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Grand Prix of Brazil 2005
The first time going to Brazil and the first time crossing the equator!

I have wanted to take a trip to Brazil for years, just because it's Brazil and I heard it was quite the party country, especially around Reo. So naturally I figured Sao Paulo would be as well. After all, they have a Formula 1 GP every year, Ayrton Senna was from there. In my mind it had to be a colorful, party City especially when the F1 Circus is in town. Even though there was supposed to be a lot of poverty in the area.

So I decided two years ago that I was going to the "GP do Brazil" It just took until this year before I managed it.

I booked the flight and the Hotel back in June, so I was not going to back out. Then I decided to see about getting a ticket..............WOW! Talk about pricey. The cheapest tickets were approximately $190.00 to the ones that get you into the pits all three days at approximately $3,700.00. I decided I would think about it some more.

I finally decided I would only ever go to the race once so I would shell out the money for a decent covered stand, with food and TV screens with a trip to Pit Lane on the Friday afternoon. This was 10 days before the race! So exchange rates had changed and the ticket cost me $100.00 more! BOOKED!

The Trip Begins! (Day One)

I fly out of a rather nice 95 degree day in Phoenix and head to Houston International (It apparently has some other insignificant name these days), which was quite humid when I arrived, but no big deal I only have an hour to wait for the connection to Sao Paulo, which is cut down considerably, when I find how far I have to go to the terminal I need. It seems like I have no sooner arrived at the gate and have to board the plane for the 9 1/2 hour flight to Sao Paulo. (I have been told by friends/business associates, in Sao Paulo, that they are just coming out of winter.) I'm still excited!

The plane had empty seats so it was a comfortable flight. I asked the flight attendant if there were any special ceremonies carried out when we cross the equator? She looked at me rather strangely and said "I don't think we cross the equator". I had to stop myself from laughing when she told me were she lived (She was from Brazil), and this was her regular route, while I politely pointed out the the line half way down the monitor showing our progress, represented the equator. Obviously there were going to be no special ceremonies. I felt a little cheated! So I decided to have my own quiet deal. Drinking and disturbing the Attendants for more drinks and trying to figure out how the entertainment system worked. Nothing worth watching on the movie channels. There was an interesting movie that I had already seen, but it seemed different...........Ah! it's dubbed in Portuguese :).  After the drinks I still cannot remember what the movie was.

Arrival at Sao Paulo, Brazil (Brasil, now Day two)

Cloud cover almost down to the ground so I could not see any of Sao Paulo as we flew in arriving at about 8:30 am Sept. 21st.

The hotel had told me to find the "TAM Diners Club" and "present" myself as a guest at the Maksoud Plaza, and they would arrange for transport to the Hotel. COOL!

The airport was clean and fairly colorful. I looked out the doors to see a miserable, misty, rainy day. Just to make sure what it was, because I live in Arizona, I had to go outside. Wet, cold and humid, no sunshine. I'm beginning to think this was a bad idea.

After walking backwards and forward the length of the airport trying to find the TAM Diners Club, I decided I should ask someone. Best place to ask in a foreign country!?! The information booth! Unfortunately they didn't speak English and when I spoke my Spanish they just tipped there heads to one side and stared at me, like a dog that's not sure what's going on. So I showed them the email with "TAM Diners Club" written in English. "Oh! one exclaimed and pointed to his right and said "pass Virag" That really helped as I had been passed Varig 4 times. So I get to Varig (It's a Brazilian airline) and stand in line to ask someone else, who as it turns out speaks fluent Portuguese, but alas no English. Out came my trusty email again! "Oh! she exclaimed and pointed. Only this time she was trying to tell me to go around a corner with her hand gestures. I'm really getting somewhere now! I think.

There was a crowd of people around a doorway which I thought must be it. Wrong it was an ecological art show! Very nice though, so I had a good look around and left. It was now about 10:00 am and I was feeling a little tired so I sat on a bench in the middle of the airport. Then I noticed this small "Diners Club" sticker on a glass window behind a plant and a glass door next to the plant. That's it! Everything is good now.

I "present" myself to the girl at the desk upstairs, who promptly says "Good morning Mr. Ian! The next bus will be leaving at 11:00am. Please help yourself to some coffee and snacks at the bar and take a seat. We will call you when it's time." Blew be away! The first English I had heard since I got off the plane. :) So I replied in the only Portuguese I had learned that day "Obrigado!" (Thank you!)

Off into the Wild Bl....Grey Yonder!

The mini bus arrives and the driver puts my bags in the back and off we go. Wet shiny roads and raining!

Leaving the airport this could have been anywhere in the world, except Phoenix, the countryside and roads seemed really nice. In the distance I could see, what I assumed to be, the City of Sao Paulo climbing up from the earth disappearing into the clouds.

The closer we got to the City the worse the roads got and more congested. The buildings became clearer and I could see this was not quite what I had imagined!

I thought we we going past some old lumber yard when I realized it was all painted and these were like garden sheds side by side and on top of each other.....a complete housing project, obviously for what I thought must be the very poor and basically homeless. But then right next to it is a high-rise apartment complex, beautifully painted, clean windows and curtains hanging in them. Then next to that single and two story terraced homes in fairly nice condition and next to them another high-rise apartment complex with all the windows broken, graffiti all over the outside and burn marks up the side of it. All this in a space of half a mile! The housing is pretty much like this all the way around the City and only improves the closer you get to the center. But there the traffic is crazy! I could not tell if these were 2 or 3 lanes in each direction, but there was definitely 3 lanes of traffic! And Crazy people (messengers) on single cylinder 125cc motorcycles, flying in between the cars in all directions. The locals just refer to them as "MotoBoys" and stay out of their way.

We finally arrived at the Hotel after a 1 hour drive. I would never have found the Hotel if I'd been driving! Too many lefts and rights and horn blowing!

I checked in only to be informed I was quoted the wrong rate when I booked and would have to pay another $90.00 approximately. I was too tired to argue and went to my room on the eleventh floor, and had a look out the window to see what the City looked like from there, there, here, here, over there and down there.

I tried to have a sleep, I maybe got 1 hour. I received a phone call from the front desk..."My tickets for the GP had just been delivered!". Excitement set in again!

I decided to get cleaned up and go downstairs for dinner and drinks and collect my tickets. I don't think it was a Brazilian dish "Beef Oro", but it was good, Creme Brule for desert and a whole bunch of "Bohemia'" beer. (The Brazilian one not the Mexican one). Went back upstairs to the room and forgot about collecting my tickets! I'm not quite sure why.................;) I'll pick them up tomorrow.

Day 3 continues...... Quick Links City Visit Day 3, Day 4 Practice, Day 5 Qualifying, Race Day