This year, the IZOD IndyCar Series does something that many fans thought was a no-brainer for several seasons. They’re going to Brazil! This year, more than ever, it makes total sense for IndyCar to venture down to South America. There are a number of drivers from South America and especially Brazil, and a major sponsor and partner of the league APEX Brazil, so there will is strong support for the series which will hopefully translate to a strong attendance. The race will be held in the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil which were repaved just for this event earlier this year. Lets hope the asphalt holds together. I certainly have my concerns.
Although this is the first time the IZOD IndyCar Series has held an event in Brazil, its not the first time that the country has hosted an American Open-Wheel Racing event. CART held races in Rio de Janeiro between 1996 and 2000 at the Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway, a trapezoidal shaped oval. The event was never strongly attended, however and it was removed from the schedule beginning in 2001. São Paulo is certainly no stranger to open-wheel racing being the host city for the Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix held each Fall at the Interlagos circuit, and was the stomping ground for one of the greatest drivers ever to pilot a race car, Ayrton Senna. Senna certainly isn’t the only Brazilian to be successful in open-wheel racing. Motorsports has a rich history in Brazil and the country has been a source for many great drivers both past and present. Most fans of IndyCar racing will certainly remember Emerson Fittipaldi, for good or ill, but here’s a short list of others: Rubens Barrichello, Enrique Bernoldi, Raul Boesel, Helio Castroneves, Christiano de Matta, Airton Daré, Gil de Ferran, Christian Fittipaldi, Felipe Giaffone, Marco Greco, Bruno Junqueira, Tony Kanaan, Filippe Massa, Raphael Matos, Vitor Miera, Mario Moraes, Nelson Piquet (and no, I’m not including Jr.), Alex Ribiero, and André Ribeiro. I’m sure that I’ve missed several drivers, but even with this list you can see the fantastic amount of talent Brazil has contributed to IndyCar and Formula 1 over the decades. Notice in that list there are three Formula 1 World Driving Champions and three winners of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, and four IndyCar champions! That’s a seriously good track record.
The São Paulo circuit is the first test for the track-design prowess of Tony Cotman’s new company, NZR. In many ways, it is a very traditional street circuit, tight confines, lots of 90 degree corners, and little opportunities for overtaking. However, there is one unique feature, a 9/10th of a mile back stretch! That’s the longest straight of any circuit on the schedule. Not even Indianapolis has a longer straight than the Sao Paulo layout. That long straight is terminated by a hairpin turn which leads onto the front straight. Look for some crazy action in that hairpin! Unlike a Tilke track, there is no chicane preceeding the hairpin to spoil the fun. For those familiar with the new circuit at Abu Dhabi, you know what we’re talking aboout. The front stretch is likey to be the best looking part of the circuit. Being main parade route for the annual Carnivale celebration, a full grandstand area is already in place. It should look really fantastic as the colorful IndyCars roar out of the hairpin and down toward Turn 1.