LiveBlog: Sao Paolo 2010

Posted by Iannucci | 3/14/2010 | , , | 8 comments »
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Welcome to Brazil, where the 2010 IZOD IndyCar season is about to kick off for the first time outside the friendly confines of the US borders. But it's all good - Jack Arute is there to make Sao Paolo feel just as awkward as any other race.

Today's race features 7 Brazilians racing in their homeland. IRL regulars Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Rafa Matos and a freshly healed Vitor Meira will join rookies Mario Romancini and Ana Beatriz, and thanks to a last minute deal Mario Moraes will be racing as well. Collectively they might outsell Danica Patrick at the merchandise trailer this weekend.

The big story this weekend is that yesterdays qualifications were canceled due to a slippery straightaway. The front section is part of what's none as the Sambadrome, although after removing the surface paint from the recent Carnivale festivities the concrete track was more like the ice at the Saddledome. The slippery surface might have been some nefarious plot to eliminate passing altogether on a street course, but Brian Barnhart called in the grinders overnight and now it appears we have a sufficient racing surface.

So we have a serious test of of the off-season conditioning today, as this morning they've had a practice session, qualifications, and now the race. Let's hope the drivers did their workouts workouts, are properly hydrated, and have made all other necessary preparations...

...because after a loooooong winter IT'S TIME TO START!

0: Dario Franchitti will be starting from the pole today. Arute is stuffing the mic in his face, and Dario does not disappoint. Says for Brian Barnhart "had to have really big attachments" to cancel qualifications yesterday. I just spewed coffee.

0: Alex Tagliani, in his first race for his the FAZZT Racing team he co-owns, is starting next to Dario on the front row. Justin Wilson and part-timer Ryan Hunter-Reay are starting in Row 2. Bully for the little guys!

0: And...we have a little rain. Now they have to figure out if they need to change tires. Jack Arute is showing us the weather radar, pointing to multi-colored blots. It appears it's May in Brazil.

0: Well, the pace car circled the track and I guess it's not too wet.

0: The most sedate man in Sao Paolo announces "...drivers, start your engines..."

0: OK, we have red tires, black tires, and our first chance to see IndyCars with a reverse gear. Hopefully this will help avoid a few yellow flags. On a personal note, I'd love to see the winner of this race circle the track in reverse for a super-slow victory lap.

0: For those interested, we have 5 rookies. Beatriz and Romancini, along with Takuma Sato, Simona de Silvestro, and Alex Lloyd. Quite a diverse group.

0: ...and finally We Are GREEN GREEN GREEN!

0: HOLY GOAT RODEO, BATMAN!!! What a messed up first turn! In what is possibly the worst start EVAH to an IRL race we see Helio, Dixon, and Sato are spinning, lots of cars through the run off, and Mario Moraes's Dallara is on top of Marco Andretti's head!

1: Marco is still stuck in that car and under that other car. A little help over here, please.

2: Arute tells us Marco has contacted his team through the in-car radio that he is OK. That's amazing - three sincere cheers for Dallara safety!

3: Replays show that Sato got loose entering the first turn causing the first mess. Moraes looks like he was spinning as well before he gassed his car over the back of Marco's. Boom, zoom, crash! (Warning: I'm fast exceeding my exclamation point quotient.)

4: Marco is out of the car, walking to the ambulance. Applause all around. Franchiti, Tagliani, Hunter-Reay...wait, now Power is third and Ryan is 4th? What? How are we passing under yellow?

5: Looks like some cars are pitting, none of the leaders though. A crane has arrived to remove what's left of Marco's car. Power makes a pit stop, so Hunter-Reay is back in 3rd. Kanaan and Matos round out the top 5.

6: Moraes declines to be interviewed by Arute. These aren't the droids you're looking for, Jack. Meanwhile, Marco has been checked, released, and will no doubt be tracked down by the very busy Arute.

7: Just got a shot of Romancini's car. Bright white with green "DOLLY" on the side. Now I have Louis Armstrong singing in my head.

8: Might be going green again soon. Gird your loins for the battle in the first turn, folks.

9: Restart on and we are once again GREEN GREEN GREEN!!! Through turn one, then two, then three, and we are in full parade mode.

10: Arute tracks down Marco, who seems fairly even headed about the whole thing. Said "couldn't see a foot in front of you" and that he was letting off on the gas, inferring the kind sould behind him might not have been so cautious. Marco might still be a bit woozy from having a 1500lb car sitting on his head for a few minutes.

11: Dixon has recovered nicely from that first lap fracas. He's already up to 9th, while Helio is back in 16th. Meanwhile Sato is parked in the pits. 20 drivers on the lead lap, with only Alex Lloyd a lap down after having to have some parts changed earlier.

12: Well, it looks like Milka just got lapped, so make that 19 cars on the lead lap.

14: Top 4 are pulling away, with Dan Wheldon all up in Rafa Matos' business for 5th.

15: Wheldon, Mutoh, Vitor, Danica, Conway comprise 6th through 10th, in case you were wondering. NO PENSKE CARS in the Top 10!

18: And Wheldon has gotten around Matos for 5th. Looks like Wheldon is moving up invisibly through the field. Would have been nice to see some actual overtaking. *banging head on laptop*

19: RHR passes Tags for P2. Hooray for televised passing!

20: Kanaan tries to get around Tagliani, but can't quite get er done. Locks the brakes but maintains control, drawing the applause of the crowd.

22: YELLOW for a stalled Milka Duno on the course. Why a full course caution? I don't know, and I'm getting tired of asking during these street races. I guess they can't just push her to a runoff with a local yellow...but what do I know.

24: Pits are open...and EVERYONE comes in. Nice and orderly. All drivers are on their best behavior. Looks like first out are Dario, Hunter-Reay, Kanaan, Tagliani, and Wheldon.

25: Hold the phone - one car did not pit: Simona de Silvestro, who now leads the race. She pitted right before the yellow so this is legit. You go girl!

26: Looks like the rain is coming in. Jack says "I'm starting to feel like the hippy-dippy weatherman." *another spit take*

27: Back to GREEN. Hang on, Simona - here they come! Hunter Reay is all over Dario's rear wing. Works him the entire lap and finally gets him in the last turn for P2.

28: RHR is driving like a man possessed. Takes the inside line, sparks flying from the bumps, and rockets past Simona for the lead.

29: The hippy-dippy weatherman says rain is coming.

29: Ruh-roh! Tagliani tangles with Kanaan and they both slide into the run-off. Oh, they Brazilian fans will not be pleased.

29: Hang on, replay shows Dan Wheldon punted Tags who spun into Kanaan. Meanwhile Briscoe pulls into the pits to change to rain tires...and here comes the rain!

30: Kanaan is back on the the track, and while we were looking at the accident it seems Dario got around Simona for second.

30: Lots of cars pulling into the pits to change for rain tires, but a few stay out. Curous call for those who stay out, as we see Beatriz, Danica, and Romancini spinning around, all without contact. It's like ice capades with cars. Quite graceful actually.

30: Full course yellow now as Alex Lloyd has made contact with the wall. Probably had an ungraceful spin, but we have no replays.

31: Rain is really coming down now. Arute suggests the way this weekend is going locusts might not be far behind. Looks like puddles are forming, which as I recall caused some significant delays at the race at St Pete a couple years ago.

32: Oh by the way, the leaders are RHR, Dario, Swiss Miss, Dixon, Wheldon. Meanwhile it appears Romancini has spun yet again. Hello Dolly!

33: Now Bob Jenkins says that Timing & Scoring is messed up and your actual Top 5 are RHR, Power, Dario, Dixon and Conweazy. Hmm. I think I liked the other Top 5 better.

36: Red flag. Everybody park it.

36: Arute with Tags, who is out of the race. He's not enraged, which is disappointing since I was hoping he'd go after Wheldon in the pits now. The only thing this race is missing a good dust up. Well, that and locusts.

36: Laps, schmaps - we're going to have a timed race. Just like that puddle-rific race in St Pete a few years ago. I thought this timed nonsense ended when the IRL went to VERSUS, but I guess that's not the case.

36: All the drivers are out of their cars, waiting for the signal to race for 45 minutes. It's like halftime at a soccer match. Meanwhile dozens of Brazilians with brooms are furiously sweeping water off the course.

36: Arute with Will Power, asking him "...what to do in the middle of a race in Rio?" Yes, he said Rio. That's our Jack! Meanwhile we learned that the Aussie is eating a banana and honey sandwich - what, not vegemite?

Ed Note: Shane Rogers, the International Superstar, tweets thusly: "Vegemite might be on short supply in Brazil, I condone the choice of Banana and Honey as the T sandwich for Will Power."

36: To kill time VERSUS is showing us 2012 chassis designs. Dallara, Swift, Lola, BAT and OH LOOK AT THIS AMAZING DELTAWING. Time for me to go make my own banana and honey sandwich.

36: Man, this race seems almost as long as the off-season.

36: Drivers are putting the helmets back on. The "Up With People" show better be wrapping ups because this IndyCar halftime show is almost over.

36: The command is given on pit road to fire the engines, so away the roll. The sun is shining and the track is drying, so the game of "how long do you race on grooved tires" begins.

36: Still under yellow with the sun shining on puddles, Briscoe, RHR, Power all pit for slicks. And there's still a lot of puddles on the course. Somewhere pressdog is readying the clown cars.

37: Franchitti, Dixon, Conway, Wilson, Vitor are now the Top 5. Other cars are pitting for slicks as well.

-38 (minutes): I have to change the notation since this is a timed race.

-36: GREEN GREEN GREEN. Target cars lead the way. Oh joy.

-35: Helio passes Viso for 5th, and Viso passes him right back. Look, racing!

-33: Drivers on slicks are marching through the field as RHR, Power, Briscoe up to 8th, 9th, and 10th respectively.

-30: Wilson and Helio have had enough of this nonsense and pit for slicks. Dixon as well. Hunter-Reay up to 2nd now and gunning for Dario.

-29: Dario pits. RHR has the lead with Will Power chasing him 3 seconds back. MMatos Briscoe and Vitor round out the Top 5. Much furious jockeying for position here.

-27: Hunter-Reay is up by six seconds plus. The Big Hyphen is opening up the can of of Whoop-Ass. It's chaos behind him as Power, Briscoe and Matos battle for 2nd.

-24: Briscoe is 2nd, now only 4 seconds back. It might be a Ryan-Ryan finish. Matos third, Power fourth.

-21: Ryan Hunter-Reay drives an IZOD sponsored car. This is IZOD's first race as series sponsor. Go ahead and start your own "the call" rumors.

-20: Romancini has smacked the wall, but he limps around without drawing a full-course caution. Golf clap here for Mario.

-18: Briscoe has caught up to the other Ryan, but that might be because there's some fuel conservation going on.

-17: Briscoe takes the lead...and then Hunter-Reay takes it back, but only when they both go side-by-side and take a shortcut through a turn. It's in the IHJ's hands now.

-16: The IHJ says RHR has to give back the position. Hunter-Reay surrenders the lead but lookie here it's Will Power all over his rear bumper! It's a three-way battle for fuel conservation!

-15: On a positive note, at least they have to conserve with their foot instead of the knob, since the multiple fuel mappings are GONE from the cockpit. Hallelujah!

-13: Still Briscoe, Hyphen, Power, with Matos and Vitor 8 seconds back.

-12: Whoopsie! Briscoe misses a turn and goes into the tires. So much for that Ryan-Ryan finish. Hunter-Reay retakes the lead, and we now have a full course caution. Tick tick tick...

-10: Hyphen, Power, Matos, Meira, Wheldon. Dixon and Dario lurking in 6th and 8th.

-8: This is actually lap 56 for those of your scoring at home. Or even if you're by yourself. *rimshot*

-6: Back to GREEN GREEN GREEN! Hunter-Reay and Will Power launch from the rest in not time at all.

-5: Vitor gets around Matos in a Brazilian battle for third. Vitor is smelling that podium in his first race in 9 months.

-3: Will Power, the Towoomba Tornado, sizes up Hunter-Reay and...and...and he's by for the lead! Tick...tick..tick...

-2: Here's the part where I tell my kids "I told ya Will Power would win, didn't I?" And they nod, because it's easier to beat Shane Rogers in a Vegemite eating contest than it is to best Power on a street circuit. (And Shane is all about the Vegemite, friends.)

-1: Dixon and Dario are battling for 6th. Getting dicey. Easy boys, you're going to be teammates all year. Meanwhile, white flag for Will Power, powered by bananas and honey.

0: It's Power, Hunter-Reay, Meira as the opening race is done. Man, I feel like I've been blogging this race for the last four hours...wait!

Will emerges, acknowledges the crowd and pulls bandages off his fingers. His hands are a bloody mess, and I don't mean that in the way Brits swear. Seriously, he looks like he's been in one of the MMA cage match deals. That's the price of victory.

Congrats to Will for showing Roger Penske he made the right call by getting him a full season deal. Puts that wreck in practice at Infineon last year waaaay in the rear view mirror. I may just sign up for Verizon as a sign of support. Also congratulations to Ryan Hunter-Reay for being up near the front all day. Ain't no shame in his part-time game.

No offense to those two fine gentlemen but the biggest hand of the day goes to Foyt Racing's Vitor Meira, who was last seen at Indy being pulled from a broken car with some freshly broken vertebrae. Months of rehab later he emerges as the top Brazilian in the homeland race. If anyone knows how to say "Way to go, Vitor!" in Portuguese I'll gladly second that exclamation.

And since AJ Foyt's team made the podium, you know what that means? Some quality Brazilian steakhouse is gonna get taken down tonight!

Well, that's going to be a wrap here. We had racing surface issues, weather issues, time issues, Arute issues, but in the end some sense of familiarity is restored as Will Power once again wins on a street course. The season is underway, and for the time being none of the three drivers who were battling for the series title last year are in the Top 5. Hope springs eternal. Thank you very much - good night!


  1. JE Clerk // March 14, 2010 9:00 AM  

    oh god, Jeff, WHERE did you find that bathroom photo?? bwahahah I LOL'd in real life !!

  2. Leigh O'Gorman // March 14, 2010 10:03 AM  

    whoever is directing the web feed needs to be put out to pasture - just awful!!

  3. JE Clerk // March 14, 2010 10:14 AM  

    Leigh: What's wrong with it? I thought it was great.

  4. Leigh O'Gorman // March 14, 2010 12:03 PM  

    My main issues were the cameras pointing at nothing.
    At the end of the long straight, the camera was positioned at the concrete wall and fences. Any passing was taking place behind the wall, but it couldn't be seen because of the concrete and trees.

    As well as that, the director would occasionally switch to points on the track where literally nothing was happening.
    I couldn't really see down the start/finish straight because there was fence partially in the way and there was no view of the pitlane at all.

    Thankfully the IMS radio feed was on, otherwise I would have been completely lost.

  5. H. B. Donnelly // March 14, 2010 12:17 PM  

    My good leigh, the issue was not the online feed, but the TV folks down in Brazil producing the race (VERSUS was taking the same feed). Video issues aside, a good race for sure.

  6. Leigh O'Gorman // March 14, 2010 12:31 PM  

    Aaaahh I see,
    Well then the Brazilian production need a reworking.
    It was an excellent race though. Felt bad for Hunter-Reay, but all credit to Power and Meira. Great way to return from injury for both of them.

  7. Thiago // March 14, 2010 2:51 PM  

    Mandou bem, Vitor!

  8. tripleleagueracing // March 14, 2010 3:51 PM  

    I must admit, I didn't expect a very good race, but was thankfully proven wrong. Nice to see Ryan Hunter Ray's good run, hopefully he can keep it up, remeber he was second at St Pete last year, and then nowhere. Meria in 3rd,that was impressive. And Simona ran very well all weekend consiering HVM's fundng. Danica,on the other hand, has top level equipment, and not a whole lot to show for it.