By Carlos de Paula
The 60’s would be a decisive decade in terms of evolution of racing in Brazil. The decade began pretty much as the 50’s ended. Interlagos still ruled supreme as a race track, the gauchos were still on top of their game with their carreteras, and racing specials/pure breed cars would duke it out every once in a while.
The major change was the high volume of participation of Brazilian made cars in racing, which eventually would mean that the public, who was accustomed to watch races featuring large 4.5 liter, 200 HP V8 engined race cars, would have to get used to watching myriad DKWs and Renault Gordini saloons on the race tracks. The historic victory by a Brazilian made FNM JK in the 1000 Mile race of 1960, with Chico Landi and Christian Heins, would show that Brazilian made cars could indeed beat the American horses. The FNM would win many other long distance races in 1960 and 1962, and all of a sudden, long distance races became more common than sprints.
FNM’s success meant further commitment from Vemag, and two other works teams: one from Simca, and the other from Willys. FNM was a government owned factory, always on the urge of bankruptcy, so although it had the most powerful and modern car around, licensed by Alfa Romeo, the “works” team would soon disappear from the tracks (some privateers would continue using the car until 1974). The latecomer Willys team, created under the influence of Bino Heins, would soon bring to the tracks a car called Interlagos, which really, was an Alpine design, built in Brazil. It would soon win everything in sight, until Simca got tired of being beaten, and brought 3 Simca Abarth 2 liters to Brazil. These basically dominated the 1964/1965 seasons, and were returned before the end of the latter season. By then, Vemag had built the Malzoni GT, which although down on power, had the advantage of great torque and front wheel drive, which came in handy in street circuits. However, the days of factory teams were counted, as the three factories that had works teams would be taken over in 1966/1967, and the racing programmes either cut down or downright abolished. Ford took over Willys, which showed some interest in racing, fielding Bino prototypes in the 67 and 68 seasons, while Chrysler took over Simca, and VW, took over Vemag, both teams being closed.
The Interlagos 500 KM continued to feature Mecanica Continental cars in the early part of the decade, some of which dated back to the 30’s. They began to show their age, and by 1965, had been abolished from this race, having been considered unsafe. Racing had changed in Europe as well, and the current breed of racing car in the old continent was not suitable for large American engines, there was no renewal in terms of chassis. It is noteworthy that Formula 1 cars had 1.5 liter capacity in those days. In 1962, there was an attempt by Chico Landi to implement Formula Junior racing in Brazil, and while the ten or so cars were not enough to fill out a grid, eventually the cars were used in Mecanica Continental races. Above all, they were more modern, rear engined designs, and being nimble, even DKW and Gordini engined cars were able to face off Corvette engined dinosaurs. It was in one of Landi’s Juniors, albeit FNM engined, that Celso Lara Barberis died in the early part of the 1963 500 km race. In 64, there were no continentals in the race, only GTs, prototypes and touring cars, so it looked as though the old GP cars would be once and for all retired. The last Mecanica Continental races took place in Interlagos in 1966.
As for the carreteras, they continued to appear in large numbers, especially in the 1000 Mile Race, and in Rio Grande do Sul and Parana. Carreteras would win the 61, 65 and 66 1000 Mile Races, but by 1967, were pretty much outclassed. The only carretera to see off the decade competitively was Camilo Christofaro’s 18 numbered Chevrolet Corvette. Even in Rio Grande do Sul, the carreteras started to give way to Simcas and JKs, and street racing was being considered dangerous and a nuisance, as Brazil’s fleet grew, and road usage became essential.
Rio de Janeiro opened its first proper track in 1966, Curitiba also had its own autodrome, and Brasilia held races around its streets; Guaporé and Cascavel got dirt tracks. Races were held in a number of cities during the decade: Salvador, Recife, Belo Horizonte, Curitiba, Campo Mourão, Lages, Cascavel, Piracicaba, Araraquara, Petropolis, Passo Fundo, Santa Maria, Goiania, Pelotas, Vitoria, Fortaleza, etc. The use of locally built cars popularized auto racing, as never before, although it was still considered a rich man’s game.
There was an attempt to implement Formula Vee racing, in 1966, which basically was unsuccessful. Two championships were run, the first in 1967 won by Emerson Fittipaldi, but VW was not too bullish about supporting the series. In addition to that, Interlagos was closed for major repairs in 1968 and 1969, so, without any racing in Brazil’s major race track, it appeared a little dangerous to race the fragile Vees in street circuits.
Street racing would also take a major blow, with the Petropolis debacle in 1968, and it seemed that if racing were to survive in Brazil, race tracks would need to be built – period. Local authorities were becoming ever more reluctant to open their streets to race cars. Another major consideration was that several very powerful race cars were being brought into Brazil, by the late 60’s: an Alfa P33 and a Lola T70 were two major additions in 1969, and more was to come. Gone were the days of humble DKWs and Gordinis.
Starting in 1968, Brazilian race drivers were trying their hand in European racing, and it became clear, with Interlagos closed, that unless other race tracks appeared around Brazil, racing might die. The Brazilian drivers achieved quite a bit of success in those two first years, Ricardo Achcar winning a F-Ford race in 1968, and Emerson Fittipaldi winning several Formula Ford and F-3 races (and a championship) in 1969, and Luis Pereira Bueno winning in F-Ford as well.
During the works cars years, the factories did attempt to go racing internationally. Willys would every once in a while cross the border to Uruguay, and race in Rivera (a stone’s throw from the Brazilian city of Santana do Livramento) and Piriapolis, with a high level of success. Privateer Gaucho drivers would also visit Rivera often. A major undertaking was the building of an Alpine based Willys F-3 car, which was called Gavea. Luis Greco, Willys’s boss, had the vision of creating a Brazilian Formula 3 category, which came to nil. It would actually be a Formula Renault of sorts, which turned out to be Formula Ford in the 70s – that is another story. The Gavea ended up running in the Formula Libre Interlagos 500 of 1965, finishing second to the all conquering Simca Abarth of Jaime Silva, and was fielded in the International F-3 Temporada in Argentina, in 1966. Driven by Wilson Fittipaldi Jr., one could not say the outing was successful, although it was a first time try. This was the last action the car saw. Simca attempted to crack the Grand Prix Standard in Argentina, with EmiSul powered sedans, but all 5 cars broke down.
The 60’s were also the last attempts to hold hill climbs in Brazil, in fact, a Brazilian Hill Climb championship was created in 1967. Not surprisingly, this was the last edition of this championship. Races on roads were also about to fade: the Rodovia do Café race in Parana, in 1968, was basically the last major race on a highway in Brazil, won by Ubaldo Cesar Lolli in an Alfa GTA, a car that won many races in Brazil between 1967 to 1971.
Long distance racing reigned supreme during the 60’s, although São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro championship races were always sprints. The latter carretera and mecanica continental races were all sprints, given the machinery was obviously unable to withstand several hours of racing. 2 hour races, such as the IV Centenario race in Rio de Janeiro, were not uncommon. This race was won by a Ferrari engined Ferrari!
The Chevrolet Opala, which would be widely used in racing in the 70’s and 80’s, was used for the first time in racing in 1969, winning right from the bat. VW Beetles, which in the early 60’s were very slow and shamefully beaten by cars with smaller engines, had began to feature strongly in results, some of them equipped with 2 liter engines. Another new generation car to be used in racing was the Ford Corcel, which basically was a Renault design left over by Willys. Alfa Romeos features strongly during the 60’s, and BMWs reached the scene in 1968.
Another important fact of racing in those years, which had a negative impact on international racing in Brazil, was the fight between the Brazilian Automobile Club (Automovel Clube do Brasil) and the Brazilian Auto Racing Confederation (CBA). The heart of the question was, who had the authority to sanction races in Brazil. The Brazilian Automobile Club would often threaten drivers of suspension, when they ran in its nemesis-sanctioned races. To make matters more complicated, a number of racing clubs got involved in the mess, which threw Brazil way out of the international racing calendar during the 60s. Apparently, peace had been achieved by 1969, but the whole decade had been lost, as far as international racing was concerned.
THE 60’s in names
Camilo Christofaro, Ciro Cayres, Jaime Silva, Chico Landi, Christian Heins, Emerson Fittipaldi, Wilson Fittipaldi Jr., Emilio Zambello, Piero Gancia, José Carlos Pace, Luis Pereira Bueno, Bird Clemente, Mario Cesar de Camargo Filho, Marivaldo Fernandes, Anisio Campos, Francisco Lameirão, Rodolfo Olival Costa, Jan Balder, Antonio Carlos Aguiar, Luis Valente, Celso Lara Barberis, Catharino Andreatta, José Asmuz, Vitorio Andreatta, Aldo Costa, Eduardo Celidonio, Jose Fernando Martins, Altair Barranco, Angelo Cunha, Norman Casari, Bob Sharp, Pedro Victor de Lamare, Roberto Galucci, Luiz Greco, Justino de Maio, Eduardo Scurrachio, Ubaldo Cesar Lolli, Anotnio Carlos Porto, Ricardo Achcar, Caetano Damiani, Nelson Marcilio, Jose Ramos, Mario Olivetti, Antonio Mendes de Barros, Ismael Chaves Barcellos, Orlando Menegaz, Ítalo Bertão, Nactivo Camozzato, Ailton Varanda, Alvaro Varanda, Carol Figueiredo, Ludovino Perez, Luis Fernando Terra Smith, Jose Maria Giu Ferreira, Ettore Beppe, Walter Hahn, Nathaniel Townsend, Alex Dias Ribeiro, Marcelo de Paoli, Roberto Dal Pont
Emerson Fittipaldi, Wilson Fittipaldi Jr., Christian Heins, Celso Lara Barberis, Fernando Barreto, Antonio Carlos Avallone, Luis Pereira Bueno, Ricardo Achcar, Bird Clemente, Fritz D’Orey
Touring: FNM JK, Simca, DKW, Gordini/1093, VW Sedan, Opala, Corcel, Alfa Romeo Giulia, Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Alfa Romeo Zagato, Alfa Romeo GTA, Fiat-Abarth, Renault R8, Mini Cooper, Chrysler Regente, Ford Escort, Saab
Singleseaters: Fitti-Ve, Aranae-Ve, BRV, Sprint, Tubolare, AC, Amato, Landi Jr (JK, Simca, DKW and Gordini), Ferrari-Corvette, Alfa-Corvette, Maserati-Corvette, Willys Gavea Formula 3
Prototype/GT/Sports: Willys Interlagos, Simca Abarth, Simca Tempestade, DKW Malzoni, Brasinca Chevrolet 4200, Carretera Chevrolet, Carretera Ford, Alpine, Prot. Bino, Fitti-Porsche, AC-VW, Alfa Romeo P33, Lola T70, Prot.Elgar VW, Lorena Porsche, Puma-VW, VW Bi Motor, Porsche 356, Karmann Ghia Porsche, Ferrari GTO, Maserati 3000, Maserati 4500, VW-Porsche, Porsche 911, Lotus Europa, Karmann Ghia Corvair
CATEGORIES: Touring Cars, GT, Protoypes, Mecanica Continental, Carreteras, Formula Junior, Formula Vee
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Artigos de autoria de Carlos de Paula, tradutor, escritor e historiador de automobilismo baseado em Miami. Articles written by Carlos de Paula, translator, writer and auto racing historian based in Miami.
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