Gil de Ferran, Indy 500 Winner, IndyCar Champ Dies at 56

Jackson Wheeler
7 Min Read

IndyCar great Gil de Ferran died Friday while competing in a club race in Florida. He was 56 years old.

De Ferran, who celebrated his birthday on November 11, was competing in a race with his son, Luke, at The Concours Club in Opa-locka, Fla., near Miami.

De Ferran reportedly pulled into the pits while driving and told crew members he wasn’t feeling well. He exited his race car and medical personnel were immediately dispatched to treat him. Unfortunately, after extensive attempts to revive him, de Ferran was pronounced dead on the scene, according to several media reports.

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Gil de Ferran won the Indianapolis 500 for Team Penske in 2003.


Motorsports Confederation president Giovanni Guerra confirmed de Ferran suffered a fatal heart attack.

De Ferran won 12 races in his IndyCar career, seven during his tenure in the CART and Champ Car World Series—including winning the 2000 and 2001 CCWS championships—and won another five races in what previously was known as the Indy Racing League.

He also finished second in CART in 1997 and second in the IRL in 2003.

The biggest triumph of his career came in 2003, when he won the Indianapolis 500, notching the third straight win in the Greatest Spectacle In Racing for team owner Roger Penske – who now has 19 wins in the world’s biggest race to his credit as a team owner.

“We are terribly saddened to hear about today’s tragic passing of Gil de Ferran. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Angela, Anna, Luke and the entire de Ferran family,” Penske said in a statement issued by the team. “Gil defined class as a driver and as a gentleman. As an IndyCar Champion and an Indianapolis 500 winner, Gil accomplished so much during his career, both on and off the track.

“Gil was beloved by so many. 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.”

De Ferran was born in Paris, France, but grew up in Brazil along with other future racing stars including four-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves and 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan. His biggest inspiration was legendary Brazilian open-wheel driver Emerson Fittipaldi.

Talking with The Associated Press, Kanaan said of de Ferran, “He was one of my best friends and we grew up together and lately we worked together at McLaren. In the beginning of this year he was a mentor, helping me out. I lost a dear friend. I am devastated. I have to say, he went in Gil style, driving a racecar. If I could choose a way to go, that’s what I could do.”

marlboto grand prix of miami

Gil de Ferran was a mainstay on the Team Penske Indycar juggernaut of the early 200s.

Brian Cleary//Getty Images

Others reacted in similar fashion on social media:

Mario Andretti: “My heart sank at the news of Gil de Ferran’s death. It’s heart-wrenching. Thinking of him now and savoring every conversation. He will be missed by so many. A wonderful man and a dear and loyal friend. … My friend. One of the real ones. One of the reasons for my F1 tests. Loved your passion and love for our sport, Thank you for what you contributed to my life.”

IndyCar on NBC analyst and veteran IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe: “I am at a complete loss for words. Gil de Ferran was a legend of our sport and an inspiration and mentor to so many, myself included. Absolutely shocked at news of his passing. My heart goes out to his family and friends.”

Juan Pablo Montoya: “Crazy sad news. Amazing guy and great racer.”

Andretti Global (race team): “We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Gil de Ferran. Motorsport has lost a true icon and advocate. Our thoughts are with all of Gil’s family, friends and fans. Godspeed, friend.”

In addition to his win at Indianapolis, de Ferran’s name is also in the IndyCar record books for achieving the fastest closed circuit qualifying lap in history – 241.426 mph — at California Speedway (now Auto Club Speedway), a mark that still stands.

De Ferran had rejoined Arrow McLaren SP earlier this year as a consultant, his second stint with the organization after serving as sporting director for Fernando Alonso’s failed attempt to make it at Indy in 2019.

“Everyone at McLaren Racing is shocked and deeply saddened to learn we have lost a beloved member of our or McLaren family,” the team posted on social media. “We sent our deepest condolences to Gil de Ferran’s family, friends and loved ones.

Added McLaren CEO Zak Brown, a longtime close friend of de Ferran’s, “I am shocked and devastated to hear of the loss of a great friend and he teammate,” he wrote on social media. “I’ve raced with Gil all over the world and watched him win some of the biggest races.

“He’s 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 win is for you! Goodspeed.”

De Ferran is survived by wife Angela, daughter Anna, and son Luke.

Follow Autoweek contributor Jerry Bonkowski on X/Twitter at@JerryBonkowski

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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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