De Ferran announces retirement

Double CART champion Gil de Ferran has announced that he will retire from racing at the end of the season, ending months of speculation about his future. He will be replaced in crack IRL IndyCar Series outfit Penske Racing by Sam Hornish Jr - who has decided to remain in open-wheel racing rather than switch to NASCAR

De Ferran announces retirement

De Ferran had previously indicated he would keep racing in 2004. However, following two serious crashes within the past year - and a remarkable win in the Indianapolis 500 in May - the Brazilian feels the time is right to stop.

"I felt it was important to stop while I was at my best," de Ferran said. "I wanted to wait until the end of the season to announce to everyone my decision to stop driving, however, I realize it is in the team's best interest for me to do so at this time so they have the opportunity to hire the best possible driver. I feel they have done so with Sam."

De Ferran's career included two CART championships and eight wins with Penske. He is currently in the midst of a four-driver fight for the IRL championship, and has scored wins at Indy and Nashville this season.

"Gil's commitment to the team produced two national championships, eight victories, including our 100th win, and our thirteenth Indianapolis 500-mile race victory," team owner Roger Penske said in a statement. "He has certainly made a place in Penske Racing history as one of our great drivers."

Meanwhile, another great driver has been signed to take de Ferran's place. Hornish won the IRL championship in 2001 and 2002, and holds series records for wins (nine) and laps led (1,726). Although recent reports suggested Hornish would sign with Penske, it was anticipated that he would switch to the team's NASCAR squad.

"The opportunity to drive for the most successful open-wheel team in history and to follow in the footsteps of the organization's remarkable driver lineage, including Gil, is an honour," Hornish said.

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