Into the Crystal Ball… Sambadrome Edition

Sunday at 12:15 eastern, the green flag drops in Sao Paulo, Brazil for the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300. A street track located downtown in the 8th largest city in the world, about the same population of New York City with a quarter of the land area. I LOVE this track. As far as street circuits are concerned, this is the yardstick. Long straights and slow corners make for exciting street racing. Last year was punctuated with seven lead changes, a massive pileup in turn one, rain and an overall competitive event. I was reading the wiki on the track, and I learned the pits are after the first turn complex… very unique.  Baltimore will also have the pits after the start/ finish line, is this some kind of NZR track trademark like SMI’s quad ovals?

The entire track was repaved Monday night, save for the Sambadrome straight. During the previous edition, teams had to use extreme ride heights leading to odd-ball setups. Although the crazy bumps that were covered up in the repave created interesting racing, the action should be even better this year with the return to more familiar setups. Cotman makes a good point on the subject saying it will be very hard to make pavement smooth with 30 000 cars and trucks driving over it for a week.

Last year, on the start/ finish straight, cars had almost no traction because the concrete was painted to make it easier for the performers during Carnivale to dance. The day before the race, after two practice sessions, the series ground the pavement to give the cars more grip. They worked all night to remove to dust that was created during grinding. It didn’t help much, as everyone behind the first row on the start was blind, but grip was good. This year the grinding was done on Monday, organizers have been wetting the track to wash the dust away every night, and there will be a support race this year, so all of this should prevent another insane start.

Rain was a major factor last year, will it be this weekend? The forecast calls for a 60 percent chance on Sunday with rain all through the weekend. One thing living in Indianapolis has taught me, is never trust a weatherman, ever. (Ed: …as I look out my window and it is raining while the sun is shining…) Teams should get a chance to run in damp to wet conditions during practice. Rain racing is always a treat for the fan.

Being my first race report, I will go ahead and say that I don’t care who wins or how the points fall after the checkers have waved. I just want to see an incredible race… every week. We know that at 90 percent of the tracks that the IICS unloads at, the death star is going to win. That’s ok with me, I just want to see some killer action in the process. Having said that, I do have picks, fantasies, favorites, and predictions.

My gut says Power for the win, but Dixon has had some fire under his seat recently and Briscoe is there if he can finish one out. And then there’s Franchitti. TK and HCN are the hometown heroes with the best chance to pull it off. It would be in Helio’s best intrest to steal this one cleanly after a tough three race stretch. Hinchcliffe gets to make the trip down south, as well. Holding second place in the rookie of the year standings, only 5 points behind Hildebrand, Hinch can take over the lead while appearing in one less event. Nine points cover the top 4 in the ROTY standings. We also get to see Sebastien Bourdais again. I am really interested in what he can do in the ol’ Dallara with a good setup and clean track, the man is bad fast. For Ganassi, part deux, improvement and consistency need to be their agenda this weekend. With all the pre-season hype, sitting in 19th and 21st, Charlie Kimball and Graham Rahal are falling a bit short of expectations. While you cannot expect wins, I think it’s fair to say, these two guys can shoot for top 15s, with better luck, Rahal can be in the top 10. TK is my man and I hope he can continue his good run, and possibly keep building steam as we head into May. TK needs it, TK deserves it. EJ Viso… you poor man… please quit hitting things… pace car is the only thing left. Here’s to a blistering race, heavy on passing, light on carbon fiber shards .

Eric Hall

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