Toyota Driver Overcomes Spinal Injuries To Earn A Record $1.35 Million For Indy 500 Win

28 May 2003

Brazilian Gil de Ferran drove through the pain of spinal injuries to take his Toyota-powered car to victory in the 2003 Indy 500 race on 25 May, earning himself $1,353,265. It was his first win in what is arguably the world’s most famous race and his winnings were part of record event prize money totalling $10,151,830.

“I’ve always dreamed of winning this race,” de Ferran said. “This is one of the most prestigious prizes in sport.”

Winner de Ferran earned his cash and glory by consistently running laps at 225mph in the 200 lap race while recovering from a spinal fracture and concussion sustained in a crash at a race in March. He hinted at the struggle to get fit to race after the race.

“My shoulders started cramping halfway through the race,” de Ferran said. “It was getting more and more painful and more and more difficult to block it out.”

De Ferran, a 35-year-old native of Brazil and former British F3 championship winner, won the 500 mile race by just 0.2990 of a second – the third closest finish ever in the 94 year history of the event – from his team mate and fellow Brazilian, Helio Castroneves.

Castroneves was denied a hat-trick of Indy 500 wins, but could console himself with the $639,665 he won for coming second and $100,000 for being fastest in qualifying. A press of the calculator buttons reveals that the winning margin of less than a third of a second was worth $713,600.

“Something like this comes as a surprise,” said the Brazilian. “You never know what this is going to feel like. It’s a great sense of accomplishment, coming back from injuries like that.”

Some might question why a man would put himself through the pain and risk of further injury. Records, glory, money? De Ferran answers thus.

“For me it’s not about history books, beating your records and achieving new heights. It’s me against me. It’s how far can I go.”

De Ferran’s victory also marks the first for Toyota in its first attempt at the Indianapolis 500. Toyota-powered cars took seven of the top nine places and led 170 of the 200 laps today including 131 of the final 133. Five different Toyota-powered cars led the race.



  • Type: Toyota Indy V8, naturally aspirated, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, fuel injected
  • Displacement: 3.50 litres (213.6 cubic inches)
  • Power: 675+ hp
  • Maximum rpm: 10,300rpm (mandated by IRL electronic limiter)
  • Engine block: Aluminium alloy
  • Crankshaft: Forged steel alloy
  • Pistons: Forged aluminium alloy
  • Connecting rods: Forged steel alloy
  • Engine management system: Denso Fuel and Ignition System
  • Fuel: Methanol


The Toyota Indy V8 is an all-new engine designed from a “clean sheet of paper” for competition in the Indy Racing League (IRL) IndyCar Series beginning in 2003. The 3.5-litre, naturally aspirated power plant was designed, built and developed by Toyota Racing Development (TRD), U.S.A. in its 47,000-square-foot Costa Mesa, California facility. Dynamometer testing began in February 2002, and the engine was tested in a race car for the first time in July 2002.

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Toyota Driver Overcomes Spinal Injuries To Earn A Record $1.35 Million For Indy 500 Win


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