(Our resident IndyCar contributor Matt Lennon offers his exclusive preview for the upcoming 2010 Sao Paulo Indy 300 event, scheduled to occur this weekend. Who does he think will perform?)
The identity of the 2009 IndyCar series champion remained undecided until the final 8 laps of the final race of last season at Homestead Speedway in Miami. At roughly 25 seconds a lap, the question was answered with less than 4 minutes of racing left in the year. 4 minutes in the whole year! It doesn’t get much closer than that.
The 2010 season will be hard-pressed to deliver any more excitement than it did in 2009, but on Sunday, 20 drivers will begin their attempts to do just that.
With 11 turns and altitude changes in its 2.6 miles, the newest addition to the IndyCar schedule and the first venture into South America by an American open- wheel series since the Rio 200 at Jacarepaguá in 2000 has all the makings of an instant classic.
A safe description of the track at first glance would be a mini Road America – with walls! The Sao Paulo street circuit consists of long straights punctuated with a good mixture of fast and slower corners, with plenty of potential overtaking opportunities, though some only for the bravest of the brave.
While a normally safe bet would be to put your last $10 on a first corner pile-up, I would stretch this claim out to cover the entire first lap on this occasion. The final right-hand corner leading on to the front straight beckons as a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” opportunity you know some drivers will be unable to resist.
The opening left-right-straight-left-right first and second corner complex will surely remind seasoned Formula One fans of a slightly stretched out likeness of the pre-2000 Monza first chicane setup. From there, the cars will reach 150mph on a straightaway with a slight right-hand curve reminiscent of Toronto’s Lake Shore Boulevard. A hard braking zone and first overtaking opportunity for those slipstreaming will be into the next right hand turn. Turns 6 through 10 all follow each other in close succession, which will make for some ferocious nose-to-tail racing.
Upon rounding Turn 10, cars will head down Flagholders straight, over a mile in length. Cars will be two-wide heading down to the final corner. It may prove true that whoever is in the lead on the final lap could be at a disadvantage if second place is following close behind. You can be sure you’ll see slipstreaming here with a view to overtaking into the final right-hand corner back toward the start/finish line.
The Sao Paulo Indy 300 will make history in a variety of ways. Not only will it be the first IRL event outside North America & Japan, it will also include the highest number of female drivers in IRL history, with four starting this first race (Danica Patrick, Milka Duno, Indy Lights race-winner Ana Beatriz and Simona De Silvestro), with a fifth (Sarah Fisher) competing for most of the rest of the season.
Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Helio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe, Tony Kanaan and a host of others will be out to ensure they write their own piece of history.