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Gil de Ferran’s family praises the late racer for taking care of his son in dying moments

FILE - Gil de Ferran, of Brazil, winner of the Indianapolis 500, lies back on the pace car as he takes a post-victory lap of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 25, 2003, in Indianapolis. De Ferran's children Anna Elizabeth and Luke joined him for the ride. De Ferran, holder of the closed-course land speed record, died Friday, Dec. 29, 2023, while racing with his son at The Concourse Club in Florida, multiple former colleagues confirmed to The Associated Press. He was 56. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler, File)

(AP) — Gil de Ferran was lauded by his daughter as a “deep and pensive man and unafraid to discuss death” in a moving tribute to the 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner.

Anna de Ferran also praised her father, who died last Friday of a heart attack at age 56, for taking care of her brother, Luke, during his medical crisis. De Ferran was racing with his son at a private race track in Opa-Locka, Florida. The Brazilian felt unwell, pulled over, and suffered a fatal heart attack.

“While my father left us too young, he died the way we believe he would have wanted — driving a racecar with my brother at his side,” she posted in a lengthy statement on Instagram attributed to the de Ferran family.

“He left us without pain with his last act being to place his foot on the brake so my brother was able to come home safely with us that evening,” she continued. “That story in itself is testament to the level of thought, care, selflessness, and love he put into everything he did.”

Her comments are the first from the family since de Ferran’s shocking death last week. Tributes have poured in from across the motorsports world from many of the top racers in history for de Ferran, a two-time open-wheel champion who won the Indy 500 driving for Roger Penske and the iconic Marlboro sponsorship.

As part of his illustrious career, de Ferran in 2000 at California Speedway set the closed-course land speed record during CART qualifying with a lap of 241.428 mph — a mark that stands today.

He is survived by his wife, Angela, who posted about the couple’s 30th wedding anniversary in early December, as well as children Anna and Luke. Anna is a DJ who performs at Formula One races around the world and de Ferran in May had been rehired by McLaren.

He was part of McLaren’s failed 2019 effort to qualify Fernando Alonso for the Indianapolis 500. In his own post, Alonso said: “I am at a loss for words. Thank you for the moments we shared, for wholeheartedly teaching me how to race on ovals, and for the countless memories we created together. We will miss you, Gil.”

Anna de Ferran said the family has been comforted by the outpouring of support that has included “common themes in the messages we have been reading about my dad. It is truly warming to see the words respect, champion, intelligent, humble, deep connection, and integrity come up so often.”

She closed with her father’s take on death and how he would want his friends and family to continue their lives.

“My dad was a very deep and pensive man and unafraid to discuss death. He wanted everyone to continue their lives with curiosity, determination, and grace,” she wrote. “So that’s what we will do.”