Vernay tested with Conquest Racing over the winter, but the team also tested veteran Canadian IndyCar and Champ Car driver Paul Tracy at the same session, and this week is set to run British driver Pippa Mann at a test at Texas Motor Speedway. Mann was Indy Light's first female pole sitter last year at the Indy Lights Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and won the 2010 event at Kentucky Speedway.
Vernay told the media that his chances of running in IndyCar looked bleak after a key partner pulled out and as a result he was casting his net as wide as possible. "I'm free of all contracts and 100% ready to become involved in any major programme in Europe or the US."
De Ferran Dragon Racing officially shuttered
While Sam Schmidt Motorsport has saved the FAZZT team with its buyout, there was no similar last-minute reprieve for De Ferran Dragon Racing.
Team co-owner Gil de Ferran, a former Champ Car champion had already said last week that the team was unlikely to compete in 2011 after the failure of the team's deal with prospective driver Tony Kanaan failed to accumulate sufficient sponsorship funding to make the operation viable. The team subsequently confirmed at the end of last week that the cessation of operations was to be a permanent state of affairs.
"I couldn't figure out an equation where there wasn't an ounce of uncertainty and financial risk," de Ferran said. "It's a sad day, particularly in light of the fact we felt we did a lot of our (close-season) homework that we didn't do in preparation for last year," he said.
"We kept everyone over the winter, and we spent money on research and development. I felt good about what we were doing," but in the end "we just couldn't raise enough funds to do it properly," despite looking at scenarios that included a partial season campaign or an Indy 500-only run.
There's no word on whether the team assets will be sold off, what will happen to the team's staff - or even what de Ferran himself might now do. When asked, de Ferran simply said "I'm not going to make any immediate decisions about the future," adding: "I don't want to create speculation."
As well as Kanaan, the collapse of the team also leaves Davey Hamilton in limbo after the former Sam Schmidt Motorsports driver had previously announced plans to run a part-season programe with De Ferran Dragon.
The team was originally founded by Stephen J. Luczo and Jay Penske in 2007 as Luczo Dragon Racing for an Indy 500 run driven by Ryan Briscoe, with technical support from Penske Racing (owned by Jay's father Roger Penske.) In 2010 the team merged with American Le Mans team De Ferran Motorsports, and Gil de Ferran joined the new combined operation as a co-owner.
Previous drivers for the team have included Hamilton, Raphael Matos and Tomas Scheckter.