FESTIVAL OF SPEED
Emerson Fittipaldi, posing with my brother Luc
This popular Brazilian started racing more than 30 years ago, first coming to Europe to race Formula Ford cars in 1969 and took over the number one drive at Team Lotus after Jochen Rindt crashed fatally at Monza during practice for the 1970 Italian Grand Prix. Between then and his retirement from F1 at the end of 1980, Fittipaldi contested 144 grands prix, winning 14. He was world champion in 1972 with Lotus and 1974 with McLaren, his delicacy of touch and stylish approach earning him a reputation for being easy on his machinery and a great tactical operator. At the end of 1975, Emerson dropped a bombshell when he announced that he would quit McLaren to join his elder brother Wilson's fledgeling F1 team, Fittipaldi Automotive, which was sponsored by the Brazilian state-run sugar cartel, Copersucar. It proved to be a rash decision which brought down the curtain on his serious F1 driving career long before his basic talent had expired. A strong run to second place behind Carlos Reutemann's Ferrari in the 1978 Brazilian GP at Rio was one of the few bright moments, but the Fittipaldi team eventually closed down in 1982. In the mid-1980s he went to America and drove with the WIT Indycar team. In the midseason he replaced the injured Chip Ganassi at Patrick Racing and stayed with the team throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, winning the Indianapolis 500 in 1989 and 1993 and the CART championship in 1989. He joined Penske in 1990 and continued to win races until 1995. At the end of the year Roger Penske and Carl Hogan established Penske Hogan Racing and Fittipaldi moved to the new team. In the middle of the year Fittipaldi had a nasty crash at Michigan International Speedway and fractured a vertebrae. In the autumn of 1997 Emerson was seriously injured again when he crashed a light aircraft he was piloting near a citrus fruit farm he owns outside the town of Araraquara in Brazil. Although he regained movement in his legs, Fittipaldi's racing career was finally over. He kept in touch with the sport as the holder of the CART TV rights in Brazil and in 2003 he announced that he was returning to the sport as a CART team owner in partnership with 29-year-old financier James Dingman. Fittipaldi-Dingman Racing announced that it would be running PortugalÍs Tiago Monteiro.
Emerson Fittipaldi, reunited with his Lotus 72D
Emerson Fittipaldi enjoyed the experience of the Ferrari F-2001, but found the track very slippery on the wet Saturday.