Thursday, February 24, 2011

de Ferran Dragon Shuts Down

(by Robin Miller 2-24-11)

What promised to be a re-energized Indy car team is now out of business and one of the best drivers on the circuit is again looking for a ride.

The de Ferran Dragon operation, which signed Tony Kanaan last December, officially closed its doors Thursday.

“We worked hard to fund this thing and tried everything we could but, at the end of the day, we just couldn’t raise enough funds to do it properly,” said Gil de Ferran, who was co-owner along with Jay Penske and Steve Luzco.

“It’s a shame because we kept our full crew (16 employees) through the winter, did a lot of R&D and I was confident we had a good season ahead of us.”

Founded in 2006, Luzco Dragon ran a limited schedule in 2008 before hiring Rafa Matos, who contested the full schedule in 2009 and 2010 with a best finish of fourth.

After Kanaan was cut loose by Andretti Autosport last fall, the 2004 IRL champion was approached by Panther Racing but opted to go with his fellow Brazilian.

“It’s a shame because we worked really hard the past couple months to try and find funding and I had 88 meetings with people looking for sponsorship,” said Kanaan, who had two more years left on his contract with Michael Andretti but was left with little choice but to take a buyout after 7/Eleven bailed.

“I had never been on that side before and now I know how fortunate I’ve been all this time to have a good deal.”

The 35-year-old veteran may be able to hook up with Dale Coyne but there’s not many options remaining.

“I’m available, I’m not going to give up,” he said. “I had offers to stay in Brazil and drive stock cars and Kyle Busch still wants me to drive his truck but I want to be in Indy car.

“I’ve still got the talent and the desire, I just need a ride.”

There had been talk that de Ferran/Dragon might run a partial schedule but the 2003 Indy 500 winner opted not to.

“Believe me, we looked at every scenario available, half a season, Indy, some races near the end but I couldn’t build a case for it,” he said.

Asked if he might try to re-surface as a team owner in 2012, he replied: “Speaking personally, I love auto racing it’s always been my life and I love Indy Cars. But I’m not going to make any immediate decisions about the future.”

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