For Jay and Steve, with one car can you guys be as competitive as you guys want to be running just a one‑car operation in a sport that seems to be dominated by multi‑car operations?
JAY PENSKE: I think it's a very good point. 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. 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.
At the same time, 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.
Q. And Gil, how much of the way you do things is modeled after what you learned over at Penske? How much of your plan comes from the way they planned, your methods and things like that? I guess I'm asking how much of Penske has rubbed off on you?
GIL de FERRAN: Well, it's that old debate of nature or nurture, isn't it? Look, I'm a professional within motorsports, you know, and what I know, I suppose, is a collection of all of my experiences ever since I was racing go‑karts in Brazil and working with my dad, who is by the way also an engineer.
I think throughout my career I have been extremely fortunate to have driven and worked with some incredible people, you know, and to name a few, Jackie Stewart and Jim Hall and Roger Penske. And those experiences, they tend to form you and mature you. Certainly the experience I had at Team Penske will stay with me forever.
Like I said, I have a ton of respect for Team Penske. I have been in Europe, I've driven in Europe, I have worked at teams in Europe, and I can tell you that they have one of the best operations that I have ever seen. It's an experience that was a big part of my formation, shall I say, and I'm sure in one way or another you probably see some cracks of it showing up here and there. I guess we have another Penske in the team, too, so he's likely to influence the direction in that way, also.
Q. Gil, can you maybe pin it down to the one biggest difference between the IndyCar Series now compared to what it was like when you were driving in it? Is there a way to do that?
GIL de FERRAN: Well, I think I will start with the similarities rather than the differences. I mean, certainly the series has been going back to a mixed format, which I welcome; having races on short ovals, superspeedways, street courses and road courses I think is a great mix. I can tell you from experience it's very difficult to master all those different disciplines to a very high degree, and I think it makes the champion a more worthy champion by having the mix of tracks. We're still going at 230‑odd miles an hour around speedways, and that's, I guess, another similarity.
The biggest difference between then and now in my mind is that back then there was a lot of manufacturer competition, both on the chassis side, on the engine side, and in the tire side. And the series now has moved more towards a single-make format. I think that's by force mostly of the current economic circumstances, and it's likely to continue to move in that direction. But I would like to see hopefully a move to greater framework so that manufacturer competition in every front can hopefully be part of the series again.Q.
Gil, how much of your team is going to actually be merged into this? Will you be reducing the personnel from your team? In terms of actual people, I think someone asked how much of your team was left, but more specifically, if you're merging two teams and you're running one car, there's a lot of guys to pay and there's a lot of chefs in the soup.
GIL de FERRAN: Absolutely. I think the biggest investment we can make is in people, and the head count certainly will be increasing from what Luczo Dragon had from last year. So we'll be adding people from what we had last year. I mean, it's important that everybody fits within the structure and they have clear roles and responsibilities. Certainly I think in general you don't want too much overlap, and that's really been my work here over the last few weeks is to try to figure out a good structure for us to move forward.
Right now we have moved three people that were with de Ferran Motorsports to be part of the new operation, and the head count may increase further.
Q. It was a pretty heavy rumor, when you were looking to run de Ferran Motorsports independently, there was rumors about Takuma Sato, and I was curious what came of that, or do you have anything to say about Sato or what he's doing or where that went?
GIL de FERRAN: Well, I think Sato is the best person to say what Sato is going to do. I think the source of those rumors are the fact that both Sato and I worked together back in Honda in Formula 1, and we had a good professional and may I say good personal relationship, and when he showed an interest in Indy cars, we spoke a lot about it, but beyond I would say a team owner and driver sort of conversation. It was a conversation about the sport in America and what direction he wanted to take with his life and his career.
I think beyond that, you really should talk to him about what he wants to do with his future. But if he came to IndyCar, I'm sure he would be a great asset. He's a very good driver, and he's, shall I say, a very popular driver in Japan, and he'll bring a lot of fans to the Series from around the world, which I think is a positive.
Q. So you guys aren't talking to him about anything relative to this merged effort then?
GIL de FERRAN: Well, I mean, a lot of these conversations that we have are confidential, so I'm sure you appreciate that many of those. As Jay said, for now we're concentrating on Rafa. We would like to expand the team because simply that just gives us more resources. But the point is it's expanding in the right way with the right amount of funding so that we can make the right investment and make it worthwhile for everyone involved.Q.
Gil, you talked very adamantly earlier in the call about not being interested in one‑offing the Indianapolis 500. With your world‑class driving credentials, you are someone obviously who would appeal to a sponsor. Might you reconsider that if indeed the financial package from a prospective sponsor also wanted you to be part of the effort?
GIL de FERRAN: Do you want the short or the long version?
Q. Let's go with the long version.
GIL de FERRAN: Well, I'll start with the short version. The short version is no.
The long version is the following: I think, you know, IndyCar racing is highly competitive, and I've found it hard enough to be competitive when I was doing a full time and it was the sole focus of my life. All I thought about was how could I make myself a better driver, and believe me, it takes a lot, a lot of focus.
As I was finding already just by running de Ferran Motorsports at the American Le Mans Series and trying to improve the team and grow the team and so on and so forth, I was finding it increasingly difficult to perform both functions certainly to my standards, and so it's – I found it impossible to compete at the level that it would take for me to attempt, shall I say, a win in a race such as the Indy 500 and attempt to run our new team, Luczo Dragon Racing de Ferran Motorsports as a world‑class organization. The two tasks are frankly simply too much for one person at the same time, at one time.Q.
Jay, I think growing up every kid remembers when they were finally able to beat their dad on the basketball court or the golf course. What's it going to be like for you when you finally beat him on the racetrack?
JAY PENSKE: I've got to beat him on the basketball court first. Well, you know, listen, there's not a bigger fan I think in the world of my dad's racing team and what he's done than I am. He's one of my true idols in my life and someone I respect and look up to so much.
First of all, it's been fun just being able to show up every week and compete against him, and when we've had the opportunities to run ahead of him in practice or finish ahead of him in a few races, it's been really rewarding. But this is – we're out here to win, and we want to compete every day against Penske Racing and hopefully finish ahead of him a lot more in 2010 than we did in 2009.
Q. My question deals with a bit of the future of Luczo Dragon(Racing) /de Ferran Motorsports. In terms of the development of your team's future, are you planning on establishing a Firestone Indy Lights team or a partnership with an existing Indy Lights team going forward for prospect drivers?
JAY PENSKE: I think we've been looking for a while to try to do more with the (Firestone Indy) Lights Series. I think there's been so many great drivers that have come out of the series. Clearly we've seen many champions leave there and enter the (IZOD) Indy(Car) Series, so I think it's something we're always looking at. I think it's a part of building this team. Where there's economics and opportunities to do so, I think we'll be one of the first teams there trying to put something like that together. At the same time, we have a budget to run one car effectively this year. That's our goal and that's the plan.