Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Suzane Carvalho

Suzane Carvalho is a former winner of the South American Formula Three Championship (B class), in 1992.

She got quite a late start in motorsport, only taking it up in 1989 when she was 26. Previously, she had been an actress and model, starting out as a child model, and had achieved some fame and notoriety in her home country of Brazil.

Despite its unorthodox timescale, her racing career progressed in the normal way, beginning with karting, then junior single-seaters in the form of Formula 1600 in 1990. She did some of her race training in Canada, and also competed in Formula 2000 there.

She took her first steps in Formula 3 in 1991, with a part-season in the SudAm championship. In 1992, she contested the full SudAm F3 series for the first time, and won the B class on her first attempt.
As a result, she was invited to test a Larrousse Formula One car, but she did not have the funding to do so. This would have made her one of a very small and select group of women who have driven current F1 machinery.

She carried on in F3, although results are proving hard to find. Photos exist of her and Maria Cristina Rosito posing next to a Formula Chevrolet car in 1993, which suggests that they raced each other at some point that year. She did at least some of the SudAm championship in 1994, and one or more races in 1997. Throughout her single-seater career, she was usually short of money and 1992 was the only full F3 season she completed.

As well as F3, she took advantage of any opportunity to race. Between 1993 and 1997, she did four Mil Milhas races at Interlagos, with a best finish of third in 1993. She was driving a Stock Car-spec Opala. Her second attempt, in 1994, she was ninth, driving a Japamovel with a Brazilian-Japanese team. She sat the race out in 1995, but returned in 1996, driving an Aldee TTE prototype as part of an all-female team, with Delfina Frers and Marisa Panagopulo. They did not finish. In 1997, she drove the Aldee to eighth place, with Delfina Frers.

In 1995, she began racing touring cars seriously. She raced in the Copa de Damas women’s championship in Argentina, winning three times. However, her achievements were not fully recognised as she was not eligible for the championship, for some reason.

The following season, she tackled mixed competition, in the Carioca Touring Car Championship. Her first year in the series consisted of four races, three of which she won. Her first full season, in 1997, was not such an immediate success. She earned one pole position and was often near the front, but she had to contend with some very “physical” driving from her male rivals, and incurred some DNFs. Her car for this part of her career was usually a Nissan Sentra.

In 1998, she came to the UK to take part in Formula Palmer Audi and the Vauxhall Vectra Challenge. Her FPA season consisted of four races, and she managed to pick up a few points. She was 25th in the championship. That year’s winner was Justin Wilson.

Suzane’s own career highlight happened in 1999. She was invited to the USA to race in the Indy Lights Panamericana series, and was able to put together a budget for five races, mostly in Mexico. For the next year, she picked up sponsorship from UOL, and had a best finish of second.

Sadly, she did not get her big break in American oval racing, and returned to Brazil for the 2001 season. That year, she was a racewinner in the Campeonato Brasileiro Ford Fiesta Femenino, a women-only one-make series for the Ford Fiesta. She battled with Maria Cristina Rosito throughout the season, but Maria emerged as the victor.

Her last major competitive activity was four rounds of the Brazilian Clio Cup in 2002, although she did come out of retirement for a guest appearance in one round of the 2011 Sud-Am F3 championship. She did two races at Jacaperaguá, earning a class win and third, and a seventh and sixth place overall.

Since then, Suzane has worked on establishing her own driving school, for both driving and motorcycle riding. She also works as an automotive journalist and broadcaster, often testing new cars, on screen and in print.

(Image source unknown)

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