The motorsports world mourns the loss of Gil de Ferran, a revered figure in IndyCar racing, who tragically passed away from an apparent heart attack at the age of 56. The Associated Press reported his untimely demise at 8:25 p.m. Eastern Time on December 29.
De Ferran suffered a cardiac arrest while driving a car at the Concours Club, a private track situated in Opa-Locka, Florida, around 2 to 3 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday. Despite the best efforts, he couldn’t be revived.
Renowned racing magnate Roger Penske, who served as de Ferran’s team owner from 2000 to 2003, expressed profound grief, extending condolences to de Ferran’s family. Penske lauded de Ferran for his exemplary conduct on and off the track, highlighting his achievements as an IndyCar champion and an Indianapolis 500 winner. He hailed de Ferran as an individual of class, respected and beloved by many within the motorsports community.
Tony Kanaan, a close friend and fellow racer with de Ferran on that fateful day, shared his deep sorrow over the loss. Recalling their enduring friendship and recent collaboration at McLaren, Kanaan expressed devastation at losing a dear mentor and friend.
De Ferran’s son, Luke, recounted how his father, feeling unwell, stopped at the pit entrance. Despite no crash, emergency vehicles took time to reach de Ferran’s car due to the absence of an accident.
Gil de Ferran’s Storied Career: From Karting Success to IndyCar Triumphs:
Gil de Ferran’s journey in motorsports began in karting during his teenage years. His career ascended rapidly as he ventured to Europe, clinching the 1992 English Formula 3 championship. In 1995, he transitioned to CART, driving for the esteemed Jim Hall in the iconic yellow Pennzoil car.
While his initial attempt at the Indianapolis 500 in 1995 saw unfortunate involvement in a crash, de Ferran’s resilience remained undeterred. Most CART teams boycotted the Indy 500 in 1996 due to the creation of the rival Indy Racing League, marking his absence until 2001.
Gil de Ferran’s fortunes changed when he joined Walker Racing in 1997, and later, in 1999, he received a pivotal offer from Team Penske, aiming to rejuvenate their struggling team.
The tragic loss of Greg Moore in 1999 led to Helio Castroneves joining forces with de Ferran at Team Penske, forming a formidable duo. Their partnership yielded success, with de Ferran securing the CART championship in 2000 and 2001, while Castroneves triumphed at the Indianapolis 500 in 2001 and 2002.
Transitioning to the Indy Racing League with Team Penske in 2002, de Ferran clinched victory at the prestigious Indianapolis 500 in 2003, narrowly edging out Castroneves in a historic 1-2 finish for Team Penske.
Retiring from IndyCar racing after the 2003 season, de Ferran amassed 12 IndyCar wins, leaving an indelible mark on the sport.
His contributions extended beyond the track. He ventured into Formula One as sporting director for BAR-Honda from 2005 to 2007. He returned to racing in the American Le Mans Series, later co-owning de Ferran Dragon Racing in the IndyCar Series until 2011.
A prominent figure at McLaren Racing, de Ferran served as sporting director and later as a consultant until early 2021. His exceptional technical expertise and managerial acumen contributed significantly to the motorsports landscape.
Gil de Ferran’s legacy reverberates throughout the racing world, his impact enduring through his numerous achievements and contributions to the sport. His passing leaves a void in the hearts of fans, friends, and colleagues, a sentiment echoed by Mark Miles, President and CEO of Penske Entertainment.
Survived by his wife, Angela, daughter, Ana, and son, Luke, Gil de Ferran’s influence transcended racing, leaving an indelible mark on the sport and the lives of those he touched.
As the motorsports community grieves the loss of a legend, Gil de Ferran’s enduring spirit and remarkable legacy will forever be cherished and remembered.