CHAMPCAR/CART: Rio Mercedes Preview

The Road to Rio Mercedes Drivers Share Passion, Performance with Brazil's Racing Legends MONTVALE, N.J. (May 3, 1999) -- Mercedes-Benz loves Brazil, even more than the Girl From Ipanema. For Mercedes and its drivers, Brazil means both a...

The Road to Rio Mercedes Drivers Share Passion, Performance with Brazil's Racing Legends

MONTVALE, N.J. (May 3, 1999) -- Mercedes-Benz loves Brazil, even more than the Girl From Ipanema. For Mercedes and its drivers, Brazil means both a winning heritage and a homeland of heroes. West McLaren Mercedes has won the Formula One Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paolo the past two years. Likewise, Mercedes-Benz has captured back-to-back CART wins at Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway at the Nelson Piquet International Raceway in Rio de Janeiro. The three-pointed star has seen a lot of success in the country that has given motor sports some of its biggest stars. For Brazilian-born Mercedes drivers Mauricio Gugelmin and Helio Castro-Neves, the Rio 200, the second international stop in the 20-race CART FedEx Championship Series, doesn't mean Carnevale -- it means competing in front of enthusiastic compatriots and honoring beloved heroes. Greg Moore, who powered his Player's/Forsythe Mercedes Champ Car to victory in Rio in 1998 with a late-lap pass, sees race car set-up strategy as the most critical element. "The (Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway) race track is different from other ovals in that there are two slow corners and two long straights," said the Player's/Forsythe Mercedes driver. "There's a lot of braking and downshifting in the corners, which is unlike most ovals. Set-up strategy for the teams varies quite a bit; some race cars will be trimmed out with a lot of downforce for speed in the corners, and others will be set up for reducing drag to increase speed on the straightaways. This makes for a lot of passing and always a very close and exciting race." For native Brazilian drivers, racing before the home crowd is especially gratifying. "Brazilians love cars, and they hate to lose," said Mauricio Gugelmin, who grew up in Joinville, Brazil, as the son of a timber merchant and antique car collector and went on to drive his PacWest Mercedes race car into the record books for the fastest lap ever recorded (240.942 mph). "The Brazilian people have overcome great difficulties, and take a tremendous amount of pride in winning in a world-wide arena like auto racing. Racing here has an aspect of glamour to it, no question. The city is so beautiful; it makes it even more special to race here. The support of the fans is unbelievable -- but they also expect you to win." Helio Castro-Neves, who clocked the fastest race lap April 10th in Motegi, Japan, and May 2nd in Nazareth, Pa., in his Hogan Racing Mercedes, is a talented young driver who admires Brazilian compatriots Emerson Fittipaldi and Aryton Senna. "When I started in karts, Senna was just coming on the F1 scene and winning everything. I said, 'Wow, I want to be that guy.' Senna put everything into being a great driver. That's what I want to be. I try to show the same aggressiveness and never, ever give up. Emerson, too, has done so much for the sport, and for me." Moore, too, considers Senna a hero. "I looked up to him. He was such a professional on the racetrack," said Moore. With the helmet off, he was a regular guy, but as soon as the helmet went on, there was this transformation of character. He was the best in the world." Mercedes-Benz has a 105-year heritage in international motor sports, dating back to the world's first auto race. This season, Mercedes-Benz provides racing engines to five teams in the CART FedEx Championship Series, defends its Formula One Constructor's Championship and showcases its new CLR sports-prototype in the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. Mercedes-Benz also competes in the highest levels of professional golf and tennis -- sponsoring the PGA Tour's season-opening Mercedes Championships in January, and the ATP Tour's Mercedes Super 9 series, nine tournaments among the richest and most prestigious in the world.

Rio's "Roval" Race Track

According to Brazil's native son Mauricio Gugelmin, Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway is a unique track. He calls it a "roval," because it is an oval with slow corners similar to a road course. "The key is to balance the downforce with less drag on those long straights," said Gugelmin, who won the pole here in 1997. "There are great passing zones on this track. It's a very nice way to race."

Viva motor sport!

"Brazilians are absolutely rabid for motor sports -- it's their second sport (after soccer). The fans are very knowledgeable, and the race is a huge event. That's what makes it so much fun to race here -- it's not just a party -- everybody's here to see great racing." Greg Moore, Mercedes- powered driver and defending Rio race winner

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mauricio Gugelmin , Nelson Piquet , Emerson Fittipaldi , Greg Moore