Former Indy car star Andre Ribeiro dies of cancer aged 55

Andre Ribeiro, the man who scored Honda’s first win in Indy car racing, has died of bowel cancer aged 55.

Former Indy car star Andre Ribeiro dies of cancer aged 55

On the back of regular success in kart racing in his native Brazil, Ribeiro graduated to Formula Ford, before heading to Europe to compete in the 1990 Formula Opel championship.

He then moved to Britain to race for Paul Stewart Racing for six races, finishing sixth at Silverstone. PSR kept him on for 1992, and although outperformed by teammate Gil de Ferran, he scored a third and a pole position, again at Silverstone.

A move to Fortec Motorsports in 1993 saw him take poles at Silverstone and Brands Hatch and three podiums and consistent finishing elsewhere resulted in fifth in the championship.

For 1994, Ribeiro moved to the U.S. and entered Indy Lights with Tasman Motorsports alongside Steve Robertson. Robertson beat Ribeiro to the Lights crown, but the Brazilian still impressed with four wins and four poles and runner-up in the championship.

That earned Ribeiro a ride with Tasman in CART Indy cars in 1995 and although the early Honda unit struggled for reliability in the back of Tasman’s singleton Reynard, a fourth place at Road America was encouraging and then at the one-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Ribeiro took pole and drove Honda to its first Indy car win.

The following year, now using a Lola chassis, Ribeiro delivered two more wins, one a glorious home win ahead of Al Unser Jr. on Rio de Janeiro’s demanding D-shaped oval, the other coming at Michigan’s superspeedway ahead of Bryan Herta and compatriot Mauricio Gugelmin. He also took pole at Toronto, and eventually finished 11th in the championship.

The 1997 season was a struggle for Ribeiro and Tasman, although a midseason switch from Lola to Reynard saw a small uptick in performance, including a third place at Toronto and fourth at Laguna Seca.

Ribeiro then got what should have been a dream call-up to Team Penske alongside Unser Jr., but Roger’s squad was going through a dreadful period when the package of the Penske PC-27 chassis, the Mercedes-Benz engine and Goodyear tires was emphatically not the combo to have, and his best result was a seventh place in Vancouver.

Ribeiro retired from racing at season’s end, aged just 32, and in partnership with Roger Penske, ran car dealerships in Brazil.

Said Roger Penske: “Everyone at Team Penske was saddened to learn of the passing of Andre Ribeiro. Andre raced for our team in 1998 and he became a leader in our automotive business after he retired from motorsports.

"Andre was a champion on and off the track and he will always be a part of Team Penske. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Ribeiro family.”

An official statement from Honda added: "American Honda and Honda Performance Development extends its deepest sympathies to the family, friends and many fans of Andre Ribeiro, Honda’s first Indy car race winner."

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