GP TELEMAR RIO 200 FULL OF MEMORABLE MOMENTS DETROIT (May 10, 1999) - In 1996, it was native son Andre Ribeiro's thrilling drive to victory while his ecstatic countrymen serenaded him to the finish line. A year later, it was a heartbreaking ...
GP TELEMAR RIO 200 FULL OF MEMORABLE MOMENTS
DETROIT (May 10, 1999) - In 1996, it was native son Andre Ribeiro's thrilling drive to victory while his ecstatic countrymen serenaded him to the finish line. A year later, it was a heartbreaking outcome for Bobby Rahal, who ran out of fuel just over a lap from his first FedEx Championship Series victory in five years.
Last year, it was a spectacular late-race duel between Greg Moore and Alex Zanardi, which was resolved in Moore's favor when he sped past Zanardi with four laps remaining to claim his third FedEx Championship Series victory.
On a drama-per-event scale, the GP Telemar Rio 200 has consistently ranked with the most exciting of FedEx Championship Series races. Another classic is expected in Saturday's fifth round of the championship (tape delay, Sunday, 4 p.m. ET, ABC-TV), to be contested on Rio de Janeiro's Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway at Nelson Piquet International Raceway.
Rookie Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) arrives on a two-race winning streak, having scored back-to-back victories at Long Beach and Nazareth to become the first FedEx Championship Series rookie to win consecutive events since Nigel Mansell at Michigan and New Hampshire in 1993. In the process, Montoya has taken the series lead with 45 points, two more than Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard), who is riding a string of three consecutive top-five finishes, including a victory at Japan.
Moore (Player's/Indeck Mercedes Reynard), the defending race champion, stands third with 40 points, but is heading to a venue where he has enjoyed tremendous success. In addition to last year's triumph, he finished second in 1997 to Paul Tracy, the beneficiary of Rahal's late-race misfortune.
In 1996, Moore was positioned for the first FedEx Championship Series victory of his career - in only his second start - when an engine problem forced his exit while in the lead just 18 laps from the checkered flag. He is the only driver to lead laps in two separate Rio events, 28 in 1996 and five last year.
Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift) has finished seventh or better in each of the season's first four events, his best such streak since 1994. He has parlayed that performance into fourth place in the championship, but has scored FedEx Championship Series points only once in three career appearances at Rio, with last year's fifth-place finish. Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard), currently fifth in the championship, earned the first of his season-high five pole positions at Rio last year and led seven laps but was relegated to a 19th-place finish due to electrical problems. Following a 1998 season in which Franchitti finished third in the championship but recorded only two top-eight finishes on ovals, he has already matched that total in his first three oval starts of this season, finishing third at Homestead and eighth at Nazareth.
Following the GP Telemar Rio 200, the FedEx Championship Series returns to North America for the Motorola 300, Saturday, May 29 at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill.
WHO'S HOT * Rookie Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) has won the past two FedEx Championship Series events at Long Beach and Nazareth to take over the FedEx Championship Series points lead with 45. Montoya is the first rookie to lead the championship since Nigel Mansell in 1993 and he became the first rookie to win consecutive events since Mansell won at Michigan and New Hampshire during that season. Montoya's victory at Nazareth, which followed his first FedEx Championship Series pole position, made him the first rookie to win from the pole since Alex Zanardi at Laguna Seca in 1996. He also led a race-record 210 laps, joining Mansell (222, 1993 Michigan) and Bobby Rahal (200, 1992 Phoenix) as the only drivers in FedEx Championship Series history to lead 200 or more laps of an event. * Defending GP Telemar Rio 200 champion Greg Moore (Player's/Indeck Mercedes Reynard) has enjoyed an extraordinary run of success at FedEx Championship Series oval events, dating to the start of the 1998 season. Moore has finished fourth or better in nine of his last 11 oval starts, including victories at Rio and Michigan last year and in this year's season opener at Homestead. The streak also includes runner-up efforts at Homestead and California Speedway last year, third at Nazareth and Gateway last year and fourth at Japan last year and this year. * Veteran PJ Jones (Visteon Ford Reynard) and rookie Cristiano da Matta (MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) posted the first top-five finishes of their FedEx Championship Series careers at Nazareth. Jones finished second to Montoya, collecting his best finish since taking ninth at Detroit in 1996 in only his second series start. Da Matta's fourth-place finish represented the best result for a Toyota-powered driver in the engine manufacturer's four years of FedEx Championship Series competition, bettering the fifth-place performance of Max Papis at Houston last year. ON THE RIGHT TRACK * Scott Pruett (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) owns a pair of podium finishes in three starts at Rio de Janeiro, having recorded back-to-back third-place efforts in 1996 and '97. He finished 18th last year. * Greg Moore (Player's/Indeck Mercedes Reynard), the defending GP Telemar Rio 200 champion, finished second to Paul Tracy in 1997 and was leading the inaugural event in 1996 when he encountered engine problems just 18 laps from the checkered flag. He is the only driver to lead laps at two different events in Rio de Janeiro, including 28 in 1996 and five last year. * Jimmy Vasser (Target Honda Reynard) owns three top-10 finishes in as many career starts at Rio de Janeiro, topped by a sixth-place finish last year. He finished eighth in 1996 and ninth in '97. * Bryan Herta (Shell Ford Reynard) has recorded back-to-back top-six finishes at Rio de Janeiro, highlighted by a fourth-place effort last year. He also finished sixth in 1997.
MANUFACTURING SUCCESS * Mercedes has powered back-to-back winners at Rio de Janeiro, including Paul Tracy in 1997 and Greg Moore last year. Andre Ribeiro drove a Honda to victory at the inaugural FedEx Championship event contested at Rio in 1996. * Toyota comes to Rio de Janeiro off the most successful event in its four-year FedEx Championship Series history at Nazareth. Rookie Cristiano da Matta (MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) finished fourth, the best result for a Toyota-powered driver in the engine manufacturer's tenure in the series. Alex Barron (AAR Denso/Castrol Toyota Eagle) and Scott Pruett (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard) added finishes of ninth and 10th, respectively, marking the first time that three Toyota drivers had ever finished among the top 10 in the same event. Barron's finish was a career best as well. * Firestone has won 22 FedEx Championship Series events in a row dating to Adrian Fernandez' victory in Japan last year, and 33 of the past 34, dating to Moore's 1997 victory at Milwaukee. ON THE AIR * The GP Telemar Rio 200 will air via tape-delay on Sunday beginning at 4 p.m. ET on ABC-TV.