São Paulo Preview
The IZOD IndyCar Series heads south to São Paulo, Brazil this weekend for the Itaipava São Paulo Indy 300. If you are unfamiliar with Itaipava, it is a Brazilian beer that is one of the best beers I’ve ever had. Last year the brand was on the cars of Brazilian drivers Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan. I’m not sure if that will be the case this year or not.
This will be the third time that the IndyCars have raced the streets of São Paulo. Both previous races were greatly affected by heavy rains and both were also won by Will Power. Unfortunately, the weekend forecast this year calls for more of the same – rain, and plenty of it. As Curt Cavin pointed out the other night on Trackside; these streets do not drain well and once it rains, it takes a long time for the water to go anywhere.
It’s really a shame, because this circuit looks like it could be very racy and extremely fast. The backstretch is one of the longest in all of motorsports at almost a mile and should favor whichever engine manufacturer has the most horsepower. This is where many would pick on the easy target, which would be Lotus. I’ll refrain.
The course is a nice combination of long straightaways, high-speed corners and slow corners. The problem is, after two races we’ve not seen much racing in good conditions due to heavy rains. The first race was stopped temporarily due to heavy flooding in the streets. Rain tires do you no good with that much water on the track surface. Last year, it was worse. In fact, the race was stopped after fifteen laps and run the next day on Monday – still, in the rain. That’s why I’m disappointed in the forecast for the weekend. At some point, I’d like to see this circuit run under long periods of green-flag racing
The first year in 2010 had the added drama of the Sambadrome – the area near the start-finish line that served as a nice area for dancing during the week of Carnival but a frighteningly slick surface for IndyCars. It was Randy Bernard’s first race as CEO of INDYCAR and he was faced with a unique situation. As cars skidded around as if on ice through qualifying, INDYCAR and race officials made the decision to diamond-grind the Sambadrome overnight to make it suitable for racing the next day. Dust filled the air as the cars ran through the area at speed for the first time on Sunday, but they all made it through – at least until they got to the first turn before a massive pileup saw EJ Viso’s car land atop Marco Andretti’s head. Thankfully, no one was injured.
Brazilians love their racing and their racing heroes. That was never more evident than when Brazilian Formula One driver Ayrton Senna lost his life at Imola on May 1, 1994. The nation was shattered. If you haven’t seen the movie Senna yet, you need to. It’s now available at Best Buy and Amazon for $14.95. It is a must-have for any racing fan’s DVD collection. It’s strictly a documentary with actual footage of Senna’s life and career. It is extremely well done and I would recommend it to anyone.
While no Brazilians in today’s IZOD IndyCar Series matches the level of stardom that Senna had reached in his home country, there are many that are extremely popular. I’m not sure, but I would guess that Rubens Barrichello is the most popular IndyCar driver among Brazilians – simply due to his nineteen years in Formula One. Before Barrichello’s arrival on the IndyCar scene, I would venture to guess that Tony Kanaan had that honor and is still very popular in Brazil today. While Helio Castroneves may be the most popular racing Brazilian in the US, I get the impression he is not that popular in Brazil. Still, both Helio and TK are two of my favorites among the current drivers in the series.
I am surprised that a Brazilian has yet to win this race. Vitor Meira finished on the podium in 2010. To date, he is the highest finishing Brazilian in this event. But don’t expect that record to stand past this weekend. After finally picking the winner at Long Beach, I may be getting on a roll. I will pick a Brazilian to win the Itaipava São Paulo Indy 300 in front of the home crowd. It won’t be Helio or Bia or Rubens. No, this year’s winner will be Tony Kanaan, as he continues to turn his season around after a poor start in the first two races.