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Last Sunday, Gil de Ferran called the Indy Racing League event as color analyst for ESPN. In a few days, the employees of the BAR-Honda Formula One team will start calling the 37-year-old Brazilian their boss. has learned that in the next few days de Ferran will be named sporting director of the English-based team that has failed to finish a race so far in 2005.

de Ferran was in Indianapolis Tuesday but flying to England for the announcement and was unavailable for comment.

Alan Henry, the longtime F-1 corrrespondent for The Guardian newspaper, also confirmed this unlikely, if not shocking, promotion in Wednesday's editions.

It's not a surprise that current CEO Nick Fry is under fire since this season has been a disaster for Jensen Button and Takuma Sato. After finishing third and eighth in the 2004 point standings, neither has made it to the end of a race and both have been off pace. And Toyota has scored a pair of podiums and pretty much humilated their arch rival.

Fry replaced David Richards, who was credited with turning this team around but got left by the side of the road when Honda acquired the controlling interest last winter.

de Ferran is an accomplished race driver -- owner of the 2000 and 2001 CART championships, 2003 Indianapolis 500 and 1992 British Formula 3 title -- yet has never managed a team.

Bobby Rahal, who had a short term running the Jaguar F-1 program in 2000, was happy for his old rival in CART but also pragmatic.

"Good for Gil," said Rahal from his shop in Columbus, Ohio. "I know he's never led a team but you know he's there because of Honda. Obviously, they think very highly of him and he's a sharp guy.

"Of course it's going to be a big challenge. It's seven days a week, 18 hours a day and it's going to be very demanding."

But Rahal, who was replaced by Niki Lauda after only six months when there was a change in upper management at Ford, believes that Gil has a better chance of sticking.

"Honda is not Ford and I think it's a relatively patient organization," continued the 1986 Indy winner who also made two starts in F-1 before becoming a three-time CART champ. "What undermined me at Jaguar weren't the people who brought me in. It was the next chain of command and I think Gil will have a good guy working with him named Otmar Szafnauer.

"I hired Outmore at Jaguar to be my COO but Lauda never allowed him to do his job so, after being paid by Ford for three years to do nothing, Honda hired him. He's good."

Still, Rahal has this advice for de Ferran.

"Ultimately, he still has to watch his back. It's a whole different world over there."

Since retiring from open wheel racing after the 2003 season, the personable de Ferran has worked as an IRL analyst for ABC and ESPN. He spent several seasons racing in England and his wife, Angela, is a native of Great Britain. BAR-Honda is located in Brackley, a suburb of London.


hopefully he can turn things around.

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Good luck to Gil. Still this comes at somewhat of a surprise considering he's got no management experience at that level. I'd think Honda/BAR would want somebody that was already a proven commodity.

Maybe Richards from Prodrive wan't such a bad leader after all. :hehe

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It's official:

Gil de Ferran appointed B.A.R Honda Sporting Director

Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda has appointed Gil de Ferran to help steer its course towards the Formula One World Championship.

37 year-old Gil, winner of the 2003 Indy 500 and twice winner of the North American CART Championship, brings over 20 years of racing experience to the newly created role of Sporting Director, responsible for the B.A.R Honda team on-event.

Gil embarked on his highly successful motor racing career in 1982, competing in his native Brazil. He progressed through the ranks of the European single-seater Formulae, winning the British F3 Championship in 1992, before heading Stateside in 1995 where he raced Indy Cars for nine seasons, retiring from driving at the end of 2003. Gil has been working as an expert commentator for ABC and ESPN's motorsport coverage in the US. He commences his role with B.A.R Honda with immediate effect.

Gil's first-hand racing success will complement the 25 years of automotive and motorsport experience of Chief Executive Officer Nick Fry and 16 years of Formula One design experience of Technical Director Geoffrey Willis, and provide B.A.R Honda with a management team that combines experience and energy with an absolute determination to win.

Nick Fry, Chief Executive Officer of B.A.R Honda, said: "B.A.R Honda's second place success in the 2004 Championship was testimony to the team's strong operational structure and our pursuit of engineering excellence. However, to progress towards our final goal of winning the World Championship we knew there was a piece of the jigsaw still missing, which is hands-on experience of what it takes to win in single-seater racing at the highest level.

"There is no substitute for racing experience and Gil needs little introduction. He has a unique talent which combines a successful career at the wheel of a racing car with an analytical and methodical approach outside of the cockpit. This has helped steer the teams he has raced for to Championship glory. The time is right for us to allow Geoff Willis to focus on technical leadership and doing what he does best - designing and developing the race car - without the distractions of running the car trackside. Equally, my focus should be harnessing the power of our enhanced relationship with Honda and providing overall company leadership. What we know Gil can do is to get the best out of the racing team, the race engineers and the race and test drivers by enhancing their teamwork and motivation, using his experience to help get the most from the car on-event and developing race-winning strategies."

Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director of B.A.R Honda, said: "We are extremely fortunate to be able to welcome someone of Gil's stature to the role of B.A.R Honda Sporting Director. His racing pedigree speaks for itself but his ability to combine that with excellent man-management and a highly analytical approach to the 'business' of racing will be an enormous asset to our team.

"Although I met Gil relatively recently, I immediately recognised that his skills in getting the best out of a team on-event were the perfect complement to B.A.R Honda's existing design and engineering talent. I am really looking forward to working with Gil and welcome him wholeheartedly to our team."

Commenting on his new role, Gil de Ferran said: "This is an enormously exciting challenge for me and in many ways a natural progression from my driving career. My interest in the sport always extended beyond driving and this opportunity is the best I could hope for.

"I first met Nick Fry many years ago through Jackie Stewart and we started having serious discussions about the team and how I could possibly make a positive contribution late last year. The talent and potential of B.A.R Honda is obvious for all to see. So, not only is it a great honour for me to be invited to join such a prestigious organisation, but during our conversations it became clear to me that I would have no problem fitting in with all the people involved.

"Over this last year or so, since I retired from driving, I have learned a lot, including the fact that I am a racer at heart. Although I am very excited about my new job, I leave my colleagues at ABC ESPN with a high degree of sadness. During the short time we worked together a strong and loyal bond was formed."

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I think this will be a good move. I think de Ferran could do what needs to be done in is position. Willis needs to devote more of his time to conituing development of the 007. I'm glad they are trying something to turn this boat around.

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Im gonna miss him as an analyst for the IRL. His trade mark Aye, Yye, Yye, was great.

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de Ferran: 'I'm up to the challenge'
Friday April 08 2005

Gil de Ferran is convinced he is ready for a belated move into F1 but does not expect to make an immediate impact in his role as Sporting Director at BAR.
The Brazilian, who won the ChampCar title and the Indianapolis 500 during his time in the United States, was regarded as one of the best racers out of Formula One.

He has finally made it to grand prix racing as BAR-Honda's new Sporting Director and believes he is ready for the challenge of motorsport's top category.

"I'm sure there are many nuances about Formula One world and Formula One racing that I don't know about and therein lies some of the challenge," he said.

"But on the other hand I feel like I have assimilated all the experience I can over the years."

"This type of role is definitely something I want to do. I suppose time will tell how successful I'm going to be. I feel very comfortable. I completely understand what I have to do."

"I am also comfortable that the jury is still out, it's out for everyone, it's always going to be out. The only way to change that is to do your job well and hopefully deliver the right results."

But the 37-year-old admits his role will be to improve BAR's performances in the medium term, rather than providing a quick fix to their early-season difficulties.

Neither Jenson Button nor Takuma Sato have finished a race in three attempts so far this season but de Ferran's first job will be to learn the ropes, not find instant solutions.

"My first task is going to be doing a lot of observing and listening," he said. "The worst thing I could do is disrupt a good thing in the short term."

"Obviously BAR-Honda finished second in the Championship last year with mostly the same people."

"I have to find my feet first. In the short term my plan is to observe and take a lot of information in and hopefully over time my contribution will increase."

"I look forward to the challenge and I am ready for it."

BAR Chief Executive Nick Fry insists his team are still on course for a maiden grand prix win this season despite the disappointments so far.

Fry is encouraged by testing in Spain this week which has seen BAR top the timing sheets.

He said: "The appointment of Gil is a long-term appointment. Gil has to get up to speed but frankly I don't think that will take long."

"We are doing this to get the right blend of people to eventually win the World Championship."

"I don't think Gil is going to change things immediately but I am sure he will have significant impact in the medium and longer term."

"I am still extremely confident that we will achieve our aim of winning a race or maybe even more this season."

"I think by the time we get to Imola we will be in good shape and hopefully provide Jenson with the service he needs to do better and hopefully win this year."
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