De Ferran Becomes Honda's 5th Consecutive CART Champion

1/3/2001 6:18:16 AM

For the fifth consecutive season, a Honda-powered driver has won the CART FedEx Championship Series title, with Gil de Ferran capping a record-setting weekend at California Speedway by claiming his first Vanderbilt Cup driver's championship for Marlboro Team Penske.

It was a season filled with highlights for Honda's CART racing program. They included the CART driver's championship for de Ferran, the company's 50th Champ Car race victory, a new world closed-course speed record, eight race wins in the 20-event season -- including a sweep of all four permanent road courses on the circuit -- and a series-leading 11 poles.

Other marks this season for Honda included the company's 50th qualifying pole and a sweep of the victory podium at Laguna Seca Raceway, along with Team Penske's 100th Champ Car victory, scored by Gil de Ferran at Nazareth Speedway.

"This achievement is a tribute to the tremendous hard work and dedication of all of our associates at Honda Performance Development, and our partners in Japan," said Robert Clarke, General Manager of HPD. "The CART championship becomes more competitive and challenging with every season, which makes us doubly proud of this achievement."

In just seven years of CART Champ Car racing, Honda's accomplishments now rival its storied success in Formula One during the 1980s and early '90s, meeting or exceeding expectations set when Honda entered CART competition at the start of the 1994 season.

De Ferran's CART championship continues a string of driver's titles by Honda-powered drivers started by Jimmy Vasser in 1996, and continuing through Alex Zanardi's back-to-back championships in 1997-'98 and Juan Montoya last year. It comes in the 32-year-old Brazilian's sixth year of Champ Car racing, and his first with Marlboro Team Penske after three seasons with Walker Racing and two with Jim Hall Racing.

Earlier in the weekend, de Ferran piloted his Honda-powered Reynard Penske machine to a new world record speed of 241.428 mph in qualifying for the season-ending Marlboro 500. In so doing, he eclipsed the old mark of 240.942 mph set in 1997 by Mauricio Gugelmin, also at the 2.0-mile super speedway in Fontana, California.

It is the second time a Team Penske driver has held the world closed-course speed record (the first was Mark Donohue in 1973) and the first such mark for Honda.

Another significant milestone for Honda, the company's 50th CART race victory, was posted this year at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course by Helio Castroneves. With teammate de Ferran finishing second, it was a popular 1-2 finish for Honda as a large crowd was on hand from the nearby Honda of America Manufacturing facilities.

This record of 50 race wins was complied by a total of 20 different drivers racing Honda-powered Champ Cars for 10 CART teams. Ten of those drivers won races for Honda, starting with Andre Ribeiro at the New England 200 in 1995. Other Honda-powered race winners, both this season and in years past include Jimmy Vasser, Alex Zanardi, Gil de Ferran, Adrian Fernandez, Dario Franchitti, Juan Montoya, Paul Tracy, Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves.

This season, in addition to race victories on the short oval at Nazareth Speedway and temporary street circuits of Long Beach, Vancouver and Detroit, Honda-powered drivers won all four of CART's permanent road circuits: Portland, Mid-Ohio, Road America and Laguna Seca.

A wholly-owned subsidiary of American Honda, Honda Performance Development is responsible for the preparation, supply and maintenance of Honda engines utilized in the CART FedEx Championship Series. With more than 60 associates based out of the company's Santa Clarita, California, headquarters, HPD sends a team of nearly two dozen engineers and other specialists who work directly with Honda-powered CART teams at every race and test venue on the FedEx Championship Series circuit.

Honda CART Statistics 1994-2000

  • 125 CART races
  • 53 CART race wins
  • 17 consecutive temporary street circuit wins, 1998- 2000
  • 3 CART Manufacturer's Championships (1996,1998 and 1999)
  • 5 Consecutive CART Driver Titles (1996-2000)
  • 3 CART Rookies of the Year (1996-Alex Zanardi, 1998-Tony Kanaan, 1999-Juan Montoya)2
  • 51 pole positions

Year

Total Races

Total Victories

Road

Street

Short Oval

Speedway

Poles

Manufacturer Standings

Honda Champ
Car Engine

1994

16

0

0

0

0

0

0

N/A*

Honda

HRX

1995

17

1

0

0

1

0

2

3rd

Honda

HRX & HRH

1996

16

11

3

4

2

2

12

1st

Honda HRH

1997

17

6

3

2

0

1

6

2nd

Honda HRR

1998

19

13

2

7

3

1

7

1st

Honda HRK

1999

20

14

2

7

4

1

13

1st

Honda

HRS

2000

20

8

4

3

1

-

11

2nd

Honda

HR-O

Total

125

53

14

23

11

5

51

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*CART Manufacturer's Championship began with the 1995 season