CHAMPCAR/CART: Fittipaldi Rio Preview

CART's return to Rio de Janeiro for the Rio 400 is special for each of the seven proud Brazilian drivers who will participate in this weekend's race, but none more than Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Swift Ford), who missed last year's race at Brazil...

CART's return to Rio de Janeiro for the Rio 400 is special for each of the seven proud Brazilian drivers who will participate in this weekend's race, but none more than Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Swift Ford), who missed last year's race at Brazil while recovering from a broken leg sustained at Australia.

Fittipaldi was sidelined for seven events while recuperating from the injury, and as a result, was denied the opportunity to compete in front of his compatriots. Consequently, this year's race is even more meaningful than usual.

"This year, I'm really looking forward to it because of the fans," he said. "I'm very proud that I am Brazilian and I want to do well at my home country. It's like [Newman/Haas Racing teammate] Michael [Andretti] wanting to do well at Nazareth. I understand that feeling very, very well."

Fittipaldi has fond memories of his only career appearance at Rio, when he started 27th and finished fifth in 1996. "It was one of my best races," he recalled. "I had a pretty heavy accident on Saturday and I couldn't qualify. I had to start dead last in the race and finished fifth. The car was very good and I really enjoyed the race."

As with all the Brazilian competitors, Fittipaldi figures to have a large rooting section on hand this weekend.

"There are a lot of sponsors, a lot of friends and in general a lot of people that we have to take care of," he said. "Passes to the race are never enough. If you give me 1,000 passes, I could use 2,000. If you give me 5,000, I could use 10,000. I love racing in Rio, but, at the same time, I want the weekend to go by very quick and have a good result at the end. I really enjoy the Monday after the race."

Source: CART Online

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Christian Fittipaldi