Vitor Meira's ebullience was clear during a phone conversation (partly because of the birth of his daughter Juliana on Easter Sunday morning) to discuss this weekend's Itaipava São Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle, Round 4 of the IZOD IndyCar Series. The third-year A.J. Foyt Racing driver secured a podium finish on the streets of Sao Paulo last year, and has been bolstered by two top-10 finishes in three events heading into the May 1 race in his native land.
"It was a very important race, because not only was it the first race of the season, but it was the first race of IndyCars in Brazil and my first race after the crash at Indianapolis," said Meira, who gained 13 positions to finish third in the No. 14 ABC Supply car in the 2010 event. "There were a bunch of things to be put in place in that race, and to come out with a very positive result was almost a dream. I couldn't choose a better place or better time to have things going my way. It was a wonderful weekend and one I'll never forget."
Meira was the top-finishing Brazilian, and five natives of Brazil are among the 26 drivers entered this weekend. Meira has finished eighth, ninth and 12th, making gains in each race. He's started 13th twice, missing out on advancing to Segment 2 of qualifications by 0.0091sec at St. Petersburg and 0.1937sec at Long Beach.
"Our priority was to improve on road and street courses and we have done that," said Meira, who put in three days of testing at Barber Motorsports Park before the season. "We are a solid top-10 car most of the places we go; on street courses we are a little better still than road courses.
"I'm excited with the way the season has started in a championship that is more competitive than last year. To be 10th in the championship after three solid races is definitely improvement. Now we have to improve more and get points on the oval races."
Since returning to Brasilia following the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Meira says he has felt the energy of the country surrounding the second IZOD IndyCar Series race.
"The people saw what kind of show we put on last year and they're really excited," he reported. "The tickets are almost sold out. It's growing even more. It's interesting for the people of Sao Paulo to know that cars are racing on the same streets they travel every day. Every other form of racing (in Brazil) is on a racetrack, and to be on the streets is a plus for IndyCar."
• Special delivery to Brazil:
More than 400,000lbs of freight were swallowed April 25 by two Atlas Air 747-400F planes for the 5,000-plus-mile ride between Indianapolis and Sao Paulo – the initial logistical stage of conducting the Itaipava São Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle.
Racecars, pit equipment, tools and consumables were weighed, wrapped, stacked and set in a staging area on Friday at Indianapolis airport by IndyCar and DB Schenker personnel in a free-form ballet of fork lifts and 18-wheelers. It was loaded (seeking an even distribution of weight in the cargo bay by the loadmaster) for the flight to Viracopos-Campinas International Airport in the state of Sao Paulo. Firestone Firehawk tires departed via ocean cargo vessel last month.
"Logistics are an essential part of our business and DB Schenker's global reach and international sports experience is a perfect match for our needs," said Terry Angstadt, president of the commercial division for IndyCar.
DB Schenker has been associated with the sanctioning body since 2009, providing logistics for the Honda Accord Safety Cars between North American event venues. Its role expanded last year with oversight of the event logistics for IndyCar's inaugural race in Brazil. The company combines all transport and logistics activities of Deutsche Bahn, employing more than 91,000 people across 2,000 locations in about 130 countries.
Upon arrival late on April 26, the freight is transferred to trucks to continue the journey to the Anhembi complex in the north-central section of the largest city in South America. Manifests are checked and spot customs inspections are conducted at the track in time for team personnel to unpack the next day and begin preparations for the race weekend.
"The most difficult part is making sure the paperwork (six copies for everything) is in order for customs," IndyCar director of operations Bill van de Sandt said. "We're a racing league and not a shipping company, so all we can do is get everything ready and count on DB Schenker to get us there and back."
Before the champagne is uncorked in Victory Circle, packing is under way for the return trip.
"It's multiple processes, but it's very well organized," van de Sandt said. "The cooperation of the governments, the help of DB Schenker and the airlines works very well. It's a process that is very effective and efficient."
Racing For Kids to make first Brazil visit: Racing For Kids will make its first appearance in Brazil with an April 27 visit to the Assistance Association for Disabled Children in São Paulo. Brazil will be the fifth country (outside of the United States) that Racing For Kids has visited in the past 22 years. The others are Canada, Japan, Mexico and Australia.
AACD is the largest association in Brazil supporting physically disabled children. Founded in 1950, the association has three units in Sao Paulo (with two more being built) and four units in other parts of Brazil. The facilities assist about 5,000 children per day in all units combined.
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing driver Ana Beatriz, a native of São Paulo, will join Racing For Kids officials on the visit.
"I have made several visits in the United States and have seen first-hand the wonderful work Racing For Kids does with sick children," Beatriz said. "I am so happy now to be able to bring that joy and excitement to the children of my own country."