Ask anyone in the thriving Brazilian motorsport industry who Ana Beatriz is, and most likely you'll get a blank stare. Ask about Bia Figueiredo, though, and the recognition will be instantaneous. And, if the respondent is a racecar driver born around the mid-1980s, that recognition will be accompanied by another thing: respect.
For Bia Figueiredo – the "name re-engineering” was the idea of her manager, former CART standout Andre Ribeiro, who deemed “Figueiredo” too unpronounceable for American tastes – has a long history of racing near the front in her home country. Now she stands in the massive convention center that's become an IndyCar Series garage this weekend in Sao Paulo, being photographed. It's her third portrait shooting this week. Blame the sponsors: new ones keep coming up.
First it was oil giant Ipiranga, Petrobras' biggest competitor. They're the ones making Bia's Dreyer & Reinbold car sport a yellow and blue paint scheme this weekend. Then came STi computers. Now, logically, a women's care company, Monange. All three are Brazilian companies, which now, with the Sao Paulo Indy 300, have a concrete reason to invest in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
“There's no doubt that this is a great opportunity for me,” ponders the 24-year-old veteran of the Firestone Indy Lights Championship. “It's a new experience, and the greatest step in my 17-year career.”
For “opportunity” one can read the fact that the Sao Paulo race is the only one besides the Indy 500 in which Bia is confirmed to drive. And so, right now, she's going the extra mile to please her new backers – her hair is blonder and sports a fancier cut, for instance. One can almost picture the Monange marketing director suggesting such a change…
Thus Bia's target is clear: finish the race with the car in one piece, and preferably in a top-10 position. “I need to maximize the track time I'll have this weekend; it'll be invaluable experience,” admits the two-time Indy Lights race winner. If she can make it, the words “full-time ride” will look more realistic than ever.
As for the Sao Paulo track, which she was one of the first to see firsthand (Bia is a “Paulista”, or Sao Paulo native), the rookie expects great thrills.
“This is an awesome layout, for a street circuit,” she opines. “It will be fast; the top speed on the main straight will be very high, and there will be plenty of passing for this type of track.
“It's true that it is a little bumpy, but we have the same problem in other street races. I'm only praying it doesn't rain,” she adds in typical Paulista fashion, for only a local knows the type of traffic havoc that can happen in this metro area of 20 million souls when the skies open up.
If it does rain, at least the temperatures will fall, helping Bia Figueiredo to achieve her main goal this Sunday: “Keep my cool all race long. That's the biggest thing.”