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.