Tuesday, July 10, 2018

My first Motor Racing Book, in English

My first Motor Racing Book in English should be available soon, at Amazon.com.

The book should be published in both e-book and physical formats. No information on pricing is available as of yet.

Do not expect a pictorial book, I must advise. The cost and logistics to do a book full of pictures would bring the price up immensely. And the idea is to present information which is not readily available on the internet, pertinent to a variety of topics.

There will be a bit of everything, from F1 to Sports Cars, GTs, lower formulae, touring cars, Indycars, NASCAR, etc.

Keep on checking this page for updates.


Friday, July 6, 2018

Auto racing history and my problem with wikipedia

Wikipedia and I have a very tense relationship.

Let me explain.

As a racing history researcher, I find wikipedia to be wanting. For those that do not know the English expression, it means lacking, insufficient.

I began writing about racing history back in 2003, when even blogs were not yet the rage. I used to include texts on a site I had, called brazilyellowpages.com, which no longer exists as a standalone site (long story). There was no such a thing as wikipedia. And google was still a young company, looking for "partners" in the way of content builders.

So, when I began building my blogs in earnest, I had the ambition of building the largest depository of race results in the internet, or at least winners. I soon found several sites that had very good information, but I found copying all laboriously compiled information a bit sneaky simply. So I understood that I could present winners and let others do what they do well.

Unfortunately, Wikipedia has other thoughts. And search engines have other thoughts about anyone who is not wikipedia.

From a "content partner" who made US$ 350 a month from google ads, back in 2005, now, with an exponentially larger number of posts, google pays a pittance of US$ 100 every year and a half. I feel more like a slave than partner.

Enough about money. I was not doing this for the money, this is just to show how the presentation of information  has changed in the last 10, 12 years.

Search engines rank sites by popularity. Never mind the fact they might be wrong (and wikipedia has tons of mistakes), or that information is being stolen from bona fide authors without authorization. Yes, several of my early posts ended up in wikipedia as posts! At first, I would attempt to remove, then I gave up. I simply changed the way I write posts, so that they would be rendered useless as a wikipedia entry.

The fact is that search engines no longer "love" my site, the one I indicate below, or consider it relevant. Back in the day, google would include any new post within half an hour. Now, it may take a few days, and normally it appears in position 1267th.

So, here is the "Winner" section of my old blog. It helps you contextualize careers of former and current Formula 1 drivers, and find out a bit of detail about their early exploits It is free!.

Unfortunately, a lot of sites that had good, detailed information back in the early 2000s, have disappeared from the internet a long time ago. So much for relevance.

The link is as follows. Enjoy.


Monday, June 18, 2018

Formula 1 Drivers at Le Mans, a New Trend?

It is an indisputable fact that winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans overall is one of the most highly sought after prizes in all of racing. Notwithstanding, it is very easy to concentrate on Fernando Alonso’s and Toyota’s maiden victories at the Sarthe, and Alonso’s trek to the Triple Crown of racing, and fail to see some interesting patterns.

Every since the driver trio became the norm at Le Mans, in 1985, a few winning crews were formed exclusively of drivers that had at one point raced (or were active in F1) such as Alonso, Nakajima and Buemi. In fact, this happened only four other times. In 2009, David Brabham, Marc Gene and Alexander Wurz had some F1 experience behind them, none of them wildly successful. Wurz had a couple of podiums and a fastest lap to his credit, and Gene scored points. Ten years before, victors Pierluigi Martini, Yannick Dalmas and Joachim Winkelhock also had F1 experience. Martini had led a GP, started one race from the first row, but Joachim Winkelhock never even qualified for a GP, while Dalmas was simply not successful. The 1992 winners, Derek Warwick, Dalmas and Mark Blundell had all raced in F1 – Warwick had a long career, got a couple of fastest laps, a few podiums and in fact, led 16 laps. Most of his F1 racing had taken place by then, but he still raced one more season, 1993. Lastly, the 1991 winners, Volker Weidler, Johnny Herbert and Bertrand Gachot had been in F1 by then, but Herbert’s wins were in the future.

The fact that Alonso is a current F1 driver, a multiple Champion and winner of over 30 GPs, and widely reckoned as one of the  top 5 by those in the know make this year’s line up rather special. Sebastien Buemi has also led a single GP lap, and is one of the most successful international drivers of the last few seasons, winning in both endurance and short Formula E events. But there is more to the story.

The fact is that no less than 22 drivers out of the 180 in this year’s Le Mans had driven in F1, including another former world champion (Jenson Button) and three other race winners (Fisichella, Montoya and Maldonado). This is a pattern of sorts, if we consider the line up in 1973.

That was a peculiar 24 Hours, the last time Ferrari raced works prototypes in the race it had dominated in the early 60’s. On that race there were also 22 drivers who had F1 experience, but not a single World Champion, and one three GP winners (Ickx, Cevert and Beltoise). All six Ferrari drivers had F1 experience (Ickx, Redman, Pace, Merzario, Reutemann and Schenken), and four Matra-Simca drivers had some GP history (Beltoise, Cevert, Depailler and Pescarolo). Additionally, other drivers with past GP experience were Van Lennep, Elford, Migault, Posey, Wisell, Bell, Ganley, Amon, Hailwood, Craft, Ligier and Quester. So, in a very clear sense, this year’s 22 former drivers with F1 experience at Le Mans had more of a pedigree, even though only Alonso is a current driver. The other 19 besides the winning crew were Kobayashi, Vergne, Button, Lotterer, Lammers, Magnussen, Fisichella, Montoya, Bourdais, Nasr, Senna, Stevens, Maldonado, Van der Garde, Petrox, Giovinazzai, Beretta, Di Resta and Lamy. One might argue that more weight should be given to the 22 that raced in 1973, for most cars were crewed by two drivers. While that is true, it should be noted that nowadays a very small number of drivers ever makes it to F1, considering the small number of available rides, stable driver lineups during the course of a season or sometimes several seasons. So this year’s 22 is very significant. 

Alonso is obviously not the only former world champion to seek glory in Le Mans. However, the last former F1 world champion to win at Le Mans was a certain Graham Hill, who also won at Indy. Since then a considerable number of former GP champions tried their luck in the famous French race, including Keke Rosberg, Alan Jones, Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Jacques Villeneuve and Mario Andretti. The latter came closest to winning in 1995, when his mount, a Cougar-Porsche shared with Bob Wollek and former winner Eric Helary, was miles ahead of the competition, and Andretti had an off course excursion that caused some damage to the car. Andretti also attempted to win the race with son Michael, once sharing a works Porsche (finished 3rd), and another time his Mirage booted out of the race by scrutineering. He was still trying in a Panoz as late as the year 2000, to no avail.

It remains to be seen whether Alonso would return to Le Mans next year in a car other than  a works Toyota. The fact that both Jenson Button and Juan Pablo Montoya took part in the race in cars with almost no realistic chance of winning, raises our hope that Fernando would return, even if Toyota calls it a day. Let us see.

Another interesting thing about the 1973 race was the start of Japanese participation at Le Mans, that culminated with this weekend’s Toyota win. It came in the form of a Sigma-Mazda driven by Hiroshi Fushida, Tetsu Ikusawa and Patrick Dal Bo.  The car retired, but since then, the Japanese have grown very fond of the 24 Hours. In fact, in several editions since then there were a seemingly endless number of Japanese drivers in the 24 Hours, sometimes driving Toyotas, Mazdas, Nissans, and Domes, but also driving a variety of cars such as McLaren, Panoz, Ferraris, Porsches. 27 long years have elapsed since the Mazda victory of 1991, and although Toyota finally got its pay day this year, Japanese enthusiasm for Le Mans seems to have vanished somewhat, for besides Nakajima and Kobayashi, who drove for Toyota, only two other drivers from the country, Motoaki Ishikawa and Keita Sawa, drove in the famous race this year. On the other hand, Russian and Brazilian interest on the race remain great.              

Monday, June 4, 2018

1970-1979 Formula 2 Point Scorers who did not make it to Formula 1

Formula 2 was conceived in the 40s as a steppingstone category to Grand Prix, replacing the 30’s voiturettes. In the 60’s, after some seasons in which only Formula 1 and Formula Junior existed as single seaters category in European racing, F2 came back in 1966 and an European Championship was created in 1967. This championship ran non-stop until 1984, when it was replaced by Formula 3000. Current Formula 2 only shares the name with the old 2.0 liter cars (the engine size from 1972 to 1984, before that, 1.6 liter), and have much larger engine capacities and power. Additionally, while a large number of Formula 2 participants, championship winners and point scorers, and even some non-point scorers, made it to Formula 1 in the above mentioned period, the same cannot be said of GP2 (which was recently renamed Formula 2) drivers. Making to Formula 2 at present is not really a guarantee you will ever drive a F-1 car in the world championship. In fact, generally two, tops three Formula 2 graduates find rides in Formula 1 every year, while many Formula 2 drivers got the chance to drive at least once in F1 (such as Jose Dolhem, Gerard Larrousse, Francois Mazet, etc).
Jean-Pierre Jaussaud in 1971

There are many reasons for that. First, in the 70s there were privateer teams in Formula 1, whose business model involved renting drives to young (and not so young drivers), which did not have stable driver lineups. Some works teams fielded more than two cars, as many as five, and  cars were made available to local drivers. Musical chairs were often played in the less wealthy teams, some of which could use as many as 10 drivers in the course of a season. More than 70 drivers attempted to qualify in the F1 fifteen races of 1974, while a little over 20 get a chance in current formula 1.

On the other hand, two GP2 champions, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, ended up world champions, while none of the Formula 2 drivers from 1967 to 1984 won the coveted Formula 1 title. In the period in question, 1970-1979, two F2 champions were actually runner up in Formula 1 (Ronnie Peterson twice, and Clay Regazzoni once), while four other F2 champions managed to win more than one Grand Prix (Patrick Depailler, Jacques Laffite, Jean Pierre Jabouille and Didier Pironi). None of the F2 champions from 1978 to 1984 managed to win a single Grand Prix, and of these, only Bruno Giacomelli led a single race. So one can say that Formula 2’s relevance had diminished greatly during the course of the decade, and many of the future F1 winners were graduating straight from F3 into F1, such as Nelson Piquet, Alain Prost (who did a single Formula 2 race) and Ayrton Senna.

Wollek in the 1973 Motul-Ford

However, most Grand Prix champions of the period drove in Formula 2, such as Jochen Rindt, Emerson Fittipaldi, Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, James Hunt and Jody Scheckter. In the decade only Mario Andretti bypassed the category altogether, coming directly from Indycars when he entered Formula 1 in 1968. While Rindt, Fittipaldi, Stewart, Lauda and Scheckter all won F-2 races, Hunt’s case was very peculiar. James only raced in the category in 1972, and did not do very well. All of this changed when he took the wheel of a Formula 1 March 731 in Monaco, 1973. He scored a point in his second race, soon had a podium, and by the end of the year, at Watkins Glen, had earned 2nd place a little over one second behind Ronnie Peterson, by far the fastest driver of the season. He quickly became a star, won his first GP in 1975, the title in 76 and as quickly as he rose, he faded. By 1979 his motivation was gone and James retired mid-year. Another driver who did not do very well in Formula 2 in 1972 but got some F1 drives in 1973 was David Purley, on the strength of parental sponsorship by Lec Refrigeration. He did not do well like Hunt, but this just shows that previous success in Formula 2 was not a requirement to make it to Formula 1.

The object of this post is a quick analysis and history of the points scoring Formula 2 drivers from the period that did not make it to Formula 1 at all. It should also be noted that Formula 1 drivers regularly raced in Formula 2 until about 1976, then with less frequency. Those that were graded drivers could not score points in the European championship, so often a 6th place meant 8th or 9th on the road.

Before starting, a word about Formula 2 in the 70s. It was nothing like current F2, which comprises well funded and professional teams, with engineers, managers etc. In fact, way back when one could set up a basic 3-people team, buy a chassis and couple of engines, a trailer and a saloon, and go Formula 2 racing. Even some “works”, proprietary teams were very small operations, such as Tui, Boxer and Pygmee. As a result, by 1975, 76, many of the races had over subscribed entries of as many as 45 cars, many of which were utterly uncompetitive. Some of these cars raced in hillclimbs, domestic championships and Formula Libre events in England and Ireland (and later the Shellsport group 8 Championship), and every once in a while a driver from some of these more sedate disciplines managed to wrestle a point out of their humble participations. By the end of the decade it was becoming much more difficult for some of these less structured teams to achieve success, but a noteworthy performance was Alex Ribeiro’s win in the 1978 Eiffelrennen with a very minute and unfunded set-up.  

For starters, let us talk about some of the important Formula 2 drivers who got no chance in Formula 1 at all.

Jean Pierre Jaussaud had some experience by the time the decade began, and by 1972 he was a top Formula 2 driver. In fact, he ended the season in second, winning two rounds, and continued racing in the category until 1976. A fast and very professional driver, Jean-Pierre was considered old in his runner-up season, 35 years old, in fact. So he never got a chance, even though Jacques Laffite debuted in Formula 1 when he was 31. Not withstanding, Jaussaud did very well in sports cars, specially Le Mans, where he finished in the rostrum a few times (3rd with Matra in 73 and 3rd with Mirage in 75) until finding ultimate success winning the 1978 race for Renault (with Pironi) and 1980 for Rondeau (with Jean Rondeau). Thus Jaussaud became the only Frenchman to have won Le Mans for the first time for two French Manufacturers. He also raced in touring cars with some success.

Bob Wollek was also a Frenchman, although from the German speaking area of Alsace, and raced in Formula 2 from 1971 to 1973. He was heavily sponsored by Motul, and brought that sponsorship to Ron Dennis’ Rondel team. He won two rounds of the championship in 72 and 73, but at a time that French drivers won many F2 races and championships (French drivers won the title in 68-69, and then from 73 until 76), that was not enough. He ended up having a dispute with Motul, and missed the chance of driving for Motul sponsored BRM in 1974. Wollek ended up one of the top sports cars drivers of the world, having won dozens of races in many continents, having driven Porsches, Lancia, Jaguar, Cougar, Toyota. He never won Le Mans, however. Autosprint magazine speculated that Wollek was being considered for the Ligier F1 drive in 1979, to replace Depailler who had an accident and had to sit out the rest of the season, but this is the only source to speculate such interest to my knowledge. Ickx ended up getting the drive.

Klaus Ludwig was involved in Formula 2 shortly, driving for the Kauhsen team in 1976, but the team was pretty much a failure. He gave up single seaters and continued with sports cars and touring  cars, and became one of the top drivers in these disciplines in the 70s until the 90s, including three Le Mans victories, the DRM and DTM, in addition to several world championship races for the likes of Gelo, Kremer and Joest.

Maurizio Flammini was an Italian driver who won three Formula 2 races in 1975 and 1976, for March, but never got a chance in GPs. After 1976 his career fizzled, and mostly consisted of sports car races, and odd F2 races.

Scot Gerry Birrel was reckoned to be Francois Cevert’s mate at Tyrrell for the 1974 season. Very much a Ford man, the British arm of the company was enthused with the prospect of a third Flying Scot excelling in F1. However, Gerry was good, but no Clark or Stewart. As it was, fate intervened and he died from a F2 accident in Rouen, in 1973.

Among the period Formula 2 drivers who might have achieved stature in Formula 1 were Swede Eje Elgh, very fast in F3, who ended up making an excellent career in Japan; Jacques Coulon and Colin Vandervell, both of whom had very good seasons in 1973, and two Japanese drivers, Tetsu Ikuzawa and Hiroshi Kazato, who might have done well in Formula 1 under the right circumstances.
Here is a list of the 1970-1979 point scoring formula 2 drivers who did not make it to Formula 1, by that meaning at least attempt to qualify for a Formula 1 World Championship race. This list does not include the drivers already mentioned above:

Alistair Walker, Mike Goth, Tommy Reid, Peter Gaydon, Carlos Ruesch, Patrick dal Bo, Claudio Francisci, John Wingfield, Dave McConnell, Sten Gunnarson, Bill Gubelman, Roland Binder, John Lepp, Hakan Dahlqvist, Ricard Scott, Spartaco Dini, Peter Salisbury, Gabriele Serblin, Kurt Rieder, Jean-Pierre Paoli, Giancarlo Martini (who raced in non-championship F1 in a Ferrari, however), Alain Cudini, Duilio Truffo, Cosimo Turizio, “Gianfranco”, Claude Bourgoignie, Carlo Giorgio, Sandro Cinotti, Ray Mallock, Roberto Marazzi, Willy Deutsch, Freddy Kottulinski, Markus Hotz, Juan Cochesa, Gaudenzio Mantova, Hans Royer, Luciano Pavesi, Patrick Bardinon, Piero Necchi, Rad Dougall, Juan Maria Traverso, Oscar Pedersoli.

Thursday, May 31, 2018


They say that the two things that interest people the most is sex and money, in general, but as well as on the internet. I can attest to that. I have literally thousands of posts published in dozens of websites, in several languages, and the one racing post that got the most attention was one about the wealthiest formula 1 driver in the world!  

As for sex, I ran an experiment in a blog. I published a post saying “Nude pictures of [a certain young Hollywood actress girl-next-door looking who shall remain unnamed]”. There was no picture of the young actress on the blog, undressed or dressed, just a black box. The reader was instructed to Pass the mouse on top of the picture, and right hand click three times, because the pictures were so ”hot”. You cannot imagine how many people clicked on the thing! In fact, in less than a month, there were over 100,000 hits on the post, over 10,000 in one day! Eventually people caught on that it was a joke, and the number of visitors dropped considerably. I got no bombs in the mail.

As for sex and formula 1 drivers, well, there were a few that liked to brag about their success with the ladies, such as James Hunt and Nelson Piquet father. Personally I find that in poor taste. At least Formula 1 drivers did not go as far as American basketball player Wilt Chamberlain, who claimed to have had over 20,000 partners in his sporting career, and a Brazilian soccer player, now coach, the humbler Renato Gaucho, claimed to have bedded 5,000 women. That was in pre-Viagra days. Where exactly these folks found the time to have sex with these many women, during short career spans, I do not know…

As for the subject of homosexuality and Formula 1, I am reminded of a famous driver (who shall remain nameless as well) who was asked in an interview if there were any gay formula 1 drivers, responding that if there were, he would “do him”. I suppose that is a confession of sorts, or sheer ignorance that both the active and passive partner in a homosexual relation are considered homosexual! I suppose the joke turned against him…  

Sports car great Hurley Haywood recently “came out” declaring himself to be homosexual. Hurley provided that information in his autobiography and even his Wikipedia entry contains that information. To my knowledge, no other major race driver has found it necessary to expose that area of his(her) life, and certainly no formula 1 driver.

In forums and private conversations, one hears all types of stories, claiming that “x” or “y” is or was gay. One such driver apparently was not at all uncomfortable with his sexuality, but was a fearsome fighter and would still beat the crap of anybody who insinuated anything…As evidence people refer to weird and early deaths, including from AIDS, living in San Francisco, and the fact that so and so driver was rarely seen with women in public. This, to me, is an invasion of privacy. As far as race drivers go, what really interests me is how they do on the track, their results, their careers; and their sex lives do not really interest me.

So, I am sorry if I disappoint you. This post will not elucidate any curiosity you might have about gay Formula 1 drivers. Are (were) there any? Sure. Do I care? No. Just remember that one of the first men to undergo a sex change operation was a British race car driver and former RAF pilot, Robert Cowell, back in the 40s. So anything is possible. Do not worry, I will not post any black box and instruct you to pass over and right-hand click three times to reveal any names…Don't click on the white helmeted guy either...

Friday, May 25, 2018


As far as Formula 1 broadcasters go, Brazil’s RGT is among the longest-running in the game - probably number 1 - for it has been showing Formula 1 races year year since 1972. It played a key role bringing international motor racing back to Brazil in 1970, providing promotional support to several tournaments held in the country until Brazil was firmly placed in the official GP calendar. It was a good bet for RGT, for Emerson Fittipaldi not only became a 2-time World Champion, something it could only dream back in early 1970, but the country has also produced two other world champions, including a driver widely reckoned the best ever, Ayrton Senna.

Notwithstanding this enviable track record, RGT's race announcer, Galvao Bueno, is widely criticized by many in Brazil, accused of a style that mixes annoying and overly enthusiastic cheerleading (for Brazilian drivers, often seeing marvelous performances where there are none), soccer game coverage techniques, poor focus on what is really going on in the track, recalcitrant knowledge of the sport’s history, racing dynamics and mechanics, and questionable analytical skills. Despite these shortcomings, Galvao, who incidentally also announces Brazilian national team soccer games and dabbles in other sports coverage, remains the mainstay of RGT Formula 1 cover for decades.

Brazil has been non-stop on the calendar since 1973, a status that few countries can match at present – I can only think of Britain, Italy and Monaco. Yet, not all is rosy for the Brazilian race. In the medium term, there is talk of privatizing the Interlagos circuit, which might result in its ultimate destruction. In the short term, for the first time since 1970 there is no Brazilian driver in Formula 1, and the pipeline looks grim. This of course does not sit well with Galvao’s unusual and spirited race coverage, for there is nothing to cheer about. So he rants on and on about Ayrton’s past achievements…

That is enough to make RGT a most unusual Formula 1 broadcaster, but there is more.

RGT is by far the top TV broadcaster in Brazil, and a true media empire, encompassing radio stations, newspapers, magazine and internet publishing. Among other things, it is one of the top producers of soap operas in the world, which are sold in several markets. In these, RGT unashamedly makes merchandising for a variety of products, including cosmetics, clothing, cell phones, cars and even Uber. It even managed to do merchandising in a soap opera staged in the Middle Ages… 

However, RGT is known to have a pet peeve – it does not like giving free promotion to anybody.

In that connection,  RGT is unique in that it refuses to call the formula 1 team Red Bull, what it is, Red Bull. It is consistently called RBR during race coverage, newscasts, and other company media (in fairness, in the traditional car magazine Auto Esporte, also published by the conglomerate, every once in a while the name Red Bull appears). There must be some bad blood, somewhere, or a more plausible explanation.

To Brazilian broadcaster RGT, there is no Red Bull Formula 1 team...

Yet, RGT sees no problems calling Ferraris, Renaults and Mercedes what they are. For the first two, there is a clear explanation. Recently Jeep (FIAT group, therefore, Ferrari) and Nissan (Renault group) were involved in merchandising actions in Brazilian soap operas. As for Mercedes, there are at best some tens of thousands of people able to even think of buying a Mercedes car in Brazil, and many probably do not even watch the channel. However, there are millions that can buy a can of Red Bull everyday, millions that do watch the channel. So Mercedes is properly identified, Red Bull becomes RBR.

I suppose that Red Bull has never advertised in any of RGT’s media, and understandably refuses do so in Formula 1, for owning two teams is expensive enough. As Dieter Mateschitz has a reputation for standing his ground, RGT remains the only broadcaster in the world to call Red Bull RBR.

If you are wondering what RGT stands for, well, as long as they refuse to properly identify Red Bull, I refuse to identity them properly.  

Thursday, May 24, 2018

A different take on Wilson Fittipaldi Junior

I suppose it is a bit hard to be a 2-time world champion’s brother, specially if you are a race car driver yourself. In addition to being a champion, Emerson was also a pioneer, but in that respect, Wilson pulls a lot of weight himself – he was the first Brazilian to race in quite a few categories.  It is easy to dismiss Wilson’s achievements in motor sport, specially not paying attention to a lot he did in Brazil. So this article will not stress so much Wilson’s short official formula 1 career, but rather, his achievements elsewhere. If even the excellent book Grand Prix Driver’s Who’s Who, by Steve Small, makes several blunders concerning Wilson’s career, what can be expected of other lesser sources?

Emerson’s older brother began racing in 1962, and was quickly hired by the Willys works team. Willys produced Renault cars under license in Brazil, which included the Dauphine (called Gordini there) and the Interlagos, which was a version of the French Alpine sports car. Wilson won many races in both, and also drove a Fiat-Abarth on occasion. By 1965, Luis Greco, Willy’s boss, had dreamed of a Brazilian single seater series powered by Renault engines, and thus was born the Gavea. 

Modeled on the French Alpine Formula 3 car, the Gavea’s competition debut was on the fast Interlagos 500 km race, which was run on the shorter and faster external circuit. Against Corvette powered Maserati 250Fs and Simca-Abarths, Wilson did well to finish 2nd. However, there was no category for the car in Brazil, the Brazilian single seater series never took off, so the Gavea only raced again in the 1966 Formula 3 Temporada in Argentina. The enterprising Brazilian team raced against some of the best Formula 3 drivers of the day, and in one occasion, Wilson actually qualified better than Clay Regazzoni. His best finish was 9th in the 2nd round of the four-race series. But the dreams of taking the Gavea to Europe never took off. For one thing, the Brazilian economy was in dire straits, recessive policies were implemented to reduce the high inflations, and the weaker carmakers, including Willys-Overland, all hit trouble. Willys was sold to Ford, and although the team continued in the new guise, a lot of the drivers left.

Jean Redele, Alpine’s boss, had “invited” talented and ambitious Wilson to drive in Europe, and off he went in 1966, as the local racing scene looked doomed. Unfortunately, the invitation was either overstated at a spur of the moment,  or Mr Redele had second thoughts, so once he arrived in Europe Wilson did not find the support he expected. Eventually he attempted to qualify at Coupe de Vitesse in Reims, in one of Marius dal Bo’s Pygmee team and got a huge lesson. But there you go, Emerson was not the first Brazilian to drive in Formula 3 in Europe, Wilson was.

Upon returning to Brazil, Wilson and brother Emerson created three important race cars: the Fitti-Vê, a Formula Vee car (the category was being introduced in 1967) which took Emerson to the Brazilian title that year. Several units of the car were built and sold, some sources claiming an exaggerated 50 units (!!). Hyperbole aside, he Fitti was a commercial success. Then they also built a prototype called Fitti-Porsche, a Porsche engine car that was very fast, but also tended to be fragile. There was also a 2-engined VW Beetle designed by Richard Divila, which was fast, a novelty, but not a race winner. 
The more humble Fittipaldi prepared VW Beetle 1600 won the 12 Hours of Porto Alegre, with the brothers driving. This is a milestone, for it was the VW Beetle’s first major overall win in Brazil.

Wilson also drove other cars before travelling to Europe, including Jolly’s Alfa GTA and the VW powered AC prototype, winning occasionally. He took part in the BUA Formula Ford tournament before flying to Europe, and then had a full season of Formula 3, driving a Lotus like his brother. Although he did not win a championship, he won as many races as Carlos Pace, the other Brazilian hot shoe, including a race in the continent, the Coupe du Salon in Monthlery, against the likes of Jarier, Salvati, Jaussaud, Birrel and Migault.

Brazil also held a Sports Car series called Copa Brazil at the end of 1970, and Wilson drove a Lola T70 to great effect, winning a race in Interlagos. Among the participants in this series were brother Emerson in a Lola T210, Jorge de Bragation, Alex Soler Roig and Gianpiero Moretti. Then, there was a Formula 3 tournament. Wilson  won the first two rounds, against strong international competition, including Pace, Salvati, Walker, Trimmer, Migault, Palm and even future World Champion Alan Jones.

It is easy to downplay Wilson’s achievements in Formula 2, for his brother Emerson won six races between 1971 and 72, but because Emerson was a graded driver, Wilson ended up the highest scoring Brazilian in the European Formula 2 championship in 1971  (16 points, 6th), 1972 (10 points, 12th) and 1973 (6 points, 12th). He also won a non-championship Formula 2 race at Misano in 1973, in the highly unused but pretty Brabham BT 40. In the Brazilian year-end tournaments of 1971 and 1972 Wilson got a couple of 3rds and a 4th in 1971, and a 3rd, a 4th and a 6th in 1972.

Wilson actually raced in Formula 1 before going to Formula 2, another detail about his career that is mostly overlooked. He raced a Lotus 49 in the Non-Championship Argentine Grand Prix of 1971, retiring. Another achievement was the fact that the first driver to lead a lap in a Brazilian Grand Prix was not Emerson, but rather Wilson, who jumped in front in the  1972 trial race from the second row. His car was an older BT33, not sufficiently strong to hold Emerson, Reutemann (the eventual winner in a newer Brabham) and Peterson, but a point had been made and he was the best placed Brazilian in 3rd.

I suppose that Wilson, more so than Emerson, was interested in projects, designing, making things, not so much driving for other people. The fact that he was fast in F1 car was proven in Monaco, 1973, of all places, where he was 3rd before retiring (some sources claim he was second, but I remember him being 3rd). It is interesting to note that he went that far up against the most competitive drivers of the season, not because people dropped out. After all, the top 6 finishers in the race were the top 6 in the championship, in the right order (Stewart-Emerson-Peterson-Cevert-Revson-Hulme). And in his final race for Brabham, the 1974 non-championship Brasilia race he did better in the second car than all other drivers used by the team in the early season (Robarts, Larrousse, Von Opel). But the will to make a Brazilian f1 car was stronger than trying to win races in other people’s cars, like his brother.

Wilson did a little sports car racing between 1971 and 1973. He raced in the 1971 European 2 Liter Championship round at Hockenheim, driving an Abarth (retired). Later in the year, he also raced a Ford GT40 in local Brazilian races. The Greco team’s Lola T210 shared with Tite Catapani retired in the early stages of the 1000 km of Buenos Aires of 1972. Later in the year, Wilson drove a Porsche 917 in the second Copa Brazil, against the likes of Andrea de Adamich, Willy Kauhsen and Georg Loos, and won a race and the title. Then in 1973, Wilson drove a Kauhsen 917-30 in the Interseries race at, scoring pole position but failing to finish in the Hockenheim closing round.

After the demise of the Fittipaldi Formula 1 team, Wilson drove in the Brazilian Stockcar championship, winning a few rounds. And he also managed to score a great victory with son Christian Fittipaldi driving a Porsche 993 in the traditional Brazilian 1000 mile race’s 1995 edition, well into his 50s.

So there is a quite a bit you might not know about Wilson’s racing activities, besides his two seasons at Brabham and one season driving his own car in F1. Although not quantitatively as successful as his brother Emerson, Wilson’s contribution to racing in and out of Brazil was quite impressive.