Vitor Meira Finishes on Podium with Formula 1 Stars Schumacher and Massa in Florianopolis

FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil Nov. 30--Vitor Meira and Felipe Massa flanked 7-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher on the podium yesterday as he celebrated winning the Desafio Internacional das Estrelas, an invitational charity karting event held annually in the southern Brazil city.

For third-place Meira and runner-up Massa, the weekend event marked their first competition since season-ending accidents; Meira sustained a broken back in the Indianapolis 500 in May and Massa suffered a skull fracture in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix in July.

"It definitely feels good to do my first race since my accident and to have a good result," Meira said. "I'd like to think of it as a sign of things to come for myself and for A.J.'s ABC Supply team. I am really looking forward to getting back into the IndyCar Series next year. After the rain comes the sunshine and I hope the sun keeps shining."

Meira's podium finish is the first time an active IndyCar Series driver placed that high in this charity event which Massa has hosted in his native Brazil since 2005. Finishing behind the top three were fourth and fifth place F-1 drivers Vitantonio Liuzzi and Rubens Barrichello. Tony Kanaan finished sixth ahead of Indy car drivers Christian Fittipaldi (10th), Raphael Matos (13th), Mario Moraes (21st) and Felipe Giaffone (24th).

"Competing against Barrichello, Schumacher and Massa, even if it's slot cars they are going to go as fast as they can because they are so competitive," Meira said, adding, "It was a lot of fun. I think everyone had fun but depending on the results, some had more fun than others."

There were two 25-lap heats and points were combined to determine the overall ranking. Meira started second and finished fifth in the first heat on Saturday having led most of it before having trouble with Liuzzi. In Sunday's finale, he started fourth (the top eight were inverted from Saturday's finish) and finished third behind Schumacher and Massa. He earned enough points with his two top-5s to finish third overall behind the F-1 stars.

Vitor Meira will return to the cockpit of the No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda when the team begins testing early next year in preparation for the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series. The season begins outside of the U.S. in Sao Paulo, Brazil March 14th. Officials have not yet announced where the street circuit in Brazil's most populous city will be located.

-credit: ajfr