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AUTO: MAY 28 INDYCAR Series The 107th Indianapolis 500

Source: Icon Sportswire / Getty

OPA-LOCKA, Fla. — 2003 Indy 500 champion Gil de Ferran died Friday while racing with his son at the Concourse Club in Florida.

Those close to the situation say de Ferran was racing at the private race course when he suffered a sudden heart attack and could not be resuscitated.

“It is heartbreaking to learn of the loss of Gil de Ferran,” said Roger Penske, de Ferran’s former boss at Team Penske. “His accomplishments on the racetrack were significant, but I, along with so many in our paddock, were fortunate to know how wonderful he was as a person. Gil was a true IndyCar ambassador whose charm and wit were second to none. Our condolences are with the de Ferran family during this difficult time.”

de Ferran, along with winning the 2003 Indy 500, held several other accolades throughout a long career in racing.

Inspired to race by fellow Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi, a two-time winner of the Indy 500, de Ferran began his racing career in 1991 in British Formula 3, in which he’d win the series championship in 1992.

Moving up the open-wheel ladder, he found himself in CART by 1995 with Hall/VDS Racing and earning his first IndyCar win in the season finale of his rookie year at Laguna Seca. He was CART’s Rookie of the Year for 1995.

He held the closed course land speed record in which he set a qualifying lap of 241.439 mph while qualifying for an IndyCar race at California (Auto Club) Speedway back in 2000. That same year he won the first of his two IndyCar titles in the Champ Car World Series. He won his second in 2001.

He made the jump to the Indy Racing League (IRL) with Team Penske in 2002.

A year later he won the Indy 500 despite having a broken back that he suffered at Phoenix earlier in the 2003 season. He’d go on to win one more race at Texas that year before deciding to retire.

After a brief stint as sporting director for the BAR-Honda F1 team and even starting his racing team in sports cars in which he returned to the cockpit, de Ferran returned to IndyCar racing in 2009 for half a season before retiring for good.

He finished his racing career with 12 IndyCar wins among CART, the Champ Car World Series, and the Indy Racing League.

In 2018, de Ferran was named sporting director for McLaren Racing, as he helped the team re-enter IndyCar racing for the first time in decades. He left the team in 2021 but was brought back this year as a consultant.

Gil de Ferran was 56.