Giaffone Ready To Roll With Nunn, Hollywood In 2002 INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, Oct. 22, 2001 - Felipe Giaffone was at a racing crossroads near the end of last year. Giaffone, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, had finished fourth in the Indy Lights point ...
Giaffone Ready To Roll With Nunn, Hollywood In 2002
INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, Oct. 22, 2001 - Felipe Giaffone was at a racing crossroads near the end of last year.
Giaffone, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, had finished fourth in the Indy Lights point standings in 2000 and was looking to advance his driving career. He had tested with CART team Mo Nunn Racing in 2000 and also had a relationship with Mercedes-Benz that could have produced a ride in 2001 in CART.
But two-time CART champion Alex Zanardi became Nunn's second driver for 2001, and Mercedes withdrew from North American single-seat racing, leaving Giaffone in a quandary.
Legendary open-wheel engineer Nunn, now a team owner, suggested that Giaffone try the Indy Racing League in 2001. Nunn introduced Giaffone to the management of Treadway-Hubbard Racing.
"He said, 'They're going to be strong,'" Giaffone said of Nunn's advice about Indy Racing and the Treadway-Hubbard team.
Nunn was right. Giaffone, 26, was the dominant rookie in a breakthrough season for the Indy Racing Northern Light Series, finishing sixth in the overall standings in the No. 21 Hollywood G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone fielded by Treadway-Hubbard. He was a runaway winner of the Chevy Rookie of the Year Award.
Now Nunn is taking his own advice and joining Giaffone in the Indy Racing League in 2002. Nunn announced Oct. 19 that he will field a full-time team in the entire 15-race Indy Racing Northern Light Series next year with Giaffone behind the wheel. Primary sponsorship will continue from Hollywood, a Brazilian tobacco company.
The team also will field two cars in the 2002 Indianapolis 500, one for Giaffone and one for a driver to be named. "This is certainly great news for our organization, and having the ability to take two cars back to the Indy 500 is very exciting for the whole team," Nunn said. "I am delighted that Hollywood has chosen to make this move to the IRL with us, and we look forward to providing Felipe with all of the tools necessary to win a championship."
That's also one of Giaffone's goals for 2002. After all, he was in the top five in points for most of the season and an outside contender for the championship until finishing 10th or worse in each of the last three races of the year.
"My first goal is to win a race," Giaffone said. "Then I'll go for the championship.
"We probably lost about 100 points in the last three races. If I had those 100 points with me, we could have been close to second place. I would say that the only thing better than that is the championship."
Despite slipping out of the top five in points at the end of the season, Giaffone has nothing but praise for his first year of Indy Racing with Treadway-Hubbard.
"I'm not leaving Treadway because of performance problems," Giaffone said. "It was a difficult situation (to leave). We were really strong."
But the relationship between Nunn, Giaffone and Hollywood has deep, interwoven roots. Owner and driver knew each other from Giaffone's test with Nunn's team in 2000. Plus Giaffone's friend and fellow Brazilian Tony Kanaan has driven for Nunn with Hollywood sponsorship since Nunn started the team in 2000.
"This is a great opportunity for Hollywood," said Mark Hulit, consumer marketing director for Souza Cruz, the parent company for the Brazilian Hollywood brand of British American Tobacco. "We are delighted to continue our strong partnership with Mo Nunn Racing and about continuing in the Indy Racing League. "We feel the IRL has a great future. The series is very professional, cost-effective for sponsors, and it is carefully planning for the future. And, the series continues to develop and strengthen with each season under the leadership of Tony George. Mo Nunn Racing and Felipe Giaffone will be a solid combination in our efforts to achieve results in 2002 and into the future. "We feel the timing is right to focus on the IRL for the future."
The near future for Giaffone and Nunn centers on hiring a technical staff and crew, and deciding which engine and chassis to use in 2002. Giaffone has few worries, as Nunn is one of the best technical minds in motorsports. He ran the Ensign team in Formula One for 10 years and was the engineer for Emerson Fittipaldi when Fittipaldi won the Indianapolis 500 and CART title in 1989. Nunn also was the technical guru behind four consecutive CART titles for Target Chip Ganassi Racing from 1996-99 with drivers Jimmy Vasser, Zanardi and Juan Pablo Montoya.
Those kinds of credentials carry big weight and open plenty of doors - in a hurry.
"We haven't chosen the engineering or the package yet, but he really knows," Giaffone said of Nunn's experience and wisdom. "He spoke with everybody in two days. I was really surprised with how fast he was able to get in touch with everybody, with his name."
Meanwhile, Giaffone plans to continue to make a name for himself in the premier American open-wheel, oval-track series. It's quite a change from a year ago, when he still thought road racing in either CART or possibly Formula One was going to be his chosen racing path.
But after receiving some good advice from Nunn, Giaffone is committed to Indy Racing and is eager to promote the series to his Brazilian friends in all forms of racing, including F1.
"I was talking to Enrique Bernoldi, as I raced my whole life with him in go-karts," Giaffone said of a chat with the Orange Arrows F1 driver during the recent SAP United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis. "He was saying how interesting that corner (Turn 13 on the Indy road course) was on the oval. He said to drive that oval must be an awesome feeling."
Then Bernoldi asked Giaffone if road racing still was his immediate career goal.
"I said, 'No, I want to stay here," Giaffone said of Indy Racing. "He said, 'What about road courses?' I said, 'No, things are changing.'"