A NUMBERS GAME?
“I think about speed in the following way,”
says Gil de Ferran. “There are 1000 different
racing series around the globe, and they’re all
a little bit different from each other, in a
variety of ways – some in a technical way,
some in a sporting way, some just
geographically. And they all try to answer a
calling of some kind that fits their market.
“So what are some of the defining brand
characteristics that have made IndyCar
what it is over the years? There are a
number of things that define, and have
defined, IndyCar over time. Fortunately – or
unfortunately – I think one of those is how
fast the bloody thing is. It’s a differentiator
between IndyCar and other series.
“Taking my analysis to an extreme, if
I told you it’s OK to go around Indianapolis
Motor Speedway at 150mph because
speed doesn’t matter, you’d probably laugh
at me. So how slow is OK? Instead of
talking about how fast is OK, the question
that begs is, how slow To me, that means
that speed does matter.
“I wouldn’t like to see an IndyCar
running around Indy at 200mph. But at the
DOES SPEED MATTER?
“And I think you want to maintain the
‘scary’ factor, too – it needs to be a little
scary, frankly. And you’re not going to
achieve that by going slow. And it needs to
be scary not only for the competition side,
where you need a little bit of skill to be
competitive, but also for the public to
understand it and get it and say, ‘Wow, I’m
watching something that not many people
are able to do well.’
“Driving that [241mph] lap at Fontana
in 2000 felt normal. When you’re on the
limit, you’re on the limit. It just happened
to be a lot faster in that case. And when
you’re going a lot faster and you’re on the
limit, you have the realization that if
something breaks or you make a mistake,
you’re going to suffer some severe
consequences. That’s very apparent, unless
you are a complete idiot and blind. That’s
the reality of driving racecars.
“Technology is such that you could
make the current cars go extremely fast.
But making them fast isn’t really the
problem. Making it interesting and
challenging is more of a priority.”
Gil de Ferran ran 241mph at Fontana and has strong opinions about speed – but they might suprise you.
If 1999-2000 CART
were their natural
Gil de Ferran’s lap at Fontana in 2000 earned
him pole, a closed-course speed record,
and a photo shoot with boss Roger Penske.
same time, I’m not obsessed with the idea
that we must break records. It needs to be
fast enough that it’s difficult and daunting.
I want to see it in such a way that not
everyone jumps into an IndyCar and finds
it easy. And typically, that has been the
case – you’ve seen some very successful
drivers from other series jump into an
IndyCar on an oval and go, ‘OK, this is a
whole different ballgame.’