It’s evident when driving through the streets of Sao Paulo that Brazilians are extremely passionate about motorsport. Ayrton Senna murals are painted on building sides and under bridges all over this massive city. As a result this South American country has not only produced the world’s most legendary driver (Senna) but also some great racing circuits and outstanding INDYCAR drivers.
One of my favorite racetracks is here in Brazil. Without a doubt, it was one of the most unique ovals ever built (the exception being Trenton, NJ). The Circuito de Jacarepaguá in Rio was quite a site to be seen in the mid-90’s when INDYCAR came to town.
Rio, in every definition of the word, was a Roval. Turn 1 was a sharp corner, requiring the drivers to get on the brakes, downshift once (maybe twice) and jump back on the throttle. Turn 2 was wide open all the way to turn 3 which was full throttle for some drivers and then back on to the brakes for turn 4. The layout produced great passing and promoted aggressive driving.
Rio was also the site of one of the most spectacular shunts in INDYCAR history. Mark Blundell essentially tore down the outside wall in Turn 1 when his brakes failed going down the front stretch. He made an attempt to collect his teammate to help soften the impact but he just barely missed. The resulting impact is terrifying and miraculously Blundell emerged from the car unscathed. Fast forward in the above video to the 10:40 mark for video of the incident.
The list of Brazilian drivers who have driven in INDYCAR is long and prestigious. With names like Fittipaldi, Kanaan, and Castroneves, Brazilian drivers have proved that they are and will continue to be a force to be reckoned with.
Emerson Fittipaldi, one of the greatest drivers in any car, was one of my favorite drivers growing up. “Emmo” was fast, brave, and exciting to watch. Below is video from one of Emerson’s hard fought battles with Nigel Mansell.
For many people when they think of the IZOD IndyCar Series they think of Helio Castroneves. The personable, excitable, and energetic Brazilian 3-time Indianapolis 500 winner has been a staple of the IZOD IndyCar Series for many years now. His personality, passion for racing, and on camera antics have been great for the sport. What some seem to miss, especially lately, is how impressive Helio is behind the wheel.
Tony Kanaan is without a doubt one of the fiercest competitors in the IZOD IndyCar Series. The tough driver from Salvador, Brazil has proved this year that just because he’s changed teams it doesn’t mean he can be ignored. Taking KV Racing Technologies to some of their best finishes in recent memory TK has proudly positioned himself in 3rd position in the overall points standings. If you watched the Indianapolis 500 last year and didn’t pay attention to Kanaan’s drive you missed one of the most exciting and entirely legendary performances a the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Starting 33rd and passing 22 cars to finish in 11th position was nothing short of miraculous. TK showed once again that he’s not lost a step and certainly hasn’t lost any of his nerve, the man is still a master of the outside pass.