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Emerson Fittipaldi became Brazil’s first Formula One world champion in 1972 and he ignited a South American passion for the sport, which still exists today.
Emerson Fittipaldi became Brazil’s first Formula One world champion in 1972 and he ignited a South American passion for the sport, which still exists today. The charismatic Brazilian won a second world title in 1974 and he later made a successful switch to the United States, which culminated in two victories in the prestigious Indianapolis 500.
Fittipaldi took over as the No.1 driver for Team Lotus after the death of Jochen Rindt in 1970 and he won his first world title just two years later, becoming the youngest champion in history at the age of 25. Despite driving an ageing Lotus 72D Ford-Cosworth, he notched up five wins, a second place and a fourth that season to complete a 10-year span in which the Lotus team won five world titles.
Fittipaldi won his second world crown for McLaren to provide them with the first of several constructor’s championships but, in 1976, he moved on again to form his own Brazilian-sponsored Copersucar team with his brother Wilson. However Copersucar, renamed Fittipaldi in 1980, did not prove competitive and the team was disbanded after the 1982 season. The Brazilian’s own active career in Formula One was now over and, during the period from 1970 until 1980, he secured 14 wins and 35 podium places. Six times, he set the fastest lap.
In 1984, Fittipaldi joined the CART series in the United States and quickly won the hearts of American race fans. He continued his brilliant performance on the track, winning the CART championship in 1989 and the Indianapolis 500 in 1989 and 1993. Fittipaldi finally ended his 30-year racing career in 1996 after 36 career wins and 23 pole positions.
After retirement, Fittipaldi was able to concentrate on building his business interests. He acquired the TV rights for the Champ Car series in Brazil, which now has the greatest TV audience for the series worldwide thanks to Fittipaldi’s efforts. He has been a successful producer of oranges for over 25 years, owning a large plantation in Brazil, and had the vision to develop a ground-breaking retail and residential project, Mary Brickell Village, in the heart of Miami’s financial district.
Fittipaldi is a very active member of the Laureus World Sports Academy, which supports two projects for underprivileged children in his native Brazil. He also has his own Fittipaldi Foundation, which helps impoverished children.