In my last article on Brazilian Rally, I focused on Mauricio Neves and his copilot Leandro Ferrarini so I could highlight the driver culture in rally. Unfortunately that meant that I couldn't include stories from the other drivers at the race. So when I met up with them again at Rally Morretes, I figured it would be a perfect chance to highlight their races.
One of the best stories was watching Felipe Marra and Thiago Osternack utterly dominate the RC4 class. Felipe is a new driver who is very fast, but unfortunately crashed out of several races. So to see him finish this race in top form was fantastic!
It's generally hard to find English speakers in Brazil. So imagine my surprise when Mauricio Neves told me that one of the pilots driving with ProMacchina was not only an English speaker, but a fellow American! Edu Marques is an accomplished stunt driver from Florida, even driving one of the trucks in Mad Max! He and Mauricio met three years ago when they both raced in Mauricio's XRC car in the Foz do Iguacu X-Games.
In typical Mauricio Neves form, he placed first in this race, securing him a 3rd place overall in the Brazilian Rally Series. I don't know if it is the design of the car, or the sound of the motor, but Mauricio is always visibly the fastest driver on the course. In fact, his driving style is so aggressive that when photographing him, I get the sense that he would drive right through me if I got in the way.
While Mauricio won the rally, he was constantly dogged by Ulysses Bertholdo in his Mitsubishi Lancer EVO. The two were neck and neck for the entire rally, within 2-5 seconds of each other after every stage. Seeing the speed at which these two took corners was absolutely fantastic!
The other great rivalry to watch was between teammates Leonardo Zettel (blue and white car) and Fabio Simsen (black and green car). Fabio had the faster car, while Zettel's car has a weaker engine, but a sturdier transmission. These two ProMacchina drivers were dueling for first and second place in the RC5 category, and both were putting up fantastic times.
As a huge fan of underdogs, I was slightly more enthusiastic about Zettel, who held second place under Simsen. Unfortunately (and ironically), Zettel was unable to finish the race as a stone cracked his gearbox, spilling gear oil all over his clutch. Despite the transmission's ability to handle internal abuse, this problem seems to be chronic as an identical issue cost the Zettel car first place in the previous rally.
However, next year Zettel won't be having these problems as I heard word that both he and Simsen are potentially going to move up to the RC2N class.
Tiago Larossa raced his final race in the RC2N Peugeot at Rally Morretes. He raced this event without his normal co-pilot - Leonardo Silva, because Leonardo got married the week before. One thing I loved about their car is they had a large decal on the back of the Iron Maiden artwork for The Trooper. It's always great to see Metal represented in the wild.
The one team I wish I talked to was the Reijers Rally Team. They ran three cars at both rallies I attended and were consistent performers. One of the team staff was a copilot in the international WRC series until a crash forced him to retire from racing all together.
And last but not least were fans. Since Rally Morretes took place on public roads, many people came out to watch loud cars speed by while drinking beer. One group of kids noticed I was a photographer and asked for a picture of their family. When my accent and terrible Portuguese gave away the fact that I'm not a local, I spent the next 30 minutes with their parents talking about life in the outskirts of Brazil.
You can see more photos from the event at the Native Customs Facebook Page.