Ana Beatriz at the 2011 Indianapolis 500 - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo
Andretti Autosport is pulling out all the stops for the 96th Indianapolis 500 this May.
In addition to a fourth Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone entry for Sebastian Saavedra, who drives for AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport in the Firestone Indy Lights Championship, the team has signed Ana Beatriz to pilot the No. 25 Team Ipiranga Chevrolet for both the Sao Paulo, Brazil round in late April and at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this May.
The 27-year-old Beatriz drives a fourth Andretti Autosport Chevy-powered car in her native Brazil, joining teammates Marco Andretti, James Hinchchliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Bia, as she's known, had a test session with the team in March at Sebring International Raceway that sealed the deal. Beatriz' effort has operational support from Conquest Racing.
Ipiranga is one of Brazil's iconic petroleum and convenience retail companies.
Bia has 20 previous starts in the IZOD IndyCar Series with a career best finish of 11th at Toronto last year. She made her first Indy car start in 2010 at the Sao Paulo race and she's the first Brazilian woman to start the Indianapolis 500, where she has twice finished 21st.
Coming up through the Brazilian karting and open wheel ranks before she entered the Firestone Indy Lights Championship in 2008, Bia is the first woman to win in Indy Lights, earning a victory at Nashville in 2008. She secured her second win a year later on the tiny Iowa Speedway oval.
"I've been watching Bia for a few years," noted Michael Andretti, chairman, president and CEO of Andretti Autosport. "She was very strong in Firestone Indy Lights and I was impressed by the pace she showed there. This opportunity is a good fit for us as a team because Brazil is an important, growing market for many of our sponsors. To have a Brazilian driver and Ipiranga come aboard with us made a lot of sense."
Beatriz considers this "the biggest opportunity I've had in INDYCAR and my career. I am very honored to be part of Michael's team for Brazil and the Indy 500," she said. "I would like to thank my management team of [former winning CART driver] Andre Ribeiro and Augusto Cesario, for putting this deal together with Michael (Andretti), John Lopes and JF Thormann. I am very happy to have Ipiranga supporting me again for these races."