The story of the 2010 Sao Paulo Indy 300 was the track. On Saturday practice, drivers discovered the skating rink that was the Sambadrome front straightaway, which saw multiple drivers spin while driving in a straight line. When Tony Cotman and crew put grooves in that section to eliminate the slickness, the resulting dust played a crucial role in the first turn melee, which saw Mario Moraes land on Marco Andretti when it was all said and done.
What’s more, the enormously bumpy surface made overtaking a stunt in bravery, with many going airborne if they went off-line. Sure, it made for spectacular viewing, but it wasn’t completely sane.
In spite of all that, the Sao Paulo circuit produced one of most exciting races of the 2010 season. This year, however, Cotman and his team went to work to improve the circuit. New pavement, with the asphalt mixture mirroring that of the Interlagos Circuit, only a stone’s throw from the Sao Paulo street circuit, the bumps seems to gone going into year two. "The entire course has been paved, and unlike last year when we were really struggling with time, this year it's been paved with the Interlagos mix so the pavement will hold up much better," Cotman explained to IndyCar.com’s Dave Lewandowski.
The turn one section is now wider, enhancing an already favorable passing zone. And with more run-off available, curbing has been removed from turns six, seven, and nine.
What’s more, the track’s signature feature, the near mile-long back straightaway leading into a right-hand hairpin, the best place to overtake on the circuit remains unchanged.
With all of that in mind, Sao Paulo’s second go-round could be even better that last year’s, which saw more than 90 on-track passes and a thrilling battle for the lead between Ryan Hunter-Reay, Ryan Briscoe, and Will Power (with Power the eventual victor). “It doesn't really matter where you qualify; you know you can get through the pack,” Power said of the circuit, highlighting that long back straightaway. “You know you'll be able to pass. I knew that if I was in that bunch at the end, I would have a chance at winning. That's what I love about that place."
Still, despite the efforts to make the track a little more tranquil, the element of chaos could easily find a place in this year’s event as well. After the staggered start and restarts in Long Beach, expect a re-emphasized start/restart procedure this weekend. With the knowledge of last year’s opening lap shamozzle, the new start/restart rules can only increase the potential for frantic action on the race’s start.
Plus, there is the one element that no one can truly anticipate: mother nature. After the 2010 outing seemed to settle into a nice flow, rain clouds began appearing shortly after the first pit stops. What started as a slight drizzle soon worsened; but only hit certain parts of the track, causing some drivers to stay out while others dashed to the pits for rain tires. Suddenly, the bottom fell out and it became a downpour, sending such drivers as Danica Patrick spinning before the race was halted due to standing water.
The Brazilian climate has a tendency to give us surprise rain showers; the 2010 debut gave us a little taste of that, and anyone familiar with Formula 1 will tell you just how much havoc mother nature can wreak on a seemingly steady race (just look at the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix).
All in all, as exciting as the 2010 debut was in Sao Paulo, the second time around could be even better.