Former F1 pilot, and current Audi WEC and Formula E driver, Lucas di Grassi
has become the latest name to sign up for Felipe Massa's traditional end-of-season karting extravaganza, joining a host of other Brazilian stars.
di Grassi, who endured a single season in the top flight with Virgin Racing, is also a former winner of the Desafio Internacional das Estrelas which, this time around, will take place in the middle of January, rather than in its usual December slot. Appearing in seven of the previous eight events, the former F3 and GP2 frontrunner has enviable record with six podiums to add to his overall success in 2010.
"It's a very nice way that Felipe closes the season in style, although the event, which happened before in December, is to be held in January this time,” di Grassi told audisfera.com.br
, “The challenge for us is really a milestone, like a New Year's Eve of the competitive season - it marks the end of one season and the beginning of another.”
Despite the karts used being a far cry from their usual mounts, the drivers – who are drawn from a wide variety of categories around the world – can't help but give in to their base instincts.
"The concept is a joke between friends, as colleagues of a company who meet later in the year for a battery kart rental,” he smiled, “But we live here the competition, and it gets harder to leave competitiveness aside when we are sat in the kart.”
The event will also mark Audi's first appearance as a sponsor, having decided to follow di Grassi on his return home.
"Audi Sport has worked with Lucas in the WEC and the last three years he has done many jobs with us in the Brazilian market,” Audi Brazil's Jonas Calson confirmed, “In 2014, we want to continue working with him and be present in the events and activities that he performs in the domestic market. Lucas, as a brand ambassador for Audi, is very important, especially for our audience. Having a Brazilian driver in the troop of riders from Audi Sport is a unique and exclusive opportunity.”
The ninth Desafio Internacional das Estrelas takes place over 10-12 January at the Beto Carrero World Karting in the town of Penha. As well as Massa, di Grassi will find himself up against F1 veterans Rubens Barrrichello, Antonio Pizzonia and Luciano Buti, IndyCar stars Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan and Bia Figuereido and rising stars such as Felipe Nasr and Pietro Fittipaldi.