De Ferran: Rules “quite restrictive” in racing over last decade

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This is the last in a series of posts stemming from a Tuesday interview with Gil de Ferran. The first two installments can be found here and here.

Tighter rules packages as a whole have become more commonplace in motorsports, and as you would figure, it’s had some consequences. One can argue that there isn’t as much room for innovation in the sport now as there was in the past, and as a result, the natural evolution of racing technology has largely slowed down.

Gil de Ferran, a figure well-known for his considerable background in technical and engineering matters, concurs that racing technology has not evolved much in the decade following his Indianapolis 500 win. But he also notes that there’s a positive to this movement as well.

“Over the past 10 years or so, the rules have been very restrictive,” De Ferran said. “People got smart about a few things, the computers got a lot more powerful, so people are doing more simulations now and they have a better understanding of certain things…Apart from that, if you look at most of the technologies that are in the construction of the car, they’re similar or they haven’t moved by leaps and bounds. That’s because the rules have been quite restrictive over the past decade.

“The upside of that is…There’s a much greater understanding about the performance of racing cars than there had been in the past, so people are closer and closer together and you have very exciting racing, which is the plus side of keeping the rules very tight.”

One just has to look at IndyCar in its current form to see that. While aero kits have been clamored for by fans in order to create different-looking cars, it can’t be denied that the series has produced a tremendous racing product over the last two years with its spec Dallara DW12s – a product that may or may not be altered considerably should the kits make their way onto the track.

Those kits, as well as other projects concerning Honda, may be on De Ferran’s plate in the future as he focuses on his work as a technical consultant for Honda Performance Development, the racing arm of the company’s American operations. He has been part of the Honda family for many years; among other exploits, he won his two CART titles in 2000 and 2001 with Honda power and an American Le Mans Series title in 2009 while driving an Acura ARX-02a for HPD.

De Ferran appreciates the “familiarity and comfort” that comes with working with HPD and says he is very happy to be involved in racing again on the technical side, which he’s loved since he was a kid. As for what may come next for him, De Ferran said that, with the right opportunity, he’d like to try his hand at building racing cars.

Last year, he and a number of colleagues put together what he calls a “free-thinking” proposal to build the next-generation car for the Firestone Indy Lights developmental series. However, the decision was made this past February to delay the debut of such a machine until after the 2014 campaign.

Still, De Ferran seems hopeful for another chance in the future – if it seems good to him.

“Whether we’ll try to participate on something similar to that I the future, it’s [to be determined],” he said. “I have to analyze the situations individually as they come along. They depend on a lot of things, including time. Have I lost my passions for cars and racing cars? No.

“If the right opportunity with the right timing and the right circumstances came around again, that’s for sure something that I would love to do. There are opportunities and opportunities – some are good and some are not so good.”

Watch Indianapolis 500 time trials this weekend online and on your mobile devices.

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.