Brazilian Changing Of The Guard, Barrichello In As Meira Leaves IndyCar
Lest we think there will not be the requisite number of drivers from Brazil commanding the wheel of a DW12 IZOD IndyCar Series car during the 2012 season, ever since ten year veteran Vitor Meira announced his departure from the series last month, today, nineteen year Formula One veteran Rubens Barrichello joins KV Racing Technology. Also announced today was the re-signing of fellow Brazilian, Tony Kanaan to a two-year KV Racing Technology deal.
A couple of weeks ago (Feb. 11, 2012), Vitor Meira announced that he will be leaving the IndyCar IZOD Series to race back home in Brazil in the Campeonato Brasileiro de Stock Car. Brazil's premier stock car series. He has not decided if he will race in select races in the IZOD IndyCar Series or cut ties completely. The decision seemed a little sudden at the time because the first race was just over one month away ... March 25 in St. Petersburg, Fla..
Vitor Meira and the ABC Supply team weathered a few close calls in the 2011 37th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to finish ninth, his second top-10 finish in three races. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2011)
Vitor's best years were from 2003-2005. During those years he finished in the top ten overall. He also had several second and third place finishes throughout his career. He missed most of the 2009 season due to injuries incurred in a scary accident during the Indy 500 which broke several vertebrae bones in his back. He made a full recovery and since his accident, he managed to secure only two top five finishes racing for AJ Foyt. One of those top five finishes occurred in 2010 in his first race back after his injury.
As for Rubens Barrichello, 39, the Brazilian announced Thursday he has joined KV Racing Technology on a one-year contract. He will make his IndyCar debut at the season opener on March 25 in St. Petersburg, Fla.. Barrichello, with a record 325 races in his F1 Series career, is the biggest name to move to an American-based open-wheel series since F1 champion Nigel Mansell joined CART in 1993. Mansell won five races and the series title that season. Barrichello finished second in the F1 drivers' championship in 2002 and 2004, both times behind seven-time champion Michael Schumacher of Ferrari.
"I'm loving the idea I'm going to be a rookie," he said. "That makes me young, and I'm loving that."
Barrichello will participate in all 16 IndyCar races on the calendar, including the Indy 500 in May and the other four races on ovals.
A trio of drivers that included young up and coming star E. J. Viso, Formula One legend Rubens Barrichello and IndyCar superstar Tony Kanaan, tested with KV Racing Technology for two days (February 25-26) on the of around the 2.303-mile, 12-turn Infineon Raceway permanent road in Sonoma, California. Viso behind the wheel of the No. 5 CITGO | PDVSA – KV Racing Technology Chevrolet/Firestone machine ran the most laps, 143, over the two days and produced the fastest times. He was third fastest overall among the seven drivers testing and the fastest KVRT pilot with a time of 78.50 seconds on Saturday and a 77.36 second lap on Sunday. Caption & Image Credit: KVRT
This announcement comes on the heels of KV Racing Technology confirming the re-signing of EJ Viso who will return to the team for a third year to compete for the full 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season. Viso, 26, who hails fron Venezuela, will drive the No. 5 CITGO | PDVSA - KV Racing Technology Chevrolet-powered DW12 with additional support from Herbalife, Mindeporte CANTV and SBA Airlines. Barichello has been assigned the No. 8 BMC | Embrase race car with Kanaan returning in the No. 11 GEICO | Mouser Electronics entry.
"I am really happy to be back with KV Racing Technology," EJ Viso said at the announcement. "Last year was very successful even if the results don't necessarily reflect what we wanted. We worked very hard and we proved we were competitive. The progress we made over the last two years will be a key to our success in 2012."
As for Kanaan, 37, the 2004 IZOD IndyCar Series champion, will be entering his 15th US-based open-wheel season. Kanaan started in 1996 with Tasman Motorsports in the Firestone Indy Lights Championship. It's his 11th Indy car season and his second with KVRT. Kanaan's driving history with the IZOD IndyCar Series is one of the strongest ... he was fifth in the standings last year, is one of the most consistent and fearless drivers in the series who has placed in the top six every year he has competed.
"I am very excited to be returning to KV Racing Technology, not only with a two-year deal but also to have Rubens Barrichello as my teammate," Kanaan said. "We have always dreamed about racing together (aside from their winter kart races in Brazil) but never imagined it would actually happen and certainly not in the near future or in Indy cars. So I am looking forward to the start of the season. I think it's going to be a very exciting year."
Rubens Barrichello reacted. "I am thrilled, it is something very new to me. With all my experience I will start as a rookie, but I think I will get better as the year progresses. I hope with my contribution to KV Racing Technology we can build on Tony's contribution to the team from last year and take the team to another level. I am extremely happy and have a big smile on my face."
IZOD IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard went to one of Barrichello's test sessions to meet the Brazilian. He said Thursday it was an exciting day for the series ''and a positive step to start'' the year.
"There's not a person in the world who knows racing that wouldn't tell you that Rubens Barrichello is one of the greatest drivers of all time," the series CEO said in a statement. "That will create great competition and expands our international platform."
Barrichello brings with him an ardent and strong New Media fan base ... his 1.47 million followers on Twitter is one million more than Kanaan's, who leads all IndyCar Series drivers with 448,000 Twitter followers.
So basically, what we will expect to be hearing from the PA speakers in the stands, at every 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series venue during the season is - Ladies and Gentlemen ... start your "Tweets"!
... notes from The EDJE
** Article first published as Brazilian Changing Of The Guard, Barrichello In As Meira Leaves IndyCar on Technorati **