As the Wheel Turns

Posted by Iannucci | 2/17/2010 | , , , , , | 8 comments »
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Last summer much was made about Gil de Ferran - excuse me, 2003 Indianapolis 500 Champion Gil de Ferran - as he spoke of shuttering his ALMS venture and moving towards assembling an IndyCar team. Names of drivers like Rahal and Dixon were frantically churned through the rumor mill as possible drivers even though the team hadn't so much as a single Dallara for anyone to pilot. At Indy much was also made of de Ferran hanging around with F1's Takuma Sato, but as the year drew to it's close there was still no team, no IRL equipment purchased, and certainly no verified reports of signed drivers for de Ferran.

Well, finally de Ferran has a team. It's not exactly his own, but...

Steve Luczo and Jay Penske, co-owners of Luczo Dragon Racing, and Gil de Ferran, owner of de Ferran Motorsports and former Indy 500 winner, have merged their two businesses to create a new cutting edge motorsport venture that will leverage technology and science to compete at the highest levels of the IZOD IndyCar Series, it was announced today.

De Ferran, the 2003 Indy 500 winner and two-time IndyCar champion, will serve as co-owner, President and Managing Partner of Luczo Dragon Racing/de Ferran Motorsports.
Tony Johns says pairing guys with Penske ties is a recipe for success, but I just want to note that while these gentlemen have every right to be impressed with themselves it would be incredible helpful if they could check their egos at the door and come up with a team name that isn't so freaking long? Sheesh. (And I know "Penske" isn't in the name, but "Dragon" is because that was the name of one of Jay's other business ventures, and perhaps also because his father threatened to cut him out of the will if Jay thought the universe was big enough for another race team named "Penske".)

But this should make this team better, and in terms of driver news the press release explicitly states that Rafa Matos is still the guy for...uh, do we call them LDRdFM? (Obscure musical reference: anyone else think that acronym looks like the result of Lords of Acid merging with KMFDM? Is that just me? OK, then excuse me while I remove my Doc Martens.)

Right now, we are running one car with Raphael Matos, but are working hard on expanding our program as this will increase our ability to improve and to extend our resources. We hope to have those details ironed out very soon.
So Rafa's their man while they are "working hard" so that he might soon have a teammate. Could it be Sato? Well, my ability to conjugate Portuguese verbs leaves much to be desired, but Brazil's Grande Premio indicated Sato either will be signing or has signed with...KV Racing Technologies? OK, show of hands - who saw that coming? I think the same article indicates Mario Moraes will also be returning, but again none of this has been confirmed.

Meanwhile, in recent days KV Racing was conducting a test...with EJ Viso. Hey, why not - right? I say get a guy that speaks Japanese, a guy that speaks Portuguese, and a guy that speaks Spanish and let 'em all throw broken English at each other. Besides, they all speak "Speed", right?

Finally, speaking of guys who speak "Speed" and "English" proficiently, "Captain America" JR Hildebrand has also been testing for the currently driver-less Dale Coyne Racing. Coyne made an announcement that the team now has sponsorship from Boy Scouts of America, so from a promotional standpoint Hildebrand definitely falls under the heading of "synergy". And as those that saw him in Firestone Indy Lights have seen he's a really good driver, so that helps as well.

And yes, I'll soon get around to discussing actual drivers who have actually been signed to actual contracts once there's a break from talking about Delta Wings and Danicas and Dragons and such.


  1. Leigh O'Gorman // February 17, 2010 8:31 AM  

    Hey Jeff,
    One thing I will say in Sato's favour is that he is fast - if a little inconsistent (and crashy).
    His English is also excellent; a driver simply can't do F1 anymore without making English a top language.

    Sato is the most successful Japanese driver of all time and I would certainly rate him much, much higher than Matos - it's just a case of getting used to the ovals.
    Looking forward to seeing him back in action.

  2. Declan // February 17, 2010 10:55 AM  

    Steady on Leigh!

    I think Kazuyoshi Hoshino, Yojiro Terada and above all Satoru Nakajima would have an issue with that statement about Sato being the "the most successful Japanese driver of all time".



    PS - He's very very quick on his day, but like all of teh recent Japanese guys who made it to F1, he's very inconsistent.

  3. The SpeedGeek // February 17, 2010 11:10 AM  

    I think Leigh's referring to F1 results. Hoshino and Terada scored 0 F1 WDC points, Nakajima scored 16 and Sato scored 44, with one podium (though Nakajima had one fastest lap). You're right in saying that all of the Japanese guys who have made it to F1 are inconsistent, and you'd never confuse any of them for someone who might actually become World Champion, but Taku's had the best results of them. I wouldn't think that he's going to be champion material in IndyCar, either, but he won't be a Roth-level embarrassment, either.

    On the other hand though, Leigh, I think that Rafa's in for a big, big year this year. He's extremely talented, and now that he's got his learning/experience year out of the way, I think he's going to step up the pace considerably in '10. Sato vs. Matos is possibly a much, much closer match than you might think.

  4. Declan // February 17, 2010 11:28 AM  

    Nakajima had the same number of Top 6 finishes and raced in F1 when there was way more depth. He raced with Mansell, Senna, Prost, Piquet, Patrese, Berger, Alesi, Boutsen et al.

    We cuold argue about this one all day, which would be fun!

    Hoshino, in my mind, is the greatest Japanese driver of them all and in Japan, he is almost a deity.


  5. The SpeedGeek // February 17, 2010 12:29 PM  

    Indeed, I could counter that Taku leads Satoru in top-5 finishes by a score of 6 to 4, and that while Satoru ran in a period of far higher quality (which I agree with 100%), Taku's success came in a period of far higher reliability, i.e. less finishing positions inflated by a high level of attrition and more high finishing positions based on pure speed (including at Indy in 2004, where he qualified and finished 3rd, behind only the two all-conquering Ferraris, a result that was applauded vigorously by the Japanese fella who was sitting two rows in front of me in the NW Vista that day).

    As you say, we could argue this all day. Which I would enjoy, but work beckons. Alas. ;)

  6. Leigh O'Gorman // February 17, 2010 2:09 PM  

    @ Declan / Geek

    Both pretty good points there; I really should have said Sato is one of the most successful Japanese driver.
    Matos has got his learning year done, so Sato / Matos could be a potentially interesting partnership

    I'd still put Sato ahead of Satora though; however I must be honest in that my knowledge of Hoshino and Terada is somewhat minimal - never really picked up much Sportscars in Ireland and sadly a little before my time I'm afraid.

    By the way, I've just finished work, so if you do happen to fancy an argument, I'm free now

  7. Declan // February 17, 2010 2:59 PM  

    spoken like a proper paddy, lee! :)

  8. Leigh O'Gorman // February 17, 2010 3:24 PM  

    If the Delta Wing had been launched in Ireland, there would have been a punch-up in auditorium before the car would be banned for "sexual harassment"