A1 Team Brazil is shaping up for a strong assault on the second season of the nation versus nation contest, with a wealth of young talent on-board to drive it up the grid.

Christiano 'Tuka' Rocha, Ruben Carrapatoso, Alexandre 'Xandi' Negrao and Raphael Matos have all joined the squad for 2006-07, after impressing team principal Emerson Fittipaldi during testing at Silverstone at the end of last month. It is a promising and dynamic line-up that the twice Formula One world champion hopes augurs well for a successful title challenge.

"I'm very excited at the prospect of this second season with A1 Team Brazil," Fittipaldi said. "I am looking forward to bringing together the experience we gained during the inaugural season with an incredible new crop of talented Brazilian drivers, and I think we have an excellent chance to battle for the title."

The former Indy 500 winner has long been a champion of young talent, and recently helped establish karting outfit Fittipaldi Racing to nurture potential stars of the future in tandem with ex-Formula One driver and NASCAR ace Max Papis.

"All four drivers are extremely talented," he told Crash.net, "and this is a great opportunity for them. I loved the concept of A1GP right from the beginning.

"I met (A1GP deputy chairman) Tony Teixeira in Africa two years ago. It's an extremely competitive series, but all the cars being equal gives young drivers the opportunity to really show off their talent."

Last year Team Brazil finished fourth in the championship out of some 26 countries, but the squad's performance tailed off somewhat over the course of the campaign following a bright start with a double victory in the opening round at Brands Hatch. They would not win again all season.

"I was very happy with our result last year with Nelson Piquet Jnr and my nephew Christian," Fittipaldi continued. "We learned the system of the races - it's a different system to more conventional championships.

"We also had to learn the basic set-ups for all the tracks we were racing at - all the characteristics of the different circuits, their surface, grip, ondulation and bumps."

Turning his attentions to the here and now, Fittipaldi said he was confident the four drivers the team had selected would prove more than capable of at least matching the success of 12 months previously.

"We want to win the championship," he said. "It will be tough because there's a lot of competition and the other countries are all very well-prepared, but we hope we will have a good season."

Rocha will begin the season in the car, competing in the first three rounds at Zandvoort, Brno and Beijing. The 23-year-old impressed in Euroseries 3000 this year by notching up a victory and number of podium finishes, and stood in for Piquet and Fittipaldi in A1GP last season.

"I am so happy that I have been given this opportunity," he enthused. "Now I have got to do a good job and get the team off to a good start. This is everything I have dreamed of since last year and now it's coming true so I couldn't be happier. I hope I can make everyone in Brazil proud."

Carrapatoso will serve as reserve driver during the first round in the Netherlands. Although he has not raced properly since part-seasons in the Formula Three Euroseries and British Formula Renault in 2004, the 25-year-old from Sao Paolo is a former sparring partner of Fernando Alonso in karts, and is confident he can play his part.

"I would like to thank Emerson for the opportunity to represent Brazil in the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport," he said. "It will be a great pleasure for me to be a part of the Brazilian team. I hope the team can score some great results for our country, and I will be giving my all to help the team achieve victory."

GP2 star Negrao and Champcar Atlantic ace Matos will act as reserve driver in the Czech Republic and China respectively. Both said they were relishing the challenge ahead.

"I am really looking forward to Brno," Negrao said. "I want to perform well for the team and be involved throughout the season. I did half a day of testing at Silverstone in the car which was good. I really enjoyed driving it and can't wait until I get to the race weekend."

"This is a unique opportunity for me as a driver as I have been developing my career in the USA since 2002," Matos added. "The test at Silverstone was a good chance to get an idea of the car and the atmosphere of the series, and I felt very comfortable straight away.

"I really believe in the potential of A1 Team Brazil development programme, and I will be contributing as much as I can. I can't wait to drive the car in Beijing."

A decision on who drives for the team in the following races will be made after the opening three races of the season.

 

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