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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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