Gil de Ferran describes his relationship with the Long Beach street circuit as love-hate. He loves the track from a qualifying perspective, evidenced by three pole positions there in his CART days. Final results are another matter. That’s the part of the trend he is hoping to reverse this weekend at the Tequila Patr¢n American Le Mans Series at Long Beach, de Ferran’s first race there since 2000.
“I certainly enjoy going to tracks that I feel are a part of motorsports heritage,” said de Ferran, owner and driver of de Ferran Motorsports’ Acura ARX-02a that he will share with Simon Pagenaud. “When you look at the history of Long Beach, there is a huge amount of history associated it, going all the way back to the 70s with the track’s Formula 1 events.
“I also make a huge separation between street circuits and road courses. Street circuits are a place where a driver can express himself the most. Out of all the disciplines I’ve done, they seem to be the place where you really can extend your wings and dig a little deeper. I always seem to find to a little more there.”
de Ferran raced six times at Long Beach in CART with fifth-, sixth- and seventh-place finishes to his credit. He started from pole in 1996 and led the first 100 laps before the turbo gave out and caused him to limp home to the finish in fifth. It’s what he still points to today as his cruelest moment in racing.
Redemption can come Saturday with the team’s first American Le Mans Series victory (and just guess who is likely to qualify Friday!). In addition to de Ferran’s history there, Pagenaud ran fourth at Long Beach in 2006 (in Formula Atlantic) and was third in 2007’s Champ Car race there. So at least things will look somewhat familiar from inside the cockpit.
“We’re going to face some challenges compared to what we had at St. Petersburg,” de Ferran said. “This latest generation of P1 cars is immensely advanced from any car I have ever driven. They don’t have a tremendous amount of horsepower but Acura has developed the handling of the car to an extent where it is certainly a challenge to drive the car fast. I think we’re very much behind the eight-ball with our experience with the race track and this type of car on this circuit.”
The race is set for 4:15 p.m. PT on Saturday, April 18 from the famed Long Beach street circuit in southern California. The race will be televised from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 19 on ABC. Qualifying is scheduled for 4 p.m. PT on Friday, April 17. American Le Mans Radio and Live Timing and Scoring will be available at americanlemans.com. The race also will be aired on XM Channel 242 and Sirius Channel 126 from 7 to 9 p.m. ET on Saturday.
The race also will mark the next round for the MICHELIN® Green X® Challenge. For tickets, visit americanlemans.com or gplb.com.
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