Juan Pablo Montoya - Latin American Racing Driver of 2002
Argentinian José María López, Outstanding Rookie.
Caracas, Venezuela, December, 27, 2002
The present selection results from the spontaneous participation of 39 columnists and media representing the entire continent - respectable for the most part, with senior member Alberto Manera as the most celebrated member - followers of all motor sports.
Colombian driver Juan Pablo Montoya, ranked third in Formula One World Championship, was chosen as the Latin American Driver of 2002 by an important group of journalists and representatives of communications media from Argentina, Brasil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, Spain, the United States, Britain, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. Montoya, at 27 years of age, in his second campaign in the highest category of international motor racing, narrowly surpassed the Brazilians Rubens Barrichello and Cristiano Da Matta, while the young Argentinean José María López captured the vote for the most outstanding rookie thanks to his winning performances in Italy and Europe in Formula Renault.
In spite of not racking up victories for most of the season behind the wheel of a BMW-Williams, Montoya insured the backing of a large number of columnists making good use of his 7 pole positions and mainly for his dedication to try to overcome the power of the Ferrari engine. In the end, the runner-up and the 4 successes of Barichello at the Grand Prix of Europe, Belgium, Italy and the United States were not enough to oust the Bogotano, and little was left so that his compatriot, Cristiano Da Matta, would leave him in third place, thanks to his second win by a thread in the North American CART series.
Juan Pablo Montoya accumulated 126 points, with 16 votes for first place, 9 for second, 2 for third, 1 for fourth and 2 for fifth. Barrichello racked up 102 points including 14 votes for best, 5 for second, 3 for third, 1 for fourth and 1 for fifth. Coming in right behind the Ferrari driver was Cristiano Da Matta, who with his 100 votes made it clear that his 7 triumphs in the CART division and his entrance to the Formula One were not just lucky occurances. Da Matta received 4 votes for first place, 11 for second, 8 for third, 2 for fourth and 3 for fifth place.
Fourth place went to the veteran ex world motorcycling champion, Venezuelan Johnny Cecotto, who for the second time in a row - and in spite of his 46 years -, was named the tournament's V8Star in Germany, reserved for specialized touring race cars with propulsion of 500 horsepower. The River Plate region's own José María "Pechito" López, Italian champion of the Formula Renault and fifth in the European version of the same specialty, with the Peruvian Ramón Ferreyros in sixth place, in recognition of third place in the Rallyes World for vehicles of production or Group N. Next followed a trio of Brazilians, lead by the twenty-year-old, Felipe Massa, in his first season in Formula One. Just behind him was Helio Castroneves, two time winner of the 500 miles of Indianapolis and second in the North American IRL, while his fellow countryman Nelson Piquet, Jr., Monarch of the South American Formula 3, made it to the ninth slot. Mexican Michel Jourdain topped the group off in tenth place, the same position he reached in the CART series.
Also making the list are the Brazilian Jaime Melo, Jr. (champion of the F.3000 Europe), the Argentinean Norberto Fontana (champion of the Turismo Carretera 2000 in his own country), the Argentinean rally racer Marcos Ligato, the Brazilians Citor Meira (IRL), the runner-up of the CART series Bruno Junqueira and the title holder of the Telefónicas World Series, Ricardo Zonta.
"PECHITO" LOPEZ A GROWING PROMISE
In the subdivision for young rookies, the nineteen-year-old Argentinean José María López, imposed himself on another closed team of Brazilians Nelson Angelo Piquet and Felipe Massa. "Pechito" established himself in the Italian Formula Renault even though he was absent from the first two rounds, surpassing the promising Pollock Robert Kubica, while in the continental competition he arrived in fifth, aiming for a victory in Jarama and placing second in the classic route of Spa. Lopez's outstanding achievements led him to be contracted by Renault, who immediately placed him in the group of prestigious drivers of the French firm.
The second place for best rookie went to Nelson Angelo Piquet, son of the three times World Champion of Formula One of the same name, who swept the South American Formula Three at the wheel of a car of the team lead by his own father. It should come as no surprise that the 17 year old born in Germany has in such a short time, become the Brazilian to dominate the tracks in Europe. Piquet left his countryman Felipe Massa in third place, who was able to score points in his first complete season in Formula One in barely his second appearance, a feat accomplished in the past by drivers such as Ayrton Senna and Johnny Cecotto. Other young drivers considered for the honor were Mexicans Antonio Pérez (FFord British) and Piero Rodarte (Barber Pro United States).
NIKY PAULI OUTSTANDING RACE CAR JOURNALIST
A group of regional columnists also reserved a special title in order to reward the work created over the past years as a journalist for Alba Cecilia Pauli, better known as Niky, who directs the information agency, Media Racing, from Miami, specializing in competition and consultation for Latin American drivers who come to race in the United States. Graduated from the School of Communications at the Catholic University Andres de Bello in Caracas, Pauli obtained the honor of Outstanding Race Car Journalist, thanks to her tireless efforts as the person responsible for information in Spanish for the CART series, and as Public Relations Representative for drivers such as Venezuelan Ernesto José Viso and Alex García, notices regularly reproduced and posted on the major digital portals, magazines and newspapers all over the continent. This recognition has been supported by media members César Insfrán, Carlos Jalife, Humberto Galarza, José Miguel Pinochet, Héctor Losino, Eduardo Colazo, Alberto Hidalgo and the promoter and coordinator of this poll, Octavio Estrada.
In the election of the Latin American Driver 2002 -the Awards will be distributed directly to the winners-, the participants could select up to five drivers (some of them just picked up one) and three rookies. The standings were decided giving 5 points to the first place; four, to the second place; three, to the third place; two, to the forth place and one, to the fifth place.
The media members participating in this election were:
Julián Afonso (Car & Driver Magazine, in Spanish / Diario Automotriz - Venezuela), Javier Aparisi (Correspondent of BBC of London), Eduardo Colazo (press www.pechitolopez.com.ar Argentina), Alejandro Lucardi (www.motoresenv.com Argentina), Armando Calderón (www.mundomotorizado.com, Costa Rica), Alexis Vázquez (Magazine "S" Deportes /www.sdeportes.cl/Chile), José Miguel Pinochet (Latin American Service BBC of London / England), Andrés Zambón (Fox Sports 2 Ruedas - Argentina), Mariela Pallero, Ricardo Pallero, Brian Capovila (L.T.10 Radio Universidad Nacional del Litoral - Argentina), Ricardo Soler (Press Federación Colombiana de Automovilismo), Marcelo Rondina (Carburando TV - Argentina), Alberto Manera (Campeones del Volante Radio 2 Rosario/ Channel 3 TV Rosario - Argentina), Carlos Jalife (Scudería Hermanos Rodríguez - Mexico), Martha Córdoba (Newspaper Hoy - Ecuador), Juan José "Gato" Barbery (Fox Sports 2 Ruedas - Argentina), Alba Cecilia Pauli (Media Racing - United States), Milton Díaz Cánter (TV Cuba), Julio San Martín (Diario Granma - Cuba), Humberto Galarza (Diario Meridiano/Meridiano TV/ Venezuela), Carlos Suchanek (www.motores.com.ve), Luis Vargas (Newspaper El Globo - Venezuela), Liana Calderón (Newspaper Ultimas Noticias - Venezuela), César Insfrán (Newspaper Ultima Hora/Paraguay), Oliver Santacruz (Moto Action - Meridiano TV/Venezuela), Bruno Burger (Televen TV/Venezuela), Alberto Hidalgo (Ruedas, Motores y Algo Más 103.9 FM/Venezuela), Roberto Garcés (Revista Carburando/Moto Magazine/Ecuador), Diego Fernando Mejía (Radio Caracol/Colombia), Alex Sternberg (Correspondent in en Venezuela EFE Agency / Spain), the websites: www.peru.com/peruautos (Hans Firbas/Perú), www.warmup.com.br (Flavio Gómez/ Brasil), www.motoresapleno.com.ar (Héctor Losino/Argentina), www.mxsx.com.ar (Gustavo Lossindiere/Argentina), Alberto Cavo www.jump2ruedas.com (Alberto Cavo/ Argentina), www.prototipos.net (Octavio Estrada/Venezuela), www.razine.com (José R. López/República Dominicana), And the webpage of Motoclub in Costa Rica (www.motoclubcr.com).