CHAMPCAR/CART: Rio Diary Day Two

Rio Diary, Day Two, May 13, 1999 Ron Richards RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- Rain is good for many things. Holding down the dust. Growing flowers and crops. Greening up the yard. Rain does not mix well with Champ Cars and oval circuits. Gone...

Rio Diary, Day Two, May 13, 1999 Ron Richards

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- Rain is good for many things. Holding down the dust. Growing flowers and crops. Greening up the yard.

Rain does not mix well with Champ Cars and oval circuits.

Gone were Wednesday's temperatures in the mid-80s and sunshine in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. On board were clouds and occasionally heavy rains.

Day 1 of the 1999 GP Telemar Rio 200 fell victim to the wet stuff Thursday -- a total washout. Not one car turned a wheel on the 1.864-mile oval. A year ago, we experienced a similar situation on the opening day of the race weekend, but the teams and drivers did get a small amount of time on the circuit in the morning before the rains came.

Not this time.

Jacarepagua, about 45 minutes west of central Rio, is the location of the Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway at the Nelson Piquet International Raceway. Jacarepagua means "crocodile water." Our driver and guide Frederico says he's never seen a croc in this area. We did see a lot of water though.

Too bad the wildlife in the area -- crocodile, human or otherwise -- didn't have the opportunity to sun themselves Thursday.

This city of more than 5 million people has more than its share of craziness. Traffic, like in most of the world's major cities, tops the list. Take the drivers and the traffic tie-ups they create -- please.

We are staying roughly 35 minutes from the race circuit, if there are no traffic problems. Coming in this morning was a pretty typical trip. They were several backups and slowdowns. Buses are the predominant movers of the people here. Of course, they move slowly and seem to break down more than they should, creating traffic problems.

Fred does an excellent job of moving us around the city, and his driving style fits well with the locals. As we left the hotel, traffic was building in both directions, and we bogged down as the policia narrowed the street to one lane -- for no apparent reason. Once past that, it became the usual free-for-all as we negotiated our way through a couple of tunnels, along a river and up and down several hills. Fred pulled off a couple of moves that even red-hot Juan Montoya would have been proud of as we wended our way through the traffic snarls.

What makes the drive more tolerable, though, is the scenery. The views along the route are, at times, nothing short of breathtaking. Once we clear the normal six-lane traffic problems, we hit a two-lane road that snakes its way along the ocean, along some cliffs and wonderful white-sand beaches. Of course, today's beach activity -- soccer and volleyball normally top the list -- was nonexistent as people stayed away due to the rain.

Unlike years past, we don't drive past the giant Christo statue, one of the world's most visible landmarks, on our way to and from the track. The towering, stone figure with his arms spread overlooks downtown Rio and the harbor area.

Our return drive this year allows us to view Copacabana beach, with the world-famous Sugarloaf Mountain in the background. It's a picture-postcard visual that never fails to wow us as we wind down our days.

Unfortunately, all of us in the CART PR and media relations side of the house often get away from the track too late to enjoy the view. Today, it's unfortunate we got to leave so soon. We'll be back at it again in the morning, since the weather should improve overnight. We slotted in an extra half-hour of practice in the morning, and we qualify in the afternoon.

Hopefully, those imaginary crocs will find more sun and less water when we return to Jacarepagua in the morning.

Source: CART.com

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Nelson Piquet , Emerson Fittipaldi