Emerson Fittipaldi

Brazilian Formula One driver Emerson Fittipaldi, was born December 12th 1946, and throughout a long and successful career he has won the Indianapolis 500 twice and championships in both Formula One and CART.    At the age of 14 Fittipaldi was racing motorcycles, and aged 16 hydrofoils. However While racing one day, his brother Wilson took off at 70 mph (110 km/h) and landed upside down – they both decided that although he had survived, they would no longer race hydrofoils and moved onto to racing karts. The pair then moved to racing Formula Vees, and built up a company with their parents. In his second season in single-seaters, Fittipaldi won the Brazilian Formula Vee title at 21 years old. He left for Europe in 1969, with the ambition to convince team owners of his talent in three months. After some podiums and his first victories in Formula Ford, Fittipaldi was first trained and then subsequently engaged by the Jim Russell Driving School Formula Three team .Fittipaldi continued to win, drawing the attention of Colin Chapman, who was looking for a driver to support the Austrian Jochen Rindt in the 1970 Formula One season. The team’s No 3 driver, he ended up becoming No 1 driver after Rindt was killed at Monza and John Miles left the team.

Thrust into the spotlight by leading F1′s top team, he proved up to the task and won for Lotus in its first race post-Rindt.In his first full year as Lotus’ lead driver in 1971, Fittipaldi finished sixth in the drivers’ championship as the team further developed the previous season’s Lotus 72. Driving what was arguably the greatest Formula one design of the time, the Lotus 72D, Fittipaldi proved dominant in 1972 as he won five of 11 races and easily won the F1 Drivers’ Championship from Jackie Stewart by 16 points. At the age of 25 he was then the youngest champion in F1 history .Fittipaldi left Lotus to sign with the promising McLaren team. Driving the highly efficient McLaren M23, he had three victories in 1974, reached the podium four other times, and beat out Clay Regazzoni in a close battle for his second championship. During The following season, he notched two more victories and four other podiums, but was second to a dominant Niki Lauda. However, at the height of his F1 success, Fittipaldi shocked everyone by leaving McLaren to race for older brother Wilson Fittipaldi’s Copersucar-sponsored Fittipaldi Automotive team.

Emerson Fittipaldi decided to retire from Formula One racing at the end of 1980 & took time out from major racing for four years, returning in 1984 in CART. The 38-year old spent his first season acclimatising to IndyCars, driving for two teams before joining Patrick Racing as an injury replacement. He stayed five years with the team, recording six victories and solid finishes in the overall standings. In 1989 he had five wins and finished in the top five in every race he completed, giving him a CART championship. Among his wins was a dominant performance in the Indianapolis 500 where he led 158 of 200 laps and won by two laps, but only after a dramatic duel with Al Unser, Jr. during the closing laps of the race. Roger Penske hired Emmo for his racing team in 1990 and he continued to be among the top drivers in CART, winning a race with Penske for six straight years.

In 1993 he added a second Indianapolis 500 victory by taking the lead from defending Formula One World Champion Nigel Mansell on lap 185 and holding it for the remainderof the race. Fittipaldi returned to Indianapolis to drive the Chevrolet Corvette Pace Car for the 2008 Indianapolis 500. Approaching 50, he was still with Champ Car in 1996 when an injury at the Michigan International Speedway ended his career with 22 wins. In 2003 he made a return to Champcars as a team owner. Fittipaldi was the acting team principal for the Brazilian A1 GP entry. In 2005 Fittipaldi made a surprise return to competitive racing in the Grand Prix Masters event held at Kyalami in South Africa, finishing second behind former CART sparring partner Nigel Mansell and was inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2001.

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