I’ve always felt bad for those kids who had birthdays between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Everyone looks forward to birthdays and parties with friends and getting presents (or at least we did when we were 21 and under). But sadly, not everyone shares the same excitement when your birthday falls in the run-up to Christmas and there are other things people are looking forward to, like getting their own presents on Christmas Day. Christmas is the big day. Going to your friend’s birthday party was just something you kind of had to do.
Don’t you feel a little bit like that toward the race in São Paulo?
Unfortunately, the São Paulo Indy 300 is overlooked because it is a fly-away race that few North American fans get the pleasure of actually attending. More importantly, it is the final race before fans and race teams can devote 100% of their time and focus to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the Indianapolis 500. It really is a shame that this race gets passed over because, quite honestly, it has been one of the best, if not the best, street course races on the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule for the past couple of years.
While the previous generation of INDYCAR didn’t necessarily lend itself to the most exciting racing at all of the tight street courses, it somehow managed to put on a dazzling show both years it performed through the Sambadrome in Sao Paulo. With the combination of tight, technical turns and extremely long straightaway (the longest straight INDYCAR will use this season), this Tony Cotman designed course has something for everyone and always packs plenty of action into the race. Given the improvements that the DW12 has brought to the races at Barber Motorsports Park and Long Beach in 2012, it’s anyone’s guess as to what the new car will do to the action we see this weekend.
Two of the biggest stories to watch this weekend will be the weather and Rubens Barrichello’s first race on his home soil in an INDYCAR. One would be remiss not to point out that weather played a critical role in this race in both 2010 and 2011. Both years saw the race heavily influenced by rain, and the long-range forecast indicates rain is likely to affect the proceedings this year as well. (Is anyone else noticing a pattern here?) Rain always helps make an entertaining event even better, so if Sunday’s prediction of rain comes to fruition, all bets may be off and a surprise winner just may emerge.
After 19 years as a driver in Formula 1, Rubens Barrichello will make his first appearance before his home crowd this weekend as a contender in INDYCAR. While the Brazilians have been rabid INDYCAR fans since Emerson Fittipaldi put the series on the national stage in the late 1980s, interest is surging even more with the addition of Barrichello to the grid. So far in 2012, TV ratings in Brazil for INDYCAR events are up 40%, and advance sales of tickets for this year’s event have seen an appreciable up-tick. All signs point to a massive crowd on Saturday and Sunday, and if the weather holds out it could be one of the top drawing events on the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series schedule.
Another very interesting and telling storyline to follow this weekend is the new turbocharger that all Honda teams will be using. So far in 2012, the Honda teams have been down on power compared to their Chevrolet-powered brethren, and INDYCAR has allowed them to update their equipment to slightly larger, more powerful turbochargers starting this weekend in Brazil. Of particularly interest is how the top-end speeds of these two manufacturers will match up on the very long straightaway. According to SpeedTV.com’s Marshall Pruett, the Honda engines were down about 0.6 mph in trap speeds in qualifying at Long Beach and didn’t even crack the top 10 during the race. With Indianapolis right around the corner (see, I just did it again too!), watching that trap gap in Brazil will be telling about how the engine manufacturers may stack up during the Month of May.
One of the biggest complains and excuses for not watching the international INDYCAR events is that the times are just too different. Sorry friends, but that excuse won’t fly this weekend. With São Paulo just one hour ahead of US eastern daylight time, an 11:45 EDT green flag should give fans plenty of time to watch the race and still get the grass cut later in the afternoon!
I know we’re all very anxious to flip the calendar again and see May 27th sitting there with a big star on it, but we’re not quite there yet. This weekend’s race will no doubt be another exciting event that we as avid INDYCAR fans should embrace and enjoy.
Paul Dalbey is co-editor of MoreFrontWing.com, your source online for blogs, podcasts, photos, and more covering the IZOD IndyCar Series and beyond. Find Paul on twitter (@Fieldof33) or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.