Former Indy 500 winner and two-time CART Champion Gil de Ferran today unveiled details of de Ferran Motorsports' Acura ARX-01b bid for the LMP2 class championship in the 2008 American Le Mans Series.
Team owner and driver, Gil de Ferran, will team up with 23-year-old ex-Champ Car Atlantic champion Simon Pagenaud for the remainder of the 2008 American Le Mans Series, starting at the fourth round of the championship - the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix presented by Grand & Little Hotels.
de Ferran Motorsports also announced it is in the process of completing a sponsorship contract with Panasonic which will utilize its association with the team to promote their relationship with Acura and the ELS Surround premium audio system which is available on the Acura TL, Acura RDX, Acura MDX and the all-new Acura TSX.
After announcing his return to the track and his debut as a team owner in late January, de Ferran is delighted to be able to detail his campaign.
"Considering this started as a conversation about a potential race team only a few months ago, it is quite emotional to witness what has happened and see it become reality," said de Ferran. "I was in the workshop last week and all our mechanics, engineers and technicians were there - in all we had more than 20 people working incredibly hard inside a facility, which a couple of months ago was just an empty building. Now, not only have we begun testing, but we have also gained the support of an internationally recognised company like Panasonic, and secured Simon's as our driver - all major endorsements for our nascent team."
The de Ferran Motorsports' iconic red, white and blue-liveried Acura hit the track in testing for the first time at Sebring International Raceway this week, bearing preliminary Panasonic/ELS branding. Today's announcement takes place at the Long Beach Grand Prix, where the final-ever race for Champ Car machinery will run this weekend alongside the Patron Tequila American Le Mans Series event. The team will also undertake an additional test session at Sebring at a later date, with de Ferran and Pagenaud behind the wheel, before making its American Le Mans Series race debut on May 18.
Poitiers-born Pagenaud joins de Ferran Motorsports after competing for Walker Racing in the 2007 Champ Car World Series, where he finished eighth in his rookie season. Previously, the Frenchman clinched the 2006 Champ Car Atlantic Championship while also competing for Walker. His new team boss also drove for Walker Racing between 1997 and 1999.
"Simon has a very good reputation in the industry - this was the first thing that attracted me to him," de Ferran said.
"This goes beyond just his on-track results, which, of course, have been very impressive; it is about the overall package - how he works with the team, his work ethic, fitness, how he works with sponsors, etc."
Pagenaud, who will become the youngest driver in the Acura American Le Mans series line-up, is clearly delighted with his employment. "I am really thrilled to be given this opportunity," he enthused. "It is not every day that a two-time CART Champion and Indy 500 winner calls and says he wants you to be his co-driver. At this stage of my career, it is an outstanding opportunity and I can't wait for the first race.
"I am so proud to be part of the Acura family. I have been looking for a chance like this for a long time - being part of a manufacturer programme is just outstanding. Going ahead, the future looks very bright, but it will be up to me to do a good job and repay the faith that Gil and Acura have bestowed on me."
Joining de Ferran Motorsports and Acura is sponsor, Panasonic's ELS Surround system, which was developed in conjunction with multiple Grammy Award-winning producer/engineer Elliot Scheiner and is available as standard equipment on the Acura TL model.
"Panasonic ELS Surround is pleased to be a part of the new Acura ALMS team led by a champion, Gil de Ferran. ELS Surround is focused on technology, innovation and authenticity to create a world-class audio experience for Acura vehicle owners. These themes are aligned with the goals of the American Le Mans Series to provide a world-class racing experience which explores the boundaries of technology" said Vince Sarrecchia, President, Panasonic Automotive Systems Company of America.
Acura debuted in the American Le Mans Series last year, taking a class victory on debut at the Twelve Hours of Sebring and welcomes de Ferran Motorsports to its fold as the fourth factory-supported squad to tackle the LMP2 class championship.
Gil de Ferran is no stranger to the Honda/Acura family. He won both of his CART championships with Honda power and was recently based in the UK as the Sporting Director for the Honda F1 Racing Team.
"Gil de Ferran's association with our racing programs goes back more than a decade," said John Mendel, Executive Vice President, Auto Operations for American Honda. "His expertise as a driver, and now as a team owner, will bring numerous and immeasurable benefits to the Acura American Le Mans Series effort. We look forward to witnessing many successful results from the de Ferran Motorsports team in the coming months and years."