Helio Castroneves

1. Who is Hélio Castroneves?

Helio Castroneves is a Brazilian professional pilot, born May 10, 1975 in São Paulo. He is currently a racing driver in IndyCar and plays for Meyer Shank Racing.

“Spiderman” still has some nice remains / © IndyCar

2. Hélio Castroneves’ junior career

Son of a car dealer, Hélio Castroneves turned to karting when a fellow driver gave him a kart for his 11th birthday. A year later, he participated in the Sao Paulo state championship, and dropped out of school two years later to focus on his career. He won the national championship in 1989, the year from which his family watched the Formula 1 and CART (future IndyCar) Grand Prix on television.

The Brazilian moved to F3 Brazil in 1994 and finished runner-up with three victories. Paul Stewart, the son of Sir Jackie Stewart, invited him to compete in the renowned British F3 championship in Great Britain in 1995. Despite this uprooting, he did better than hold his own and finished on the last step of the podium, behind Oliver Gavin and Ralph Firman. This will be his one and only year in Europe, because a representative of Philip Morris International (Marlboro) gives him a four-day test in Indy Lights (the CART antechamber) in Phoenix.

Helio Castroneves accepted and found a place in the modest Tasman Motorsport team for the 1996 and 1997 campaigns. The Brazilian drove for free and paid all the results bonuses to the team owner, Steve Horne. Still vice-champion, behind his compatriot Tony Kanaan, he became the protégé of the former double winner of the Indy 500, Emerson Fittipaldi, who became his manager and his sponsor seeker.

3. Hélio Castroneves’ IndyCar journey

Helio Castroneves' first two seasons in CART were timid. The modest Bettenhausen and Hogan Racing teams did not allow him to stand out. Hope Greg Moore's fatal accident during the 1999 season finale at Fontana would change his life. The Canadian signed for Team Penske in 2000, but his death left Roger Penske in disarray. He then urgently hired Helio Castroneves.

This unexpected opportunity will propel him into the ranks of American motorsport legends. From his first participation in the Indy 500 in 2001, Helio Castroneves defied the predictions. He led the final 52 laps and finished first on the Brickyard, the red brick line used to build the Indiana oval in the early XNUMXth century. At the end of his parade lap, Helio Castroneves stops at the finish line, gets out of the car and climbs the fence to celebrate this success with the public. This celebration became his trademark, which he reproduced with each of his victories.

Helio Castroneves achieves the double at the Indianapolis 500 in 2001-2002 / © DPPI

Rebelote in 2002. The Brazilian enjoys a new bottle of milk reserved for the winner of the Indy 500 in a scent of scandal. His Canadian rival Paul Tracy believes that he was overtaken by Castroneves when a red flag was waved a lap and a half from the end, which the Brazilian continued to contest. Race Direction will reject Paul Tracy's appeal and confirm Castroneves' success.

In IndyCar, Helio Castroneves becomes a pillar of the series. Between 2000 and 2010, not a year passed without him winning at least one race, but he always missed the title. He won the Indianapolis 500 again with Team Penske in 2009. He failed 6 hundredths behind Ryan Hunter-Reay in the quest for a fourth victory at the Indy 500 in 2014, which could have allowed him to equal Rick Mears, AJ Foyt and Al Unser at the top of the statistics.

Helio Castroneves scores a third success at the Indy 3 in 500 with Team Penske / © DPPI

This triumph at the Indy 500 comes two decades after the first, in 2021. Here again, Helio Castroneves wins to everyone's surprise. Since 2019, his attention has mainly focused on Endurance and IMSA; even Team Penske and Roger Penske had parted ways with him. It is with the small Meyer Shank Racing team that he equals Rick Mears, AJ Foyt and Al Unser in the fastest edition in the history of the Indy 500 (306,886 km/h average). Meyer Shank Racing is retaining him for its first full IndyCar season in five years in 2022.

4th victory and record equaled for Helio Castroneves at legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway / © IndyCar

4. Hélio Castroneves’ Endurance Journey

Alongside his convincing results in IndyCar, Castroneves ventured into Endurance in 2006 by winning the Mil Milhas Brasil in an Aston Martin DBR9 entered in the GTP1 category shared with Nelson Piquet, Nelson Piquet Jr., and Christophe Bouchut.

Castroneves in action at Road Atlanta for Petit Le Mans 2008 / © DPPI

The following year, he took part in the 24 Hours of Daytona at the wheel of the Michael Shank Racing Riley Daytona Prototype. He then entered the 12 Hours of Sebring (which was then part of the American Le Mans Series) alongside Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard with a Porsche RS Spyder Evo. In 2008, he won in LMP2 at Petit Le Mans with Ryan Briscoe.

In 2016, Roger Penske sounded out Castroneves to see if he wanted to move full-time to Endurance. After a period of hesitation, the Brazilian accepted and found himself associated with Juan Pablo Montoya and Simon Pagenaud at Petit Le Mans 2017.

In 2018, he made his official debut in IMSA aboard the DPi-aligned Acura ARX-05. IMSA champion in 2020 with Ricky Taylor, Castroneves also wins the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2021 and 2022.

Castroneves has won the 24 Hours of Daytona twice (2021-2022) / © IMSA

5. AUTOhebdo's opinion on Helio Castroneves

Hélio Castroneves is a motorsport legend, and his reputation is felt internationally, as far as France. This status is not overused and is reserved for multiple winners of the Indy 500. His ultimate goal is to become the sole record holder for victories at the Indy 500. Despite his 47 years, his knowledge of racing on ovals and his invaluable experience compared to his adversaries still makes him one of the formidable men in this exercise.

Helio Castroneves
Helio Castroneves
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Age May 10, 1975 (49 years old)

associated researches

Drivers of his generation

Marcel Fassler
Marcel Fassler
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Romain Dumas
Romain Dumas
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Sébastien Loeb
Sébastien Loeb
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