The contributions to motor racing by Gil de Ferran, who passed away Friday at the age of 56, went far beyond being a champion race car driver, as Marshall Pruett’s heartfelt tribute to the Brazilian makes clear. A keen student of motorsport, Gil was enthusiastic about racing technology and the importance of making it meaningful to the fans. This served him well in the role of Editor-At-Large for RACER magazine, where he offered incisive opinions about the past, present and future of the sport. Here is a sample of the insights he offered in the magazine and at that add to his winning legacy:

Gil’s column for The Heroes III issue of RACER in 2014 took the form of a letter to his father, explaining how and why his personal heroes have shaped his life and career.  

Dear Father,

It seems fitting that I’m writing an open letter to you in this Heroes issue. It took me a great deal of soul searching and several drafts, but I feel the content of what you’re about to read is worth sharing with others who, like us, have a passion for life, cars, racing and all things mechanical. You might question why I’d share such private thoughts, and I can only hope the answer becomes clearer as you read on…

Click here to read the full column.

For the Champions issue in 2015, Gil laid out a detailed breakdown of the financial aspects of motorsport, including costs of p articipation and the art of budgeting, sponsorship, the effect of rules on budgets and other elements that remain just as pertinent today.

Much of the recent debate in racing has focused on costs, sponsorship and the financial issues in our sport. Frankly, a lot of the commentary I’ve seen shows a lack of understanding of how the economics of motorsports really work. So, with no further ado…

Cost & Budget

Let’s begin by characterizing two different costs from taking part in a championship or event, namely cost of participation and cost of being competitive, i.e., winning!

Cost of participation is the minimum cost necessary to enter a competition. Buy your car, consumables, logistics, minimum personnel, driver, etc., and you’re on the grid. However, there’s no guarantee you’ll rise beyond the bottom 10 percent if you don’t take into account the competitive landscape, the budget and capabilities of the guys consistently winning. They set the cost of being competitive.

By the way, this isn’t me saying that, if you have the same (or similar) budget, you’re guaranteed success. You have to take into account how efficient the team is in turning dollars into car speed, and how good the driver is in turning car speed into lap time. But from a planning perspective, it’s useful to understand how much the top dogs are spending. I know that if I’m close on the finances and have a good driver and a capable team, I should be in their vicinity…

Click here to read the full column.

In his column for the Great Teams issue in 2014, Gil offered a personal perspective on how race teams can bring out the best, or worst, in the characteristics of the individu als who make them up. 

Every good race team I’ve ever come across has had a strong leader. By strong, I don’t mean dictatorial; I mean a person who is visible, communicative, inspiring, and embodies everything the team stands for. This person sets the tone and culture for the whole company and leaves no one in any doubt what the company’s all about, what it’s doing and where it’s going. They live, act and breathe everything the team stands for, making the vision very clear.

Further, at a lower level, other “leaders” carry the same message and behave in the same way as the head honcho. Problems usually occur when there’s a disconnect between these influential people, and the messages start to conflict…

Click here to read the full column.

In addition to his opinions, Gil loved sharing his ideas for how racing should be and how to make it better. In this 2014 feature, he offered a rebuttal to the low opinion formed by ex-Honda Performance Development chief Robert Clarke of Formula E, which had just run its inaugural race.

When you’re putting together something so complex, you have to start somewhere, you know? If you have a car that is overly complex and expensive from Day 1, you may not be able to get the series started. If you make the cars overly simplistic or too slow, you may not create enough appeal.

So it’s unfair to look at one aspect in isolation. If you look at the Formula E chassis and say, “Well that’s not revolutionary at all,” you have to balance that out with the fact that this powertrain is the first of its kind. So would you have gotten so many teams and sponsors involved if the cost had been 10 times what it is, due to the cars also having a completely different type of chassis? That’s why I think the FIA made a good first step…

Click here to read the full Q&A with Clarke and de Ferran.