With addition of De Ferran, Luczo Dragon aiming higher in 2010
2003 Indy 500 champion becomes third co-owner of merged IndyCar team
Gil de Ferran will be part of the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series championship after all.
The two-time CART champion and 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner has merged his De Ferran Motorsports operation together with IndyCar’s Luczo Dragon Racing, which is co-owned by Peter Luczo and Jay Penske. The new squad will field a full-time program once again for Brazilian driver and last year’s rookie of the year, Raphael Matos.
In addition to becoming a co-owner, De Ferran also takes the titles of president and managing partner for the merged team. As Luczo alluded to in a teleconference this afternoon, there’s a multidimensional vibe with this partnership as De Ferran gives what Luczo called “a racer’s focus” to compliment he and Jay Penske’s respective backgrounds in marketing, technology and interactive media.
This partnership also could be taken as an acknowledgement of the current state of the IndyCar Series, which includes multiple teams and drivers being affected by the bad economy and the ongoing dominance of Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske, which is owned by Jay’s father, Roger Penske.
However, Jay Penske denied that the merger was driven by economics, insisting that “it was driven by the will for all of us to compete and win at this level of the series.”
“I think, to bring in experience where you can have someone who’s raced and won in this series, have that visibility for the team, coupled with the relationships that Steve and I have in the technology marketplace, I think were helpful,” said Jay Penske. ”But I think this was building on a strong core base, just making it stronger.”
De Ferran echoed his new partner’s sentiments.
“I think we slowly came to the realization that we would be able to run a better operation by being together than being apart, especially because we’re all different guys from different backgrounds, and we fit together very well,” he said. ”And like I said, we’re facing formidable opponents here. Ganassi and Team Penske have been dominating the championship for the last several seasons, and the goal is to be as good as them or if not better.
“To be able to do that, we need to dig very deep and pool as many resources as we can together.”
As for their driver, all three co-owners were high on Matos being able to improve upon the results he had in his rookie year. He finished 13th in the championship, posting eight top-10s in the No. 2 U.S. Air Force/Marines-backed entry. His best finish was sixth at Milwaukee.
What’s more, Matos is thrilled to be working with De Ferran according to Jay Penske.
“I think he picked up the phone and called Gil within five seconds of hanging up the phone, and he was so excited he could barely stand it,” he said. ”He’s been so excited and just welcomes the opportunity to race with Gil this year.”
But while everyone is excited about the partnership, there’s still the question of how the one-car operation will manage to get within striking distance of the Penske/Ganassi bloc. De Ferran said that a key part of solving that problem will be investing in technology and what he called “the science of performance.”
However, he also admitted that it may take a while to get past Penske and Ganassi on that front.
“I think given the lack of testing, [technology's] a very important area for us to develop, and I think generally speaking overall, we have to build our technical capabilities beyond those of our rivals,” he said. “That’s a process, though. It doesn’t happen over time. Building a team with that kind of strength can frankly take several years, but at least we know what we have to get to.”
That challenge is what makes the addition of De Ferran so key to Luczo Dragon. While the team may be at a disadvantage due to their single-car status, there are many benefits that the open-wheel legend can bring to their silver-and-blue table.
“Clearly, the amount of data that you have by running two cars and more importantly the investment of R & D split across two cars makes a lot of sense,” said Jay Penske. ”I think as we look to build a team, I think it’s a direction we’re trying to grow into. At the same time, we proved last year winning the Rookie of the Year with a single‑car effort, it’s possible to have success, and we look to build upon it.
“…There’s a lot of other things that go into this in terms of having someone like Gil here to provide additional communication and understanding what’s happening with the car I think will be a huge benefit to Rafa, so we hope to have a few of those gains even from the partnership here with Gil. But it is a challenge, and I think it’s something that we look forward to this year.”