Family Ron Richards RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- A Fittipaldi promoting the race. A Fittipaldi on the pole. The story would be complete if the driver on the top step of the podium here Saturday afternoon has that name. Emerson Fittipaldi is...
Family Ron Richards
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- A Fittipaldi promoting the race. A Fittipaldi on the pole.
The story would be complete if the driver on the top step of the podium here Saturday afternoon has that name.
Emerson Fittipaldi is in the first year of a multi-year agreement with Championship Auto Racing Teams to promote the GP Telemar Rio 200 on the Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway at the Nelson Piquet International Raceway in Brazil's second-largest city. All indications are the race will be a sellout for the first time since the event's inception in 1996. It should be a very good day for the former CART and World Driving champion.
The same will be said for his nephew if he can score his first-ever Champ Car victory Saturday.
The sense of nationalism that drives international sport was very apparent here Friday. After a rainy morning, the clouds finally gave way to sunshine and blue skies and the small but vocal crowd went crazy when Christian Fittipaldi secured the first pole of his five-year CART career. If he wins, pandemonium will reign in the winner's circle at this track some 45 minutes from downtown Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
While it might be a bit troublesome to manage the celebration following a Fittipaldi victory, the enthusiasm is something all of us in the CART community admire about the Brazilian fans who follow our sport. In fact, if any of the 10 Brazilian drivers who are in the 27-car field make it to the checkered flag first, we are guaranteed to see the local fans singing, waving hundreds of Brazilian bandeiras (flags) and cheering wildly.
While our race series is clearly and uniquely American -- we run 15 of 20 races in the United States -- the worldwide influence is really something special. Whether Brazilians, a really fast Colombian, Japanese, Italians, Canadians, Mexicans or a Scotsman are driving, fans from countries around the world truly love their drivers. And they demonstrate their affection openly at every opportunity.
It was great to see a contingent of Colombian fans in the grandstands at Nazareth a couple of weeks ago, celebrating Juan Montoya's second-straight win by waving their flags and singing their country's national anthem as Montoya basked in the limelight in the winner's circle. And the picture of American P.J. Jones and Canada's Paul Tracy holding the diminutive Target/Chip Ganassi driver upside down, by his ankles on the victory podium, is one of the most memorable moments from a season that is just a quarter of the way finished.
It's that kind of pride and enthusiasm that will be running strong through the grandstands, suites and in the paddock on race day in the suburbs west of downtown Rio.
And two Fittipaldi winners, basking in the glow of success, would be a storybook ending to our annual week in Brazil.