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Gil de Ferran, winner of the Indianapolis 500 and Brazilian icon, dies at 56

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

Fellow golfer Tony Kanaan said de Ferran was with his son, Luke, on the private course in Opa-Locka, Fla., when he stopped and said he wasn’t feeling well. Kanaan said de Ferran apparently suffered a heart attack and could not be revived.

When de Ferran won the 2003 Indy 500 for Roger Penske, it was the third straight victory in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” for Penske, who has now accumulated a record 19 victories in the iconic race of the week Memorial Day weekend.

“We are terribly saddened to learn today of the tragic death of Gil de Ferran. Our thoughts and prayers are with Angela, Anna, Luke and all of Ferran’s family,” Roger Penske said in a statement. “Gil defined the class as a driver and as a gentleman. As an IndyCar champion and winner of the Indianapolis 500, Gil has accomplished much in his career, on and off the track.

“Gil was loved by so many people. He was a great friend to the Team Penske and IndyCar family, as well as the entire international motorsports community. Gil’s passing is a terrible loss and he will be deeply missed.

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

“He was one of my best friends and we grew up together and most recently we worked together at McLaren,” Kanaan told the Associated Press. “At the beginning of this year, he was a mentor and he was helping me. I lost a dear friend. I am devastated. I have to say he followed the Gil style, driving a racing car. If I could choose one path to follow, this is what I could do.

The Brazilian Motor Sports Confederation confirmed that de Ferran suffered a fatal heart attack in a statement released by president Giovanni Guerra.

“Gil de Ferran has shone on the Brazilian and foreign circuits, having as strong points his English Formula 3 title, his two IndyCar championships and victory at the Indy 500 in 2003. On my behalf and on behalf of our confederation, we Let us pray to God that He will welcome our brother in all glory and comfort his family, friends and millions of fans all over the world.

Juan Pablo Montoya, 2000 and 2015 IndyCar champion, said: “Crazy sad news. An incredible guy and a great runner. Montoya won the 2015 Indy 500 for Penske.

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

“Everyone at McLaren Racing is shocked and deeply saddened to learn that we have lost a beloved member of our McLaren family,” » posted the team on social networks. “We sent our most sincere condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of Gil de Ferran.

Zak Brown, McLaren CEO and long-time close friend of De Ferran, added: “I am shocked and devastated to learn of the loss of a great friend and teammate.” he wrote on social media. “I’ve raced with Gil all over the world and seen him win some of the biggest races.

“He has been a great friend for over 20 years and will be greatly missed and never forgotten,” Brown said. “My deepest condolences to his family. RIP Gil. The next victory is for you! Good speed.”

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

Marco Andretti was one of dozens of drivers to show their respects on on social networks. It included a photo of de Ferran that read “My friend. One of the real ones. One of the reasons for my tests in F1. I loved your passion and love for our sport, thank you for what you have contributed to my life.

De Ferran was inspired by fellow Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi and began his career in karting before embarking on a career in the European ranking system. He lost the British Formula 3 title to compatriots Rubens Barrichello and David Coulthard in 1991, but won the title the following 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, his daughter Anna and his son Luke. Anna has been DJing at Formula 1 races around the world and the whole family posted festive Christmas photos last week.

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AP Auto Racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing

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