Chevy’s popular subcompact Sonic is the weapon of
choice in South America’s biggest motorsports series.
f ever you need to be convinced of the
perils of trusting statistics, take a look at
Stock Cars Brasil, the Brazilian-based
series that’s arguably South America’s
biggest motorsports championship.
On one hand, it looks to be as lopsided
a series as you’ll find: Caca Bueno
wrapped up his fifth championship in the
early December finale, and Chevrolet-aligned squads claimed the top five places
in the teams’ standings. On the flipside,
the 12 rounds contested this year
delivered seven different winners, and
Bueno went into the last race as one of
five drivers with a shot at the title.
But if the numbers are quirky, the facts
are not. Stock Cars Brasil does not have a
huge international profile, but in
motorsport-mad Brazil, it’s a very big deal.
“It’s a car that has a lot of
secrets. It is the most difficult
car I have ever driven”
In a country where many of the 200
million-strong population can’t afford cable
TV, the series’ free-to-air television deal has
allowed it to develop a massive following,
and races tend to be sell-outs. Top drivers
have a domestic profile to rival their more
internationally renowned compatriots.
“Some drivers become celebrities,”
Bueno says. “I don’t know if this happens
to everyone, but I have pretty much
everything I do, down to my personal life,
being tracked by a large audience.”
Once TV gets fans intrigued, the quality
of the racing does the rest. The cars are
mechanically identical, with the
manufacturers’ technical involvement
limited largely to the bodyshells, although
the entire series carries a lot of Chevrolet
DNA. The engines are 5.7-liter V8s based
on the Chevy small block, but built by local
company JL Racing (owned by the family
of former IndyCar racer Felipe Giaffone).
The series was itself created by
Chevrolet in 1979 for its Opala model,
which at the time was the most powerful
car available in the country. Opalas gave
way to a custom bodyshell on an Opala
chassis in the 1980s, powered by the
same 4.1-liter, 6-cylinder units seen in the
Opala, with the current V8-powered,
tube-framed chassis appearing in 2000.
In 2012 guise, Chevy does battle with
its newly-introduced Sonic body against
Peugeot’s 408, and the modern cars are
loaded with idiosyncrasies that Bueno says
make it challenging to find the limit.
“It’s a car that has a lot of secrets,” he
explains. “It is the most difficult car I have
driven. It’s heavy, with a lot of horsepower,
and no electronics. Tire wear’s high, and
it’s up to the driver to be the traction
control and ABS. There’s plenty of grip, but
it’s all mechanical. Downforce is very low,
so you feel every irregularity in the track.
Over the curbs, the car’s balance depends
For the first 11 races, points are awarded 1st 22pts, then 20-18-17, etc.,
down to 1pt for 20th place. In the 12th and final race, points awarded
are doubled. Chevy drivers took the top six places in the final points.
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