SBRS: Rossoni - goal driven

Watch Nilton Rossoni go into a corner. Look at where the nose of the car is pointing, the angle of the front wheels, then look at where his head is pointing. He's looking so far into the corner that his head is virtually angled across his ...

Watch Nilton Rossoni go into a corner. Look at where the nose of the car is pointing, the angle of the front wheels, then look at where his head is pointing. He's looking so far into the corner that his head is virtually angled across his shoulder. He's looking so far down the corner, that he's considering the exit before he's even completed the turn in. Such style rewarded the lanky 19-year old Brazilian with the friendly smile six victories in the 2000 Barber Dodge Pro Series and the series crown.

The exaggerated head-turn is not only an illustration of Rossoni's cornering ability, but also of his ability to look ahead toward a singular goal, winning car races. At season's end, Rossoni finished his Barber Dodge Pro Series career tied for second on the all-time wins list, one shy of the overall. He also finished second in all-time prize money, third in all-time poles and third in all-time points. Statistics however seem almost irrelevant to Rossoni, paling in comparison to a win. Anyone who has seen him nearly leap out of his number 36 Dodge Reynard upon taking the checkered flag can attest to that.

Outside the racecar, you would never think of Rossoni as a goal driven person. His demeanor around the paddock fits the happy-go-lucky stereotype of the young Brazilian man. He smiles freely, and greets most with thumbs up and a wink. Rarely does his countenance betray any worry or fear. Following the infrequent bad session or race, Rossoni has a tendency to shrug it off with a, "next time" approach. It's confidence without cockiness.

On the racetrack, it's a different story altogether with a take no prisoners approach. Witness both of his victories at the Homestead-Miami Speedway which were diametrically opposed circumstances yet each was approached with the same singular resolve. In the second round, an early lap tangle saw him lose his nose cover damaging his aerodynamics, a crucial fact on the Homestead modified oval. As one would expect he dropped from fourth on the grid to ninth. Low and behold, a few laps later, the number 36 Reynard was cutting through the field like a hot knife through butter to take hard fought victory at the beginning of the season. The final round of the season also took place at Homestead. While at the beginning of the season points mean everything, in this final round, Rossoni needed only a Top-10 result to secure the crown. Yet from a fourth starting spot, he quickly worked his way into the lead with an authoritative pass into the daunting turn-1 complex. Despite the dogged pursuit by Sepp Koster, Rossoni clung to the lead with all he could muster. When Koster finally got by, Rossoni was not content to settle for second and slipstreamed past to take the lead for good on the subsequent lap, winning the title in style.

Like many a young Brazilian Rossoni was exposed to Formula One from a young age. He could remember at four years old following the exploits of drivers like Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna. At seven years old he decided he wanted to race and promptly asked his father for a go-kart. Father obliged by getting the young Rossoni a mini-go kart, which he drove on the sidewalks and driveways of his native Curitiba. Soon however, the little kart failed to live up to the expectation of speed, and seeking more he persuaded his father to take him to the local karting track. At the still tender age of nine, Rossoni matriculated himself in a karting school then informed his father that he had to go over and pay the tuition.

At that point there was no looking back for Rossoni. Racing would become the single consuming passion of his life. Karting victories would lead to racing cars in Formula Chevrolet in Brazil before coming to America and the Barber Dodge Pro Series. Racing however had to find a happy balance with schooling. Regardless of the racing schedule, he found the time to make sure his grades did not suffer. The attitude prevails today as Rossoni prepares to enter the University of Miami to embark his studies in Business Administration.

"I look forward to setting goals for myself, and when I do, I need to achieve them," says Rossoni.

One goal Rossoni felt he didn't achieve was winning the Barber Dodge title in 1999. By the midpoint in the season he was clawing at the top of the leader board having come off of a win in Cleveland. At the following round at Road America, Rossoni charged from seventh place to take the lead of the race only to lose it a lap later in a three-way battle with Jeff Simmons and Michael Valiante. Rossoni would spin off and eventually finish sixth. That race would lead him into a bleak period that would not see him crack the Top-10 in the last five rounds until the final race at Watkins Glen where he drove to a rock solid victory.

The 2000 season started off with a bang, two wins on the trot including the thrilling drive in the second round at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Thereafter followed three races with only modest results. Wary of repeating his mistake of 1999, Rossoni sat down with his family and advisors and set out some goals.

"We sat down and said, 'If we're going to do this, we're going to do it to win the championship," recalls Rossoni.

Make that a singular goal.

From there, he redoubled his efforts, focusing all his energies on winning races. The payoff was immediate with a win the next round at Cleveland and three more would follow at Road America, Laguna Seca and Homestead once again where he was crowned champion. Goal met.

"Winning the title has been something I have been working toward for a long time," says Rossoni who has spent the bulk of his time sorting out his future with various Indy Lights tests. "Being the champion has made a big difference when going to test for Indy Lights teams."

Early in December, Rossoni earned a ride with Conquest Racing for the 2001 CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship. He's understated about his aspirations for his freshman season claiming that he'll use it as a learning year, and try for some wins and maybe Rookie of the Year if it all goes well.

It all belies the fact that when Rossoni straps into his Conquest Racing machine and flips the visor closed, he'll set a goal.

Win the race, win the championship.

-George Tamayo

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Series INDYLIGHTS , OPENWHEEL