Better luck in stock
- Rainer Nyberg
- 8W May 2001 issue
- Thierry Boutsen - Solid character, solid results, by Mattijs Diepraam
- Copersucar-Fittipaldi - Samba that never got into tune, by Mattijs Diepraam
XL Monaco GP (20 May 1982, Thursday prequalifying)
A promising driver in junior formulae but his true potential was never fulfilled at the top level.
Chico was a winner already at a very early age, having a subscription on karting titles until he moved to full-size cars in 1976. Chico ended his karting career with triple São Paulo karting championships and with one national Championship on his CV. It helped to have a mother working in pulic relations. She was not only Chico's mother but also his manager and she took care of all the business side of Chico's career.
His first year in cars he drove in the local São Paulo Fórmula N series. This was a Brazilian version of Formula Vee. His progress continued and he duly claimed the Fórmula N title in 1976. As one of the first pioneers of the Brazilian influx into British racing, Chico moved to England in 1977. A works FF1600 Van Diemen RF77 was waiting for him there. Nothing seemed to stop Chico at this stage in his career, and despite being on unknown foreign tracks and living in a foreign country he was able to take his Van Diemen to the Townsend Thoresen British FF1600 championship.
He said: "Driving is driving, it's the same everywhere. But when you come to England, you've made a big commitment. You look around you and you know you are a long way from home. When I arrived at the airport, without a word of English, there was a moment when I thought I´d just turn right around and go back home. Luckily I was just married and that helped a lot as did being in a good team, as did winning. When you win everything is much easier."
To put his FF1600 crown even firmer on his head he also won the prestigious Brands Hatch Formula Ford Festival. With nothing more to prove in Formula Fords he was approached by Ron Dennis at Project Four. He wanted Chico in his Toyota-powered March 783 for the 1978 Formula 3 season. At the time two separate F3 championships were run in England. Chico contested both. He continued his climb to the top in this formula as well. He won three rounds until an untimely testing accident at Mallory Park forced him to rest and he missed several races. The weeks on the sideline meant that Chico was unable to challenge for the British F3 titles. But before the end of the season Chico won the final race of the BP F3 championship round at Thruxton. Chico finished third overall in both the BP and the Vandervell championships. The following year Chico continued for Project Four, this time driving a 793 from the acclaimed March factory. So Chico was able to continue his championship quest, and his five wins in 1979 were enough to bring him the British F3 title.
Together with Ron Dennis' Project Four stable Chico graduated to Formula 2 for the 1980 season. After a difficult year for both the team and the driver, Chico finished a lowly tenth in the final standings with just 9 points collected. Despite this Chico was now near his goal.
Thanks to his famous countryman Emerson Fittipaldi retiring after the 1979 season, Chico was signed for Fittipaldi's so far rather unsuccessful equipe to replace the two-time world champion. Future world champion Keke Rosberg was retained as Chico's team mate. Chico had a promising start and was close to getting a point in his GP debut at Long Beach in 1981. He ultimately finished seventh. He was to spend two seasons in Emerson's team, but he was only able to show flashes of his undoubtful talent. Keke Rosberg left the team for the 1982 season for better things. Fittipaldi was in difficulty and Chico was retained to drive a single entry for 1982. Chico scored his only championship point at Zolder that year.
Richard Divila worked on the new F9, and it was introduced at Paul Ricard for the French GP. It failed to move Fittipaldi team up on the grid and after the 1982 season the team was disbanded. Chico looked elsewhere for a drive and did a deal with Arrows. He debuted for them at his home GP at Rio. An eighth place was his reward. Then high-profile driver Alan Jones was signed for the Long Beach race and Chico was sidelined. But he was back for the next three races and did his final GP at Monaco before Thierry Boutsen was hired for his local Belgian GP at Spa-Francorchamps. The unlucky Chico saw Thierry become a permanent replacement and the Brazilian was forced away from Formula 1. He finished his GP career with a total of 18 GPs contested and 14 DNQs.
Chico then tried to break into CART in 1985. He drove a single race at Portland but nothing came out of it, leaving Chico to return home with an unfulfilled mission.
He disappeared from the world scene and competed in local series until he went into retirement. Only of late has he returned to his old winning ways. Determined to stop the domination in the local Stock Car series by his fellow former Fittipaldi GP driver Ingo Hoffmann, he was lured back into motor racing. The Chevrolet Stock Car Series looks like Super Tourers on stereoids, with modified Chevrolet (Opel/Vauxhall) Vectra cars forming the basis of this series. He was so successful that he actually won the championship for two years in a row (1999-2000). Last year, he won six rounds on his way to a repeat win of the Campeão Brasileiro de Stock Car.
Other tin-top forays include a win in the 12ª Mil Milhas Brasileiras race in 1981 with a locally built and prepared Chevrolet Opala. Chico also ran a Chrysler Stratus in the 1998 SudAm Super Touring Championship. Away from the track Chico enjoys horsepower as well, as his main hobby are horses…
Reader's Why by Geza Sury
This picture shows us the swansong of the Fittipaldi team. In fact, this picture shows the car in pre-qualifying. After Gilles' tragic accident at Zolder a 26 entries had arrived for the Monaco GP. At that time only 20 cars were allowed to start the race, which was an increase to the 16-car field of the 60s. It was not until 1987 when a full grid of 26 cars lined up for the Monaco GP. By the time the field had reached Monaco (in 1982) no less then 23 drivers had scored points. So a 60-minute pre-qualifying session was to be held on Thursday morning for the drivers who had failed to score points. That included Derek Warwick and Teo Fabi (Toleman), Jean Pierre Jarier and Riccardo Paletti (Osella), Jochen Mass, Raul Boesel and Emilio de Villota (March) and Chico Serra (Fittipaldi). It was Jarier, who recorded the fastest time ahead of Mass and Warwick. Our man, Serra had posted the 7th fastest time of 1'31.741, which meant that he had to watch the further part of the weekend from the pit-lane. He lacked almost one and a half seconds to get the chance to qualify. It was a sharp contrast to the previous race at Zolder, where Brazilian scored a point by bringing the car home in sixth place. That proved to be the team's last point. At that time, the Fittipaldi team was making a massive downslide. The team, which was established in 1975 by Wilson Fittipaldi, elder brother of Emerson has enjoyed some success in 1977 and '78. The car was driven by non other then Emerson himself, and he not only collected 17 points to finish joint 9th with Gilles Villeneuve in the championship rankings, but he managed to bring the car home in 2nd place on home soil at Interlagos. But the next season saw Fittipaldi score just one single point, and Emerson had enough and he quitted driving for the team halfway through the 1980 season. By that time, their title sponsor, Copersucar (a giant Brazilian sugar producer) lost its interest in the team. Despite that, in that year the team collected 11 points thanks to Fittipaldi and the newly signed Keke Rosberg. Actually, the team had joined forced with Walter Wolf's team. They remained pointless in 1981, and the following year promised no improvement whatsoever. The team started the season with a modified F8D, and it was not until the race at Zeltweg, that they introduced the new F9. The original F8 was designed by Harvey Poslethwaite. The F8 was a stubby affair with a short nose and long side pods. One of the three F8s was modified for 1981 and became the F8C with a number of revisions added by Gary Thomas. Throughout 1982, Serra had difficulties even to make the grid. The new F9 showed some promise, but didn't materialize it, so the team pulled out of F1 at the end of the year. Their driver, Francisco 'Chico' Serra continued his F1 career with Arrows. Once he was Brazil's biggest hope in single-seaters. He had a fantastic record in British Formula Ford (he won the Townsend Thoresen championship in 1977) and was a strong challenger for the 1978 British F3 title. He was just beaten by Nelson Piquet, who had a better chassis. He finally collected the prestigious championship a year later (ahead of two teenagers: Andrea de Cesaris and Mike Thackwell), notching up 5 wins in the process. That elevated him to the European F2 scene, where he collected three 4th places with his March 802 BMW. His performances impressed many and he was selected to drive a Fittipaldi in F1. After his two seasons with the team, he switched to Arrows, just to find himself released after the Monaco GP to be replaced by F2/F3 exponent Thierry Boutsen, who had attracted some much needed sponsorship money from Louis de Poortere carpets, Diners Club International and two other sources. In 1985 at Portland, he made an attempt in Indycars with the Theodore chassis entered by Ensign Racing, but his engine gave up after just 29 laps. He continued to race in touring car events in his native Brazil.