Chaparrals turn back the clock
The white surroundings of a Chaparral suited Gil de Ferran just fine. His last weekend as a driver started out like a dream – behind the wheel of Jim Hall’s Chaparral 2 around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The American Le Mans Series’ Monterey Sports Car Championships presented by Patr¢n marks the final race of de Ferran’s outstanding career. But Thursday showed that even the most legendary of figures can still find new thrills.
|Gil de Ferran car leads the two Jim Hall Chaparrals|
“I can’t tell you the emotions of the entire experience,” said de Ferran, who flanked Hall’s Chaparral 2E with Simon Pagenaud on the other side in de Ferran Motorsports’ Acura ARX-02a. All three cars were the famed Chaparral white, de Ferran’s tribute to the man who gave him his break in North American motorsports. De Ferran drove for Hall’s IndyCar team in 1995 and 1996, with the pairing’s first victory coming at Laguna Seca in 1995.
|Jim Hall, Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud|
“Being here for my last race, Jim being here, driving a Chaparral for the first time…it’s just great,” de Ferran said. “I could still be in the car now and be quite happy about it.”
It was hard to tell who had a bigger thrill out of the event – de Ferran, Hall, Pagenaud or the scores of onlookers. Fellow drivers, crew members, team and manufacturer execs…they were all caught up in the moment. The three-car parade went around Mazda Raceway thrice. Each time past start-finish, cameras clicked, video rolled and heads turned.
Drayson Racing’s Jonny Cocker and Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen were among those perched on pit wall and gathered around the cars when they fired up in the paddock, alongside Dyson Racing’s Marino Franchitti. The latter was extremely fascinated, not a surprise given his appreciation for the history of motorsport.
“That was something really special…really fun,” Hall said. “I don’t think I was quite as quick as I used to be! I told Gil that he’s now one of a handful of people who have ever driven a Chaparral.”
“It was a really big moment,” said Pagenaud, far too young to have seen the Chaparrals race in the 1960s. “We’re all fans of motorsport and love it. That’s what made this so special to be with these two legends. When we were going around, one of my engineers said into the radio, ‘Remember this because this is a part of history.’”