APRIL 6, 2005
De Ferran to be BAR front man
Gil de Ferran, former CART champion and Indianapolis 500 winner, is expected to be named Sporting Director of BAR-Honda this week. The Brazilian will be an addition to the team and will give the new team management a rather higher profile, particularly in Latin America where British American Tobacco is currently pushing hard to increase its sales. Honda is, of course, a big Ferran fan as he successfully represented the company for many years in the US. The 37-year-old will keep an eye on the racing activity allowing managing director Nick Fry to run the team. This will strengthen the team, which has been struggling with technical problems thus far this year. The car has shown itself to be quick on several occasions in the hands of Jenson Button but has yet to score a major result. The main problem appears to be a lack of rear-end downforce and the fact that the car is not very good in qualifying as there is not time for the tyres to get properly heated with the current aero package. This has meant that in the races the cars have been stuck in traffic and so have looked worse than they are.
It is not clear how de Ferran's appointment will change that situation, which technical director Geoff Willis is working hard to fix.
Since retiring from open wheel racing after the 2003 season, de Ferran has worked as an IRL analyst for ABC and ESPN. He will relocate from Florida to England. He lived in Britain for most of his early career and his wife Angela is British and indeed used to work for Eddie Jordan.
While some of the reports have suggested that Honda is now calling the shots at BAR, it should be remembered that the shareholding structure is 55-45 in favour of BAT and that the voting structure is 50-50. Honda chose Fry for his organizational abilities and he has a great deal on his plate with the work associated with the politics of F1. He currently heads the F1 team forum which is organizing the planned new World Championship for 2008. The appointment of de Ferran should not be seen as a takeover but rather a strengthening of the organization, which also includes the man who represents Honda's interests in the team, American Otmar Szafnauer.
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