CHAMPCAR/CART: Rio de Janeiro report

Copyright 1996 Trackside Publications, Inc.; reproduced by permission Trackside web site: http://www.soundcity.net/TrackSide/ Ribeiro Brings Brazil Home Andre Ribeiro won his second Indy Car career race today. His first win was in New ...

Copyright 1996 Trackside Publications, Inc.; reproduced by permission Trackside web site: http://www.soundcity.net/TrackSide/

Ribeiro Brings Brazil Home

Andre Ribeiro won his second Indy Car career race today. His first win was in New Hampshire. His second win was much more sweet at home, in Brazil.

The reported 100,000 raging Brazilian fans failed to show up. With seats for 80,000, an estimated 60,000 paid, but highly ecstatic fans watched this highly contested race.

Ribeiro crossed the line well ahead of a frantic battle for third place involving Al Unser, Jr., Scott Pruett, Alex Zanardi, Christian Fittipaldi, Bobby Rahal and Raul Boesel. Robby Gordon had been involved in this battle, but after contact with the wall, and bringing out the last yellow, was out of the picture when it counted.

The Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway offered nothing less than a huge challenge to the IndyCar drivers. The track was unusually bumpy, and resembled a left-turned road course more than the traditional, American oval.

This was the most difficult race I have ever had," said Ribeiro. "There were a lot of good, fast guys out there and it was very hard to overtake. You had to concentrate all the time as this track is very technical. The best racing drivers have to control their emotions, but it was very tough to do so today. During the last yellow I could see the grandstands and everyone cheering and I was shaking. I kept talking to the pits trying to stay calm."

Robby Gordon, claiming to have seen a Brazilian god, had this comment after his crash, late in the race: "No motor," said Gordon. "So I was going in really, really deep under braking to keep up. Every corner for the whole race we went in until I saw God, then I hit the brakes. It finally just got away from me."

Pruett got a good run on Unser into Turn Four on Lap 129 but couldn't make it stick. Zanardi, however, was flying, having moved past Boesel before Gordon's crash. He smoked Rahal on the restart then passed Fittipaldi into turn four and set sail for Pruett. He caught the Patrick Lola exiting Turn four on the final lap but, despite Zanardi’s NASCAR bump draft - banging his nose into Pruett's left rear tire - he fell a foot short of his first podium finish.

Mark Blundell, who slashed into the dirt on the approach to turn four and slammed almost head-on into the wall in a horrific crash from which he was indeed lucky to escape with nothing more serious than a broken bone in his right foot said to have lost his brakes.

"I lost brakes going into Turn Four," said a shaken Blundell. "I pushed the brake pedal all the way to the floor and got nothing. We won't know exactly what happened with the brakes until later, but all I know is I didn't have any.

"When I realized I didn't have any brakes I looked to turn into the infield hoping that would send me into a spin because I knew I was carrying too much speed and that it would be a hard hit. Obviously we went straight into the wall at full speed.

"I want to say that I have nothing but complements to Reynard for the strength of their chassis. I think under the circumstances I made out quite well for a crash with such a heavy impact."

Ironically, Blundell's PacWest teammate Mauricio Gugelmin also dropped out with brake problems after the hub holding the brake rotor failed.

Andre Ribeiro offered these post-race comments: "This is the first time everyone - my family, friends, sponsors and the people working with me - have all been together for a race," said Ribeiro. "So I cannot say how much this win means to me with them present. And to win here in Brazil is incredible.

"The people here did a fantastic job to make this event happen, and I think they should be very proud. Indy Car racing, for sure, is going to be one of the biggest events in Brazil."

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