Emerson Fittipaldi

February 9, 2009 by  
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Emerson Fittipaldi, also fondly known as “Emmo”, from Brazil is a renowned race car driver who has achieved much in Formula One, the Indianapolis 500 and CART. He remains involved in motor sports to this day and still has a large fan following dating back from his early racing years. As a Formula One driver Emerson Fittipaldi will leave a lasting impression on the sport.

Emerson Fittipaldi was born on 12 December 1946 in Sao Paulo of Brazil. His father, a well known auto racing journalist named Wilson Fittipaldi, named him after American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson. Together with his brother Wilson Jr., Emerson took a great interest in motor sports. The two Fittipaldi brothers established their own business of creating custom car accessories when only in their teens. In 1967 they began building their own racing karts and competed with great success. In fact, Emerson was the Brazilian kart champion when 18 years old. Emerson Fittipaldi moved to England in 1969 to pursue a career in motor sport. On arriving in England he purchased a Formula Ford and Jim Russell, a racing school owner, took him under his wing. He quickly began bringing in winning results, winning the Lombank F3 championship. Right from the start his driving was noted for his controlled, smooth style.

Emerson Fittipaldi moved up to Formula 2 in 1970. Colin Chapman asked him to do a Formula One test drive that same year, promptly signing Fittipaldi up on the team. His first race was in a Lotus 49 at Brands Hatch where he came in 8th. He gained victory for his team by winning the United States Grand Prix. In 1972 Fittipaldi became F1 racing’s youngest World Champion – he was 25. Emerson Fittipaldi moved over to McLaren in 1974. That same year he once again won the World Championship title. In 1975 Fittipaldi became disillusioned with the politics of Formula One. Together with Wilson Jr. and Brazilian sugar company Copersucar he formed a new team. Unfortunately the team did poorly and was dismantled by 1982 due to lack of funds.

Following this time Emerson Fittipaldi moved back to Brazil to care for the auto accessory business and citrus farms. Whilst his Formula One career may have come to an end Fittipaldi continued racing, this time in USA IndyCar. The crowds were mad about Emmo. During his IndyCar career he won 2 Indianapolis 500 races. Unfortunately he had to retire after a bad accident in 1996 which resulted in a broken neck for Fittipaldi. Whilst recovering he was involved in a private airplane crash in which he hurt his back. Emerson Fittipaldi is still popular in the motor sports world and will remain such for many years to come.

Interlagos Speedway

February 9, 2009 by  
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It was Emerson Fittipaldi’s tremendous championship performance on the international racing circuit in 1973 and ’74 that led to the creation of the Brazilian Grand Prix in the city of Sao Paulo – Fittipaldi’s home town.

With its 5-mile length, the Interlagos Speedway at Sao Paulo is one of the toughest tracks that racers face on the Grand Prix circuit. Sitting in a natural amphitheatre allows spectators a great view of the track from virtually anywhere, but from the vantage point of the driver’s seat, Interlagos is bumpy and irregular. Plus, running the track counter-clockwise and at a high altitude creates added challenges for drivers, as does the unrelenting heat and humidity.

In the early 1980s, Sao Paulo’s city council agreed to a $15m rebuilding program for the Interlagos Speedway, which by this time had fallen into some serious disrepair. It was decided not to retain the old circuit but use sections of it, linked by new sections of road. The new track turned sharply left just after the pits, before diving downhill through an S curve.

Taking a look at the track in modern times — the drivers jet out to the Descida do Sol, which suddenly drops downhill to the left. Then comes “S do Senna” (“Senna’s S”), a series of turns (left, right, then left again) that are considered extremely difficult because each of them has a different angle, a different radius, a different length, a different inclination (inward or outward) and a different shape (besides the terrain goes down and then up again).

“Senna’s S” connects with “Curva do Sol” (“Sun Turn”), a round-shaped large-radius left-turn that leads to “Reta Oposta”, the track’s longest (but not the fastest) straight line. Reta Oposta is succeeded by two leftwise, uphill turns that are called “Subida do Lago” (“Up to the Lake”) and then “Mergulho” (“Dive”), a short straight section that goes down again.

After “Mergulho” comes the slow section, the one most despised by inexperienced drivers for its sheer difficulty, with small, kart-like turns and unpredictable ups-and-downs. These turns are “Ferradura” (“Horseshoe”) rightwise and downhill in two steps; “Pinheirinho” (“Pine Tree”), an S-type section (right, then left) on a plain field; “Bico de Pato” (“Duck’s Beak”), two rightwise turns (one easy, the other very slow and difficult); and then two left turns forming a section called “Juncao” (Junction).

After the slow section begins the long, thrilling and dangerous top-speed section. The first step is “Subida dos Boxes” (“Up to the Pits”), a long, left turn that sometimes seems straight and sometimes bends in more clearly. As the name implies, Subida dos Boxes is uphill (quite steep, indeed) and demands a lot of power from the cars. At the end of it there are two turns (14 and 15) that form what was once called “Cotovelo” (“Elbow”) at this point the track seems inclined inwards (or somewhat crooked).

All in all, the local economy of Sao Paulo has benefited from the upgraded track, and visitors are sure to enjoy the thrills and excitement presented by the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach – 18 to 20 April

March 31, 2008 by  
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Because of the signing of an agreement on 22 February 2008, by the Indy Racing League, so as to unify open-wheel racing, this year will be the last time fans will see their turbocharged Champ Cars of up to eight hundred horse power perform. And as one era draws to a close, the organizers of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach have vowed to make this year a racing extravaganza of spectacular proportions. It will reflect back on the memorable moments and drivers that have made the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach a favorite racing event for twenty-five years.

Long Beach, in Southern California, staged its first Formula One Grand Prix on 26 March 1977, through the efforts of Chris Pook. The travel agent and dedicated racing enthusiast hosted a Formula 5000 race eighteen months prior to the Grand Prix, which successfully drew a crowd of forty six thousand spectators. It was a tremendously nerve wrecking time for Pook, who was unsure if he could draw the U.S. Grand Prix race to Long Beach. With a little help, he managed to get the race, and brought the legendary battle between Mario Andretti, Jody Scheckter and Niki Lauda to thousands of spectators and millions of fans across the world.

Other big names in racing, such as Nelson Piquet, Gilles Villeneuve, Jacques Laffite, Alan Jones, Carlos Reutemann, Eddie Cheever and Emerson Fittipaldi, also thrilled the crowds over the following years. In 1984, an agreement was signed for Champ Cars, and in the beginning of this new venture no-one was sure if the race would attract spectators and give them the same racing experience as the Formula One racing did. But again, Mario Andretti climbed behind the wheel, and the crowds went wild. And while the face of Champ Car racing might be changing, Long Beach will always be host to this magnificent event.

Over and above three days of spectacular racing, which takes place between the 18th and the 20th of April 2008, the 34th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is set to have an action packed program lined up. Features, such as the Lifestyle Expo will have exhibitors, retail vendors, a family zone filled with simulators, video arcade, games and race cars, with the Expo Arena being the scene of professional skateboarders, bicycle tricksters and motorcyclists. The Support Series Garages at the expo will allow fans to watch cars being repaired, and even catch a glimpse of their favorite driver.

As a street racing event, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach has become legendary in this category and will continue to bring the excitement and action of racing to the city, and its faithful fans.

The Strangest Indy 500 Tradition

May 25, 2007 by  
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A racing event with a history as long as the Indy 500 is sure to have spawned more than a few traditions, but the “Milk Drinkingpost-race ritual is surely the strangest. It was way back in 1936 that the curious practice of the race winner drinking a bottle of milk first began, and it has continued virtually without interruption ever since.

Picture the Winner’s Circle following the 1936 Indianapolis 500… veteran race driver Louis Meyer has just won his third Indy 500, the first driver to do so. Starting 28th in a thin field of just 33 cars, Meyer won the race after leading for 96 of 200 laps and was one of just 10 drivers still in the race as the checkered flag waved. The 32-year old Meyer had to be exhausted, yet what did he ask for when race organizers offered him something to drink? Milk. Buttermilk, actually, an unlikely thirst-quencher but one Meyer’s mother had always offered him on especially hot days. Meyer lived until the ripe old age of 95, so maybe buttermilk’s restorative properties are more than just an old wives (make that mothers) tale.

In any case, the dairy companies who began sponsoring the Indy 500 and contributed to the race purse had a vested interest in seeing their product share the spotlight in victory lane. Of course, a little financial incentive was needed to encourage reluctant drivers who may have preferred chugging something, anything else after enduring 200 dusty laps at The Brickyard – the current sponsorship by the American Dairy Association has risen to $10,000.

Only one driver disdained the dollars since Meyer established the tradition: Emerson Fittipaldi in 1993. Fittipaldi, Brazilian by birth, owned orange plantations in his home country and made a point of downing a cool glass of OJ to highlight his product.