was overflowing, I guess, with emotion. And for me, you know, I always dreamed of winning this race. Certainly, I have won championships and all that, but this is one of the most prestigious prizes in international racing.
To cross the checkered flag, I am like, 'It is really happening' (laughs). Because you don't -- I don't allow myself to get carried away. And certainly those last few laps there was very difficult, very difficult to stay focused.
MODERATOR: Gil, when you look at history, this race and the names that have won the race, some of the greatest drivers ever that have won this race and even in Michael Andretti's case, drivers that haven't won this race. Now the fact that your name is going to be permanently part of the history of this race. How does that all sink in to you?
DE FERRAN: I don't know if it has, really. I had a very fortunate career to have been able to win many races and many championships. Mostly, I'm fortunate to be working with some great teams, and you know, suddenly have accomplished more than I could. When I started racing as a 14-year-old boy, I didn't know how far I was going to get, and I guess it hasn't really sunk in. The very fact that you are asking me that question sometimes takes me aback. I guess I will tell you next week when I consider the question a little bit more (laughs).
Q: Gil, when you were getting out of the car after winning the race, you looked like you hesitated there a bit. Your eyes were sort of tightly shut there. Were you in pain or just overcome by the emotion?
DE FERRAN: I was in pain, I have to admit. My shoulders, halfway through the race, started cramping, and I really had a hard time putting my hands, especially the left hand, and it was getting more and more and more and more painful, really getting more and more difficult to work it out. So I really couldn't lift it to kind of rest a little bit there. Before, I could, you know, on my arms.
Q: Does that mean your back wasn't hurting?
DE FERRAN: My back wasn't hurting, but I don't know, I have got to find out what happened. Maybe it was something to do with the neck. But behind my shoulders is really painful.
Q: You said that you weren't going to get carried away. What is the closest thing you will come to getting carried away? I guess no fence-climbing?
DE FERRAN: Yeah, I climbed the fence with my friend. Yeah, they missed it. (Laughs). No, I will tell you, I don't know, maybe I've never been carried away, but maybe it is going to happen tonight when the cameras are not on.
Q: Gil, what concerns did you have about being here this month following Phoenix, and did you think that you would be here in this position?
DE FERRAN: I pride myself on focusing on the moment. Taking one step at a time, you know, not carrying anything with me from behind. Certainly, I use things as experience, you know, and that forces my knowledge, but I am very focused on the moment and the job that I have to do at that point in time. Throughout this moment...the first week was all about qualifying, not any big psychological thing about what is going on here and there and everywhere. It was just about getting the job done for qualifying. And then the next week was getting the job done for the race, and throughout the race, I was focused. First of all, not to get into trouble, and then when the strategy and the good stops and everything propelled me forward, then I said, 'OK, now I am in good position. Try to take opportunities, just focus on the job more than anything else.'
Q: Gil, what do you think Helio's emotions are right now? What he lost and happiness for you -- where do you think he's at?
DE FERRAN: I don't know. All I can tell you is when I finished second to him in 2001, for me it was a mixture of happiness and sadness because you are so close and yet so far. And you are happy for him because, you know, certainly, I consider him to be my friend, and I have a lot of respect for him. You are happy for the team because they finished one-two, and the feelings that I have for those people on the team are very true and sincere. So when you finish one and two, it's a joy for everybody. But from very deep down inside, from your own personal standpoint, you are like, 'Eh', and maybe he's feeling that way. I don't know. You have to ask him.
Q: Gil, how did the fence-climbing thing come about? Was it spontaneous?
DE FERRAN: It was very spontaneous because we were sitting there on the yard of bricks and OK, 'Kiss the bricks, Kiss the bricks,' which I thought was appropriate. Then I thought, hold on a minute, Helio was just here a minute ago, and the crowd was -- they were screaming. I am like, 'I know what I am going to do.' (Laughs). But I couldn't do that all by myself. I had to have him there with me.
Q: Can you express -- at the moment you must be happy, how happy are you? What feelings are running through you right now to have achieved this great accomplishment?
DE FERRAN: From a scale of one to 10, probably a 9.99999999. I mean, all joking aside, it's overwhelmed me, it really has overwhelmed me. You always think, 'Oh, man, if that ever happens to me, it would be a great opportunity for me to say something interesting and intelligent,' and (laughs) I am afraid it kind of shuts off and you are like, 'Duh.' It is really difficult to put into words what you feel. My memory goes back to when I was a kid, you know, and everything that went on recently, just shifts backwards and forwards, and my family and friends and these two gentlemen next to me, I don't know, all my desires really to me it seems are happening at once, that's why -- when it comes time to say something, it just doesn't come out.
Q: Are you going to invite us to your party so we can get the real you?
DE FERRAN: You have got to talk to Tim (Cindric). He's the guard dog.