Gil de Ferran, Indy 500 winner and speed record-holder, dies

Gil de Ferran, the 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner and holder of the closed-course land speed record, died Friday while racing with his son at the Concourse Club in Florida, multiple former colleagues confirmed to the Associated Press. He was 56.

Fellow Brazilian driver Tony Kanaan said de Ferran was with his son, Luke, at the private course in Opa-Locka, Florida, when he pulled over and said he wasn’t feeling well. Kanaan said de Ferran apparently suffered a heart attack and could not be revived.

Kanaan said he was “devastated” at the loss of the Brazilian icon.

Gil de Ferran celebrates after winning the Indianapolis 500 on May 25, 2003.

Gil de Ferran celebrates after winning the Indianapolis 500 on May 25, 2003.

(Michael Conroy / Associated Press)

“He was one of my best friends and we grew up together and lately and we worked together at McLaren,” Kanaan told the Associated Press. “In the beginning of this year he was a mentor, helping me out. I lost a dear friend. I am devastated. I have to say, he went in Gil style, driving a race car. If I could choose a way to go, that’s what I would do.”

The French-born Brazilian was rehired at McLaren as a consultant in May. He had been sporting director of McLaren’s failed effort to qualify Fernando Alonso for the 2019 Indy 500.

De Ferran won the 2000 and 2001 Champ Car titles driving for Penske, and the 2003 Indy 500 with Roger Penske, as well. He was runner-up in LMP1 class of the American Le Mans Series in 2009 driving for his de Ferran Motorsports.

In 2000 at California Speedway, de Ferran set the closed-course land speed record during CART qualifying with a lap of 241.428 mph — a mark that stands today.

De Ferran was inspired to race by fellow Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi and started his career in karting before embarking on a career in the European ladder system. He lost the British Formula Three title to countryman Rubens Barrichello and David Coulthard in 1991, but won the title the next season.

He won seven CART races and five IndyCar races, finishing second in the 2003 standings. He joined Team Penske with its iconic Marlboro sponsorship in 2000.

De Ferran is survived by his wife, Angela, daughter, Ana, and son, Luke. Ana has become a DJ at Formula One races around the world and the entire family had been posting festive Christmas photos over the last week.

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