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.

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.