A Brazilian Gem – The Stock Car Pro Series

On the 2nd April, the 45th season of the Stock Car Pro Series, Brazil’s premier racing series, is set to begin. Rubens Barrichello will defend his championship crown against over 30 competitors and the author is most certainly looking forward to seeing the action unfold.

The author will spend this edition of the Gravel Trap to go over the reason why GP Rejects readers should also be looking forward to it and should join him on the journey towards finding out the 2023 champion of this highly entertaining South American motorsport series. These reasons are not in any particular order, so if there is one point later that is particularly appealing, there is no reason for concern that it is only one of lesser applicability. 

Reason 1: Easy Access

The wonderful invention of YouTube and high-speed internet connections have enabled racing series across the globe to find audiences way beyond their main markets. The Stock Car Pro Series is no exception: their official YouTube account features live broadcasts of all races, summaries for those who either missed the races or cannot spare the full two hours for the live broadcasts, behind-the-scenes promotional content as well as the races of the main feeder series.

Races from 2019 onwards are available for re-watching with events further in the past available on non-official channels. The events generally take place in the afternoon local time, which makes for a relaxed viewing experience on Saturday and Sunday evenings for European viewers.

The only issue with the YouTube coverage in particular and the series communication in general is that the commentary is solely available in Brazilian Portuguese. Of course, as any soccer fan might tell you, that is not really a disadvantage. Even mundane tasks such as brushing your teeth become enthralling when supplemented with Latin American sports commentary. Though it should be noted that compared to someone like David Croft, the announcers are still restrained and do not strain their throats in a desperate and insufferable attempt to imitate the late great Murray Walker.

While not having knowledge of the Portuguese language makes following the details a bit challenging in the moment, the official website has all the information required and thanks to the advancements of online translation tools, the passionate motorsport fan should be able to follow the really important storylines of any given season.

Reason 2: Cool Cars

Especially as someone who has bemoaned the lack of variance in contemporary European motorsport, the Brazilian Stock Cars are highly appealing. In conceptual design, the inclined reader will find a number of similarities with the V8 Supercars seen in Australia. The current generation of chassis, imaginatively titled “Nova Geração” (new generation), sees V8 engines powered by ethanol fuel with around 550 hp in a monocoque chassis. 

It is a return to a less aerodynamically-driven concept compared to the cars used before 2020. Currently, the series features two manufacturers represented by the Toyota Corolla and the Chevrolet Cruze. For most of its 45-year long history, the series was solely a Chevrolet one-make series, so readers that understandably struggle to trust a stock car/touring car series with only two makes can feel quite safe about emotionally investing in the Stock Car Pro Series. As Toyota have won their first title last season, there is little reason to assume that they will pull the plug on their Brazilian expedition soon.

The author is of the rarest breed of motorsport fan: the one that does not care one bit for engine noise and in fact actively considers it unpleasant in some cases (such as Renault’s and Ferrari’s V8 engines from 2005-2013). He will thus not bore anyone with any unqualified opinion on it and just leave a clip kindly donated by GP Reject Pietro Fittipaldi for the reader to judge the sound of the Toyota V8 for themselves.

The Stock Car Pro Series has a licensing agreement with Reiza Studios to feature both contemporary and past Stock Cars in their release Automobilista 2, so regardless of whether the reader wishes to experience driving the 2022 Chevrolets or Toyotas or whether they are looking into retreading the steps of former legends Paulo Gomes and Ingo Hoffmann, both are possible.

From his personal experience as a casual player of racing simulations, the current Stock Cars are a very entertaining simulated ride, both fast and challenging enough to make for fun racing and equally entertaining hotlapping without being too harsh on the less skilled driver.

Reason 3: F1 Stars, Rejects and Everything In-Between

The question is, obviously, who is driving the aforementioned cars? That answer is also one reason why the author feels the Stock Car Pro Series will appeal to the average reader of GP Rejects. Have you ever wondered where a certain Brazilian driver has gone to after his Formula 1 career ended? Odds are the answer to that is that he at some point went back to his home country to compete in its premier racing series.

Looking at the names that have at one point or another competed in the Stock Car Pro Series reads like  who-is-who of Brazilian rejects. Outside of the aforementioned Pietro Fittipaldi, there also were Antônio Pizzonia, Lucas di Grassi, Chico Serra and Tarso Marques just to name some. Further names who barely  escaped reject status are Wilson Fittipaldi and the inaugural Formula E champion Nelson Piquet, Jr. as well as currently active driver Ricardo Zonta.

Of course we must not forget that, just like DTM, this series has the distinct honour of having its record champion be a GP Reject himself. The aforementioned 12-time champion Ingo Hoffmann entered six Formula One Grands Prix for Copersucar, finishing with a career best of 7th at the 1977 Brazilian Grand Prix.

In terms of the other end of the Formula One grid, championship runners-up Felipe Massa and Rubens Barrichello are currently competing in the series as well with … varying levels of success. Brazilian stars from other forms of racing have also found their way back home, such as Tony Kanaan letting his career run out by being a backmarker and Ferrari works driver Daniel Serra being one of the best drivers in the series. For the knowing Formula 1 fan, an additional layer of amusement can be found in the performance of Rubens Barrichello given as Barrichello has carried over his misfortune and lack of results at his home track and now has raced at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace at least once a year for the last 30 years, with victory still eluding him to this day. 

The annual “Corrida de Duplas” event also brings in further big names and international competitors for a one-off experience. Last season saw names like Timo Glock, Jeroen Bleekemolen, and Felipe Drugovich compete; previous events also lured in drivers like Vitantonio Liuzzi, Robin Frijns, Mark Winterbottom and Jérôme d’Ambrosio.

Reason 4: Weekend Format and the Racing

Of course, all the amazing vehicles and all the fancy names are naught but window dressing for the seasoned and knowledgeable motorsport fan. The real question is: does this stock car series offer exciting racing? The answer to that is a clear “yes”. The drivers in this series are both very aware of the fact that these cars – like any proper touring car should – can take a hit or two and are both skilled and aggressive, offering very “physical” racing without degenerating into simple-minded crash fests occasionally seen in bad NASCAR and touring car races. 

There is always the occasional loose bit hanging off a car after close contact, there is always a mad dash towards the line. No example illuminates this quite as much as Rubens Barrichello and Pedro Cardoso fighting each other towards the line on the last lap of the last race of the season. Neither man needed the position, as Barrichello was confirmed the champion after Gabriel Casagrande was disqualified for running into the third title contender Daniel Serra on the opening lap, while Pedro Cardoso was set to finish the year in 26th position, but both fought to the line bumping and clashing just to get that 11th place.

All of this exciting racing takes place within the context of a weekend format that apparently was designed by the principle of taking gimmicks developed by other series and removing all the dumb bits.  Three-stage qualifying in Formula 1 is cool, but it has a lot of bloat because all three sessions are longer than they actually need to be so television can get their 60 minutes of programming? Let’s just remove the bloat by making the stages shorter, giving each driver time to get in two timed laps if they are on the track all the time. Q1 can get a bit crowded because so many cars are out there? Just split the session into two groups and take the combined times to determine who advances to Q2. 

The same goes for the race format, which brings to mind the comparison with NASCAR’s segmented races concept (which, despite being overhated by the motorsport fan community, has its flaws). Random stage points with equally random stage length? 

“How about we just split the race in two and treat each “stage” as a separate race,” responds the Stock Car Pro Series, “and what if we give full points for the first race, shuffle the top 10 for added excitement and slightly reduce the points of the second race to account for this change?”

“Sounds good to me,” says the author.

The format of two races run back-to-back also solves the issue often seen in multi-race series which have their races on one day: the awkward pause between each race. While support series can mask that by having the main event take place between said races, but for headliners such as the former World Touring Car Championships it – at least to the author – always felt like an unwelcome interruption and often makes one wonder whether not just combining those two races into one would be more entertaining and expedient. Instead, the Stock Car Pro Series just quickly sorts out the inverted top ten behind a safety car and then sends the drivers off on race two.

Especially in a modern sports world that often feels like it has at best a long-distance relationship with the concept of common sense, it is a very refreshing approach to running a series. Obviously, there will still be politics that remain foreign to the viewer (unless they have aforementioned Portuguese language skills), so the author will not insult anyone’s intelligence by praising the series as the “one bastion of rationality in a cruel world of sportive politics” or some such nonsense. Still, the down-to-Earth weekend format, spiced up with certain special events like the aforementioned Corrida de Duplas makes for a very enjoyable product.

Of course, Brazil is home to some very entertaining circuits and many of them do get airtime in the premier Brazilian racing series. The 2023 calendar was not fully confirmed at time of writing, so the author cannot go over all venues, but can certainly talk about a few examples of good venues on the confirmed rounds. Of course when someone thinks of Brazilian race tracks, the first name that comes to mind is Interlagos. The 2023 season will feature three events on the São Paulo-based circuit. The season opener will take place at one of the many Autódromos Internacional Ayrton Senna, in particular the one in Goiânia. This track is rather similar to the Curitiba circuit that hosted WTCC from 2006 to 2012, but has a less compressed infield, which improves the racing significantly.

With all these points made, the author feels like he has done a good job of explaining the appeal of the Stock Car Pro Series and he hopes to have lured in a couple of motorsport fans to keep at least a part of their eyes on the top dog of the Brazilian motorsport scene, one of the countries that unfortunately has been left a bit in the dust by the increased Eurocentrism of the FIA Global Pathway. However, as a gift for the first Gravel Trap of 2023 and in defiance of usual policy, the author will provide a “tl;dr” on the appeal of this series.

Internationally known names and ambitious Brazilian competitors competing in exciting racing within a sensible format undertaken by fascinating cars on great tracks.

What more could a motorsport fan want?

Image sources: Automobilista 2, Youtube