Reigning double CART champion Gil de Ferran will today step up his aim of adding the Indy Racing League crown to his collection with an intensive test at Fontana's California Speedway.

The Brazilian is expected to spearhead the Penske team's assault on the complete IRL championship in 2002, following its defection from the faltering CART series over the winter break. He will be partnered by last season's Indianapolis 500 winner - and CART partner of the past two years - Helio Castroneves during the 2002 campaign, although the younger Brazilian is not thought to be running at Fontana this week.

de Ferran took his second consecutive CART crown prior to the end of the season, after a previously nail-biting duel with Sweden's Kenny Brack. However, despite returning to the top of the pile in the series, Penske took the decision to jump ship, joining the IRL to run a pair of Marlboro-backed cars in 2002. It is believed that sponsor pressure, allied to the fact that owners Philip Morris USA only market in America, persuaded the team to switch sides.

Both de Ferran and Castroneves took part in the Homestead test before Christmas.


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