CHAMPCAR/CART: Helio Castro-Neves Brazil Preview

CASTRO-NEVES HAS AN IDEAL GIFT IN MIND FOR TEAM ALUMAX AT RIO RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (May 7)--Helio Castro-Neves will celebrate his 23rd birthday this Sunday and since he will be spending part of the day competing in the Rio 400 race...

CASTRO-NEVES HAS AN IDEAL GIFT IN MIND FOR TEAM ALUMAX AT RIO

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (May 7)--Helio Castro-Neves will celebrate his 23rd birthday this Sunday and since he will be spending part of the day competing in the Rio 400 race (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET) at the Nelson Piquet International Raceway, he knows exactly what he wants for a present.

“I want to win this race,” the 22-year-old driver of the Team Alumax Reynard/Mercedes-Benz says emphatically. “I want to win in front of my home crowd. I want to give Team Alumax and Bettenhausen Motorsports its first win in CART. And, of course, I can’t think of a better birthday present.”

Sunday’s race, the fifth stop on the 1998 CART FedEx Championship, will mark the first time Castro-Neves has gotten to race in Brazil since 1994, when he competed in the Brazilian Formula 3 championship. Only 19 at the time, he finished second in that series and has since continued his upward career climb, finishing third in British F-3 championship in 1995, seventh in Indy Lights in 1996 and second in Indy Lights last year. Today, he is considered a rising star in the CART ranks.

“It means a lot to me to get to race in Brazil again,” Castro-Neves continued. “It has been four years since I last raced here and a lot has happened to me since that time. Fortunately, it has all been good and I feel very fortunate to come back with such a good chance to do well.

“The Team Alumax crew has given me a good car at every race this season. It has been so good, the last two races I have told Tom Brown (the team director) to not change the car. I had a chance to win at Long Beach and I got lead for the first time. At Nazareth, I had the fastest car in practice on Friday so I know we are close. Now we just need a result. I hope it comes Sunday.”

Team owner Tony Bettenhausen certainly wouldn’t mind seeing that.

“I think even if we haven’t gotten the results we wanted in the last two races, we know what we are capable of doing,” Bettenhausen pointed out. “Helio has shown everyone how quick he is, the crew has given him some tremendous pit stops and I think it’s only a matter of time before we get that win.”

PIT NOTES: Rio has not been the kindest track for Team Alumax in two previous years of racing. In the inaugural race in 1996, Stefan Johansson had the misfortune of running through debris from Mark Blundell’s accident and was forced to retire with an overheated engine. He finished 23rd. Last year, Patrick Carpentier was unable to avoid the spinning car of Parker Johnstone and finished 28th without even making it to the starting line ... Although the official name of Rio’s facility is the Nelson Piquet International Raceway, the portion of the track used for the CART event is called the Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway ... Team Alumax extends a wish for a speedy recovery to Fittipaldi, who recently underwent back surgery.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Patrick Carpentier , Nelson Piquet , Emerson Fittipaldi , Tony Bettenhausen , Tom Brown