Gordon Kirby – The US Scene

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

Current page

181

Current page

182

Current page

183

Current page

184

Gil aims to go out in glory

Gil de Ferran drives his last race, at Laguna Seca, on October 11 and hopes to retire as this year’s American Le Mans Series champion. Aboard de Ferran Motorsports’ Acura ARX-02a, the 41-year-old and his 25-year-old team-mate Simon Pagenaud have battled for this year’s championship with the identical car of Duncan Dayton’s Highcroft team, driven by David Brabham/Scott Sharp. The pair of Acuras have traded wins back and forth, usually finishing one-two with no other serious competition. It’s believed that Acura (Honda) will pull out of the ALMS at the end of this season, and both de Ferran and Highcroft are expected to move to the IRL IndyCar Series for 2010. But Gil insists that he hopes to run two Acura P1 cars next year and two Dallara-Honda Indycars.

“We’ve set ourselves some lofty goals by declaring that we would like to run two Indycars and two sports cars,” says de Ferran. “That’s our dream, our target, and we’re working flat out towards it. It seems a bit ambitious for a team that today runs a one-car, factory-supported operation in the American Le Mans Series, but this is the goal. We believe that if we achieve this dream we’ll have the base for our future direction. Right now, we’re focused on the commercial aspects of making this dream a reality.”

De Ferran admits that it’s been difficult to occupy the dual roles of driver and team owner.

“I enjoy the driving, and I think I fulfilled the objectives I had when I came back into it, which was to help develop the Acura motor sport programme and establish our team,” he says. “Establishing our team has always been priority number one and I feel that for me to reach the standards I would like, I need to focus solely on this. When I was solely driving, I felt it was important to have a narrow focus, and I’ve found it increasingly difficult to be able to perform the way I expect of myself if I have to keep dividing my time.”

De Ferran has also found it demanding to be a fighting-fit driver as well as a team boss. “I’ve been trying hard,” he says. “I’m good in the car and I can do the lap times.

I have to do a regular workout programme and that’s been one of the main difficulties this year. This car puts extra demands on your physical conditioning, and the economic situation has put extra demands on the other end of the equation, so just balancing everything has been very hard.”

The Acura P1 car is not easy to drive, according to Gil: “The car has got a lot of downforce. It’s a big and quite heavy machine, as P1 cars are forcibly by the rules. But the car is actually quite nimble. From a physical standpoint everything happens very quickly. I enjoy driving this car, it’s a very high performance car. If you had a little more power with this amount of downforce and grip from the tyres, we would be going extremely fast! Physically, it’s challenging because everywhere we go you’re always pulling a lot of gs.”

Hiring retired American Honda racing boss Robert Clarke as the team’s CEO has been essential to de Ferran’s success this year. “Bringing Robert on board has been a huge help,” says Gil. “The team is doing a great job. We’ve been competitive everywhere and when we think about the future, we think that to be a better team we need to be bigger. There are a lot of things we want to do from an engineering and technical standpoint, and for us to be able to afford those things we need to expand.

“With [team manager] John [Anderson] and the group we have, the skeleton is already there from a technical standpoint. Some of the methodology and technology we’ve developed in our short existence will apply to the things we want to do. We have plans and I’m confident that we can execute them quite well.”

De Ferran could not be more pleased with Pagenaud. “In Simon we’ve seen a guy who’s shown a lot of speed on the race track,” he says. “He’s very intelligent and mature. To me, he’s a key ingredient. In the two years he has been with us he’s delivered in every way. Simon is proving himself to be one of the top sports car drivers today and he’s only 25, so there’s a long way to go before he achieves his full potential. I’ve purposely thrown Simon more and more into a leadership position, and he’s doing a great job.”

The Brazilian is also excited about Peugeot and Audi’s return to the ALMS at the end of the season for the Road Atlanta and Laguna Seca races. “We’ve improved our car since we started this year but it’s such a new concept that the learning curve is still very steep,” he says. “It was clear in Sebring that the diesels had an advantage over our petrol-fuelled Acura. However, I happen to think that our car is the best-handling sports car around. We were able to prove that at Sebring despite our deficit in horsepower, and we’ve made some gains since then. But I’m sure they have improved as well. Laguna Seca, where the straights are not as long, might suit our car quite well.

“We pull a lot of gs in medium- and high-speed corners, and at Laguna all those corners in the section behind the pits and going up the hill and then after the Corkscrew are going to be unbelievable! We’re going to be pulling over 3g through there, no question. Short straights and high-speed corners suit the car best.”

Le Mans winner Brabham said in this column last month that he reckons the Peugeots will be hard to beat at Road Atlanta, but David also believes the Acuras will have a better chance at Laguna Seca. “I see us being a little closer to them around Laguna,” says Brabham. “It should be fun. It’ll add a little something to the championship, and de Ferran and Highcroft might still be duking it out by then.”

In fact it looks like de Ferran and his old friend and rival Brabham will be battling for the title down to the last lap at Laguna Seca, providing a compelling way for Gil to close out his driving career.

*****

Penske’s Briscoe bids for IRL spoils

Ryan Briscoe put himself in a position to beat Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti to this year’s IRL IndyCar Series title by scoring his second and third wins of the year on the Kentucky and Chicago ovals in August.

Aussie Briscoe joined Roger Penske’s ALMS Porsche LMP2 team in 2007 and was promoted last year to the Indycar squad. He won three IRL races in ’08 and finished fifth in the points, but this year he’s been Penske’s lead driver as Hélio Castroneves faced his income tax evasion trial. Briscoe won the season-opener at St Petersburg, and by the end of August had racked up seven second places and a couple of fourths on top of his three victories.

Both the defending champion Dixon and his Ganassi team-mate Franchitti had won more races at that stage with four each, but neither could match Briscoe’s consistency. With two races still to go – at the Motegi and Homestead-Miami ovals – Briscoe led Franchitti by 25 points, with Dixon another eight adrift.

Dixon was disappointed after losing to Briscoe at Chicagoland by just 0.0077 seconds. “The domination we had last year on the mile-and-a-half tracks has really been affected,” he grumbled. “We need to catch up to Penske. They’re clearly a lot faster than us.”

Added team-mate Franchitti: “We’re a little weak at the ovals and it will be really hard to make it happen. But we’ve got to keep pushing.”

*****

Stewart and Johnson lead the chase

The NASCAR Sprint Cup championship could be shaping into a battle between Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson, although the 10-race Chase for the Cup play-off means some longer shots have a real chance at stealing the 2009 title if they run particularly well over the remainder of this very long 10-month season.

Tony Stewart was NASCAR champion twice (in 2001 and 2005) before starting his own team this year, having taken a 50 per cent share in Gene Haas’s existing Chevrolet squad and transforming the operation with Hendrick Motorsports chassis and engines. Conventional wisdom said Stewart would struggle for a few years, but he and team-mate Ryan Newman have been competitive in many races, and Stewart took the points lead mid-summer.

Johnson is the defending three-time champion who shares lead driver billing with his mentor Jeff Gordon at Hendrick. Johnson has also run at or near the front all year and remains the favourite of many to win his fourth straight title. Gordon has run well, yet doesn’t seem to be the match of his friend and rival.

But qualifying as top seed is their team-mate Mark Martin, who first raced in the Cup back in 1981. The 50-year-old has won four races this year, his first with the Hendrick super-team. He would be a popular first-time champion.

Meanwhile, can ex-F1 star Juan Pablo Montoya challenge for the title? This is his best NASCAR season to date and he has qualified for the Chase for the first time.

Related articles

Related products