IndyCar Expanding International Presence With Brazil Season Opener
As the IZOD IndyCar Series prepares for its first trip to South America, this weekend’s São Paulo Indy 300 provides some interesting logistical challenges.
Consider this for a travel budget: Cartons containing 24 cars left Indianapolis for São Paulo, Brazil on March 6 filling two 747-400 freight airliners. The containers were the same that are used annually for the trip to Twin Ring Motegi in Japan. The cost to transport the Indy cars and all the pit equipment amounts to $2 million.
Throw in transportation and lodging for just less than 800 IndyCar Series personnel, team members and other various officials and that costs another $1.5 million for the three-night stay.
Once Sunday’s season-opening race in São Paulo is complete, the cars are packed into the containers and leave São Paulo for Indianapolis, arriving in Indiana two days later.
With such high overhead costs paid for by IndyCar’s Brazilian partners and the promoter of the event, it might be difficult to turn a profit, but according to Terry Angstadt, IndyCar Series president, commercial division, there is a broad base of support for this event.
“Unique to Brazil is the incredibly broad base of support that we have from the president on down. We have federal support, state of São Paulo support, we have municipality of São Paulo support and we have the actual promoter’s support with a group of sponsors from there,” Angstadt said. “Although it is an expensive proposition it is incredibly well supported based on five popular Brazilian drivers. We are a very popular sport in Brazil.
“I’m not trying to make a one-on-one comparison, but we are a bit of an alternative to Formula One in international markets. I will assure you the cost of bringing us to town compared to Formula One is dramatically less and you keep all commercial rights in terms of merchandise, food and beverage or a title; it’s all yours.”
The original plan for this race was the Brazilian promoters were going to pay the IndyCar Series a hefty sanctioning fee to bring the show to South America. But after some shrewd negotiation by Angstadt, not only does IndyCar get a big check for this race — estimated to be worth upward of $20 million — but the promoter will now pay for all expenses.
That is similar to the arrangement the series has with Twin Ring Motegi and its parent company, Honda.
“It started with the promoter giving us a sanctioning fee and we were responsible for getting the equipment there, but now it is similar to the agreement we have in Japan,” Angstadt said. “The promoter is responsible for all transportation of race cars, all transportation of people, all housing of people and all food of people once we get there. So it is very similar to Japan. Initially, it was going to be one fee and we would manage all the logistics. But they have done a fabulous job. We have worked with D.B. Schenker, our sponsor, they worked with their contacts in Brazil and it has worked very well.
“We now arranged for our partners to be involved in the sanctioning agreement, so that is different from Japan.”
The 75-lap race will be held on a 2.6-mile, 11-turn circuit located in the north central section of São Paulo known as Anhembi.
Because it is a street race in an international country, there are some complications with the FIA — the governing body that sanctions all international racing events.
“If you only knew,” Angstadt said. “But we actually brought the president of the CBA which is the local member of the FIA, to meet the president of Brazil and for him to see that the president would really like to have our race come to town. We are fully approved and fully listed. Charlie Whiting, the FIA track approval guy, is with Tony Cotman next week for track approval.”
The IZOD IndyCar Series is also guaranteed security for this race. São Paulo is one of the largest cities in the world with a population close to 15 million.
“There is a full security plan in place,” Angstadt said. “It is a gated facility with gates around this place for security for the race cars and the personnel. The hotel is inside the convention center, so it is very secure.”
Angstadt has been involved in the plans for this race since the beginning. He admits it is a “pet project” and success in Brazil could mean an even bigger international race for the IndyCar Series in China in the future.
“Strategically, it’s very smart that we race in that country because of the Apex Brazil relationship, the number of Brazilian drivers, the strength of their economy and value of our series to take it there,” Angstadt said. “It is important to us financially. This is good for our business. The next project, and it has been slower to develop, but China represents the same opportunity.
“It’s not as convenient, but when you tack it on to Motegi, one extra week, race the following weekend, it’s a big priority for the future.”
Cotman is IndyCar’s point man for the design of the circuit, and the former race official for CART, Champ Car and the IndyCar Series is impressed with the high-speed nature of the race course.
“Two of the long straightaways have relatively slow corners leading onto them,” said Cotman, who designed the course and is overseeing the construction through his new company, NZR Consulting. “There are some good 90-degree turns at the end of them, and on one occasion a little tighter than that. It’s a track that’s challenging, but can create some exciting racing. I like to see a course that is really quite challenging on a driver and has potential for the driver to either A, take multiple lines, or B, entice them into mistakes.
“Running through the middle of the stadium that hosts Carnival, which holds about 30,000 people, I think will be an electric atmosphere for the drivers. That portion of the track through the stadium is concrete and everywhere else will be asphalt, so there will be some surface changes. That’s always good for the racing.”
The event will be the first for the IZOD IndyCar Series in South America. Cotman and dedicated groups of workers from multiple trades are constructing the circuit in four sections based on events in the area and not hindering the flow of traffic (there are more than 7 million vehicles in the city). A convention center and major hotel inside the circuit will be utilized by teams and IZOD IndyCar Series officials.
“Everybody we’re working with is incredibly motivated to showcase the event,” Cotman said. “I’m sure there will be some fine-tuning in the future, but to be perfectly honest it’s no different than going to any of the temporary circuits where we currently race. It will be fast. It will be fun. It will be exciting. It will be safe. Most importantly, from a fan’s perspective, they’ll see a lot of action.”