MARCH 20, 1995

What you may not know about Interlagos

The 1995 FIA Formula 1 World Championship kicks off this weekend at Interlagos in Brazil.

The 1995 FIA Formula 1 World Championship kicks off this weekend at Interlagos in Brazil. The circuit was built in 1940 in the countryside to the south of Sao Paulo. Situated in a natural amphitheater on a hillside overlooking the city and between two lakes - hence the name Interlagos which means "between lakes" - the circuit was actually copied from an American race track!

Roosevelt Field, in Nassau County, Long Island, came to fame in 1936 and 1937 when it hosted two Vanderbilt Cup races, which were won by visiting European aces Tazio Nuvolari and Bernd Rosemeyer. The Roosevelt Field circuit wound around itself and so a long lap was achieved within a small area. This principle was applied to Interlagos so that, although the whole circuit was visible from the main grandstands, the track was nearly five miles long and featured a superb variety of corners.

In the 1960s Sao Paulo became the fastest growing city in the world, and the track was engulfed by shanty towns, many of which survive to this day. This did not really fit F1's growing image of professionalism, but in February 1973, with Sao Paulo's Emerson Fittipaldi having won the 1972 World Championship, the track hosted its first F1 World Championship race. Fittipaldi won and he repeated the feat in 1974, going on to win a second world title that year.

In 1975 another local hero, Carlos Pace, wrote his name into Brazilian history books with his debut F1 victory; and to make it a perfect day, Fittipaldi was second in his McLaren and, back in 13th place, was Emerson's brother Wilson driving Brazil's first homemade Grand Prix car - the Copersucar FD01.

As Fittipaldi's F1 career came to a close in the late 1970s and Nelson Piquet became Brazil's new hero, interest switched to Piquet's hometown of Rio de Janeiro - which hosted the Brazilian GP between 1981 and 1989. By then Piquet had been eclipsed by Ayrton Senna - from Sao Paulo - and so Interlagos was renovated and shortened and F1 returned in 1990. It became Senna's track with Ayrton scoring two memorable wins in 1991 and 1993.

With Senna now dead and Wilson Fittipaldi's son Christian having left F1 for Indycar racing, Brazilian interest in F1 is now concentrated on Rubens Barrichello. He is from Sao Paulo and his success or failure will probably dictate the future of F1 racing at Interlagos - and perhaps even in Brazil.