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Controversy over Closed Course Speed Record UPDATE #3 Thank you for the update.  Again, I would like to congratulate Gil de Ferran and the Penske team on what is without question a significant achievement.  Were the FIA to tabulate records for two mile courses, I'm sure it would be at the top of the list.  But the terms of the World Closed Course Record do not make such a limitation and, therefore, the Foyt record clearly takes the day.

In view of the questions raised, I'd like to clarify the status of that record.  At the time the Foyt record was set, the FIA did not have such a thing as a World Closed Course Record.  So that record went into the FIA record books at the time (because it was FIA observed and sanctioned) in another class.  Subsequent to the establishment of the World Closed Course Record, no competitor made a sanctioned attempt at it.

Over the last several years, the FIA has gone to considerable effort to review, correct, and publish all of its Land Speed Records, many of which had not properly been transitioned into today's electronic media.  This work was due in no small part to the U.S. Land Speed Record community, with the assistance of Dave Petrali, long time USAC steward and expert on U.S. Land Speed Records.  As part of that review, we were reminded that the World Closed Course Record had never been officially recognized.  As a result, we started reviewing old paper records to determine whether we could or could not officially recognize such a record.  After extensive research and discussion, the Land Speed Records Commission, which manages these efforts for the FIA, determined that two records met all the tests for the World Closed Course Record and we have recognized them as such.  Besides the Foyt record, we also recognized the previous Mercedes-Benz C111 effort of 251.020 mph, driven by Hans Liebold, at Nardo, Italy, in May 5, 1979.  So, those are the only two efforts that were conducted under FIA sanction and met all the requirements for the record.

That review has only been finally completed within the last month and the results have not yet been added to the list of records now maintained on the FIA website.  So, this discussion is the first public acknowledgement of the records.  Thanks for the opportunity to clarify the situation.

Congratulations should go to all three efforts recognized above, none of which are inconsiderable. Dennis Dean
President, Land Speed Records Commission, FIA

05/15/11 A reader adds, I appreciate FIA’s Dennis Dean sounding in on the land speed record topic.  There has been a long debate since DeFerran set his speed mark and whose speed was the closed course record, and this is the first time I have seen the FIA sound off on this and make a clarification.  Way to go AR1 for ferreting out an answer!  But I remain confused. 

One of the underlying issues were questions in regards to whether there was proper sanctioning of Foyt’s attempt, and his car not being a purpose built car for racing, rather built for that particular event (according to their rules, FIA distinguishes such classes).  For years there were media reports still questioning who in fact had the record, and many of those concluded Foyt’s attempt just didn’t meet the criteria of sanctioning and purpose of car spelled out by the FIA. 

Reading back through the regulations since Mr. Dean’s response, I still don’t see how Foyt’s attempt can be classed with DeFerrans, let alone recognized as a record per FIA rules on sanctioning.  This sudden clarification, and with all due respect to Mr. Dean, takes me back to how the FIA has a history of politicizing and changing their rules and policies, and before I go into some “F1/Bernie E would do anything to remove CART/Champ Car from the record books” conspiracies, I am really curious as to when the FIA established Foyt’s speed as the closed course record? 

Also would love to have some clarification how Foyt’s attempt met the sanctioning criteria per FIA rules as well as how his car (purpose built for that one attempt) could be grouped in the same class as DeFerran’s (purpose built for a racing series)? Regards, Andy Fogiel, Lansing, MI

Dear Andy, And imagine how fast deFerran would have gone had he not been forced to run the Handford Device when he made that run - it was like dragging a parachute behind him.  Mark C.

05/15/11 Gentlemen, I noted with interest the claim by Penske Racing's Technical Director that the Gil de Ferran lap at California Speedway in 2000 was a world closed course record.  It is certainly an impressive achievement about which they should be proud.  But it is not the World Closed Course Record.

The FIA is the recognized authority for certifying automotive speed records on a world-wide basis.  It currently recognizes the World Closed Course Record as a lap of 257.123 mph set by A.J. Foyt at the Ft. Stockton, Texas Test Center on Aug 28, 1987.

Best regards,
Dennis Dean
President, Land Speed Records Commission, FIA

[Editor's Note: However, it should be noted that DeFerran did it during a CART IndyCar race weekend on a small 2-mile track, in a car that passed technical inspection, and not in some purpose built car on a large track like the Texas Test Center.  A grandmother could have driven the car Foyt drove that day and achieved the same speed. There should be an asterisk next to Foyt's record noting it for what it was. Mark C.]

05/11/11 Penske Racing technical director Tom German will part ways with the company at the end of May.

German, who spent 10-plus years with Penske Racing, originally on the IndyCar side and most recently with the NASCAR program, has been accepted to the prestigious Sloan School of Management at MIT.

Sprint Cup Series driver Kurt Busch was upset during the race at Richmond International Raceway, calling out German on the team radio in a profanity-laced tirade. Then last week at Darlington Raceway, he alluded to changes having been made within the team, though he would not get specific.

"It’s been a productive week," Busch said. "There’s been a lot of movement behind the scenes with restructuring, moving some things around and getting a general idea what some of the actual issues are instead of just talking about them; we’re acting to it."

German has a lengthy history of success with Penske. He worked with the organization's entries in both the CART and IZOD IndyCar Series with the team winning three championships and producing four Indianapolis 500 victories during his tenure.

He was Sam Hornish Jr.'s race engineer when he won the 2006 Indy 500 from the pole position and the championship. He was Gil de Ferran's race engineer from 2000-03, with the pair winning the 2003 Indianapolis 500 and two consecutive CART Series Championships (2000–01). German also helped de Ferran establish a new world closed-course speed record with a lap of 241.428 mph at California Speedway in 2000, and the tandem scored Roger Penske’s historic 100th victory at Nazareth Speedway that same year.

The prestigious Sloan program only accepts a small percentage of applicants each year.

"Last fall, Tom came to us with interest in attending this elite school," Gibson said. "Acceptance is extremely competitive, with less than 15% of the applicants being selected for the program. We supported him during this application process and he found out this spring that he had been accepted and will begin classes in June. We are thankful for all of his contributions to Penske, and we are proud of Tom for being accepted to this elite school and wish him the best as he furthers his education at MIT." FOX Sports

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