De Ferran aims to bring Takuma Sato to IndyCar UPDATE Gil de Ferran's next big race is against the clock -- and he's already behind. The soon-to-be retired sports-car driver is embarking on the most ambitious challenge of his career: Getting a new IndyCar team up and running in less than seven months.
"Time is against us," de Ferran said. "For us to be competitive, there are a lot of things we need to do. Because it's our first foray into IndyCar racing, we'll probably have to do twice as much work."
Working overtime is no problem for de Ferran.
It's the catching up that worries the Brazilian.
De Ferran is scrambling to find sponsors in this tough economy, drivers who can give the team instant credibility, and crew members with enough experience to decode a car's secrets. Established IndyCar teams have spent years fine-tuning their cars, collecting reams of computer printouts to make adjustments and developing, even funding wind tunnel programs. More at USA Today
08/07/09 At Mid-Ohio Friday Gill de Ferran announced that he is working on starting a 2-car IndyCar team in 2010 and to expand his ALMS team to two cars.
"Ideally I want to have a 2-car Sportscar team and a 2-Car IndyCar team. There are some economies of scale. We have 5 engineers on the team and obviously I want to increase that.
"For me expanding into IndyCars is a natural. I know a lot of people from my time in the sport and I think I understand what it takes to be successful."
"Throughout my career, I've always been driven by challenges," de Ferran said at a news conference at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. "While I've enjoyed my time behind the wheel of the No. 66 XM Radio DFM Acura ARX-02a, my main focus moving forward is to continue to build our team into a world-class motorsports organization.
"I feel that by returning to the cockpit for the past year, I have been competitive and added value to our team as a driver. Overall, I also feel we succeeded in developing this program to a point where I can now step down and dedicate 100 percent of my time to expanding our team.
"(Running two cars in the IndyCar Series and ALMS) is a dream, and part of the reason I'm stepping out of the cockpit is to fulfill this dream," de Ferran said. "The (IndyCar Series) is so competitive that if we want to run well the sooner we start the better. The secret of this sport, which is really no secret at all, is preparation. We need time, we need skilled personnel and we need money. If we start too late, our chances of being competitive from the start diminish.
"We have great partnerships today and you need good partners to move forward. Expanding to IndyCar is a natural. My background is mostly in Indy car, it's a sport I understand well and I know a lot of the personnel. I'm confident we can attract additional talented personnel to make this team work well, which is the key to our success."
Robert Clarke, the former president of Honda Performance Development who is executive director of de Ferran Motorsports, also is dedicated to the program.
"It's been in the works since I came on board," Clark said of the IndyCar Series plan. "I think we have some decent prospects on sponsorship and some unique ideas that could be appealing to sponsors. We have a lot of energy for it; we're working around the clock.
"Back in the '90s when I was with HPD and he was (an Indy car driver), I knew his skill as a driver. I knew his engineering background and the quality of his technical feedback. Gil clearly added value to our Indy car program and helped us achieve what it achieved. I think the time out of the seat when he was at Honda (Sporting Director of the F1 program) developed business skills that he didn't know he had and clearly I didn't know he had. He's strategic in his thinking, innovative, creative and able to think of the big picture even though he's a guy who looks at the details."As for the rumors that ex-Honda F1 driver Takuma Sato is one of the leading candidates to land one of his two IndyCar seats, de Ferran confirmed that to be true.
"He's told me he has an interest in IndyCar racing and we'll always search for the best drivers," de Ferran said when asked if former F1 driver Takuma Sato, who attended the Indianapolis 500 in May, would be on his short list to join the IndyCar Series program. "Having the right guys pushing the pedals is a priority for any team that wants to be competitive. I think the driver plays a key role on the development and the competitiveness of the team.
"Speaking of Sato, I had the pleasure of working with him in Formula One. He was tremendously successful in the lower formulas and is really competitive."
Team President Robert Clarke echoed those sentiments.
"Although I have not worked with Sato directly, I hear he is a very good driver who gives great technical feedback."
As for the 2nd driver, Clarke indicated it would have to be an experienced IndyCar driver because of the limited testing the IRL allows. He does not agree with the IRL on this.
"I don't think the IRL recognizes that by limiting testing so much they are hurting the teams they are trying to help and get established."
With limited testing a new team coming in with no experience in IndyCar will really struggle.