De Ferran leaves ABC, ESPN for F1 job

Updated: April 6, 2005, 1:57 PM ET news services

LONDON -- Former CART champion and Indy 500 winner Gil De Ferran has been appointed sporting director of the under-performing BAR Formula One team.

Honda-powered BAR said on Wednesday that the 37-year-old Brazilian would effectively be running the team at race weekends.

He starts the new role immediately and his first race with the team will be the San Marino Grand Prix on April 24.

BAR, overall runners-up to Ferrari last season with Briton Jenson Button and Japan's Takuma Sato, have been a disappointment in 2005 with neither of their cars finishing any of the three races so far.

"To progress towards our final goal of winning the world championship we knew there was a piece of the jigsaw still missing, which is hands-on experience of what it takes to win in single-seater racing at the highest level," said team head Nicky.

"There is no substitute for racing experience and Gil needs little introduction.

"He has a unique talent which combines a successful career at the wheel of a racing car with an analytical and methodical approach outside of the cockpit."

Fry said the appointment would allow technical director Geoff Willis to concentrate on designing and developing the race car and himself to focus on leading the team.

"What we know Gil can do is to get the best out of the racing team, the race engineers and the race and test drivers by enhancing their teamwork and motivation," he said.

De Ferran won the 2003 Indianapolis 500, after which he retired as a driver. He was winner of the North American CART series in 2000 and 2001 for Team Penske.

De Ferran said he had first discussed joining BAR with Fry late last year.

"This is an enormously exciting challenge for me and in many ways a natural progression from my driving career," said De Ferran, who has been working for ABC and ESPN as a commentator the past two years. "My interest in the sport always extended beyond driving and this opportunity is the best I could hope for.

"I first met Nick Fry many years ago through Jackie Stewart and we started having serious discussions about the team and how I could possibly make a positive contribution late last year. The talent and potential of B.A.R Honda is obvious for all to see. So, not only is it a great honour for me to be invited to join such a prestigious organisation, but during our conversations it became clear to me that I would have no problem fitting in with all the people involved.

"Over this last year or so, since I retired from driving, I have learned a lot, including the fact that I am a racer at heart. Although I am very excited about my new job, I leave my colleagues at ABC ESPN with a high degree of sadness. During the short time we worked together a strong and loyal bond was formed."

Information from Reuters was used in this report.