De Ferran Motorsports’ debut in the American Le Mans Series is getting closer and closer each day. The newest member of the Acura Motorsports stable will make its highly anticipated first start at next week’s Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix presented by the Grand and Little America Hotels. So what’s going through team owner and driver Gil de Ferran’s mind as his first start in the Series approaches?
“It’s hard to imagine that just a few months ago this was just a conversation,” said de Ferran, who will team with fellow newcomer Simon Pagenaud. “We still have a lot of preparation to go through. We still are getting used to running the car and so on and so forth.
“You can’t help when you look at a cool and fast race car, you think, ‘Yeah I’d like to get in there and have a go at it myself,’” he said. “The primary reason you’ve been seeing me in the paddock is that I’m observing the proceedings and trying to understand how people do certain things and learn from the very experienced and competent teams.”
Such study is what has earned him the nickname “The Professor” during his distinguished career in motorsports. A two-time CART champion and past Indianapolis 500 winner, de Ferran’s most recent role was Sporting Director for BAR Honda in Formula 1. It gave him tremendous insight in how to approach the Acura project as both owner and driver. He got his first taste during the team’s first test at Sebring in mid-April.
Gil de Ferran
“I was a little anxious before I drove the car,” he said. “I hadn’t driven a racing car at all for many years and hadn’t driven a road course for nearly a decade. I was very apprehensive. I did a lot of fitness preparation prior to the test. I certainly feel more fit than I did a few months ago. The fact that we were going to Sebring and it was a place that I did a lot of testing there in my IndyCar days was something that was a positive. I really sat down and tried to recall a lot of my memories - how the car felt when I drove it. I’m glad to report that after a few runs, it all came flooding back to me. I ultimately had all those files stored up there and ready for retrieval. It wasn’t a completely foreign driving style I had to develop to get used to these cars.
“These are really single-seaters with bodywork,” he added. “They are high horsepower, high downforce cars. They’re relatively light. The brakes have a very high capacity. For example at Sebring, we were pulling just over four Gs under braking through the hairpin, which is not dissimilar to what happens in an open-wheel car. To me, that’s fascinating. To drive one of these cars quick is a huge challenge. And you can see it in the lap times. They are very close and sometimes faster than some open-wheel cars.”
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