The Vauxhall Lotus double act that spawned a 30-year friendship

Three front runners emerge when Autosport asks two-time CART Indycar champion Gil de Ferran for his favorite team-mate, before the 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner selects a driver he spent but one season racing alongside back in 1990.

Their careers might have gone in different directions, but de Ferran and David Coulthard have been firm friends ever since they drove together at Paul Stewart Racing in Formula Vauxhall Lotus, and even went on holiday together last year.

De Ferran had arrived at PSR after an impressive 1989 season in Formula Ford with the works Fulmar Reynard team, while the less experienced Coulthard had won the P&O Ferries FF1600 Junior title in his first season of car racing and earned the inaugural McLaren Autosport BRDC Award.

Aged 22 (De Ferran) and 19 (Coulthard) respectively, the pair got along famously and often shared accommodation at races. De Ferran ended the 1990 campaign second in the British championship, won by Vincenzo Sospiri for David Sears Motorsport (Coulthard was fourth), and third in the Opel Lotus Euroseries using the same cars – although unlike fifth-placed Coulthard (injured in a leg- breaking crash at Spa) he didn’t win a race.

“I had a tremendous amount of respect for him, we liked each other as people and to this day we have a very close and friendly relationship,” de Ferran says of Coulthard, who racked up 246 grand prix starts in a 15-year Formula 1 career that yielded 13 wins. “It’s no surprise to me that David achieved what he has, a tremendous amount.

“It goes beyond what happened on the racetrack in 1990. It’s because to this day we’re great friends and that must mean something.”

Things didn’t get off on a brilliant footting however. As Coulthard recounted in his autobiography, in the first continental Opel Lotus Euroseries round at Zolder – which didn’t count for points – “I ran into the back of him, cut his tires and the resulting puncture retired him from the race. Meanwhile, my car was relatively untouched and I went on to finish on the podium. I remember him hanging over the pitwall giving me the wanker sign and the V’s, he was so angry. We had to share a car all the way back home to Milton Keynes, and he didn’t utter a single word to me for the entire journey!”

Coulthard and de Ferran almost didn't hit it off as team-mates but their relationship later reconciled

Coulthard and de Ferran almost didn’t hit it off as team-mates but their relationship later reconciled

Photo by: Motorsport Images

De Ferran confirms: “At the end of the first lap I was ahead of him, going into the chicane he was all locked up and hit me on the left-rear tire and we had a puncture and that was the end of that, bent the suspension I think as well. Man, I was angry! But that anger didn’t last very long.”

But De Ferran couldn’t hold a grudge against Coulthard because “it could have been on the other foot, it could have just as easily been me doing the same thing.” Coulthard was named as a godparent to De Ferran’s daughter Anna, and was even present for the penultimate race of De Ferran’s open-wheel career at Fontana in 2003.

That brought down the curtain on four successful years at Team Penske – yielding the 2000 and 2001 CART Indycar titles – alongside Helio Castroneves, who was certainly no pushover. He claimed two of his four Indy 500 wins in the same equipment as de Ferran in 2001 and 2002.

“Simon [Pagenaud], his success speaks for himself. It was a really interesting experience sharing a car with him and frankly learning from him certain things and working with each other” Gil de Ferran

“I was at the tail end of my career and he was at the beginning of his career,” de Ferran says of his fellow Brazilian, eight years his junior. “I always had good relationships – in fact, I don’t remember actually having a bad relationship with my team-mates.”

Following a stint in F1 as a sporting director at Honda, De Ferran enjoyed a two-year racing comeback with his own De Ferran Motorsports team in the 2008 American Le Mans Series. Sharing with another future Indy 500 winner in Simon Pagenaud, he was a winner that year in the LMP2 division with Acura and stepped up with the brand to LMP1 the following season, signing off his comeback with victory at Laguna Seca using a white livery to honor his first IndyCar team boss Jim Hall.

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“I’m glad I experienced sharing a car in sportscars – I really enjoyed that,” he says. “Simon, his success speaks for itself – he’s won a lot of stuff since then. It was a really interesting experience sharing a car with him and frankly learning from him certain things and working with each other.

“It was very interesting to exchange views about the car, about the driving, our techniques in certain corners and so on.”

De Ferran also rated Pagenaud highly as a team-mate

De Ferran also rated Pagenaud highly as a team-mate

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

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