After two successful years with Marlboro McLaren Ford (in 1974 world champion in the legendary M23, in 1975 second behind Ferrari´s Niki Lauda) Emerson Fittipaldi surprisingly had decided to switch to the Brazilian Copersucar Ford team, that he had founded at an Interlagos based facility together with his elder brother Wilson during 1974. National pride had played an important role making this decision, the Newly Industrializing Country of Brazil competing with their twice world champion in the most challenging and technological sport in the world brought enermous prestige to the world`s fifth biggest country . While Wilson Fittipaldi had been the team`s driver in their inaugural season of 1975 Emerson took over that function to make his brother taking the role of a team principal. Sporadic starts also were made by Brazilian novice Ingo Hoffmann in 1976 and 1977. Both these years had been tough for Emerson, scoring points (the first ever one at Long Beach/California in 1976) had mixed with three non-qualifications. At that time Emerson Fittipaldi, who had scored his 14th and last Grand Prix win at Silverstone in 1975 had thought of retiring from active competition or switching back to a top performance team again before quittting the sport. But then his fighting spirit had won the game to make him stay in Brazil`s national racing car sponsored by the sugar industry of the country. At the side of coffee, sugar is Brazil`s most important export to be promoted all over the world. After Frank Williams´Politoys Ford of 1972 the Copersucar Ford was the second Grand Prix car in history to be named after it`s commercial sponsor.

Since being a world champion for the first time in 1972 at John Player Team Lotus Emerson Fittipaldi had Portuguese Domingos Piedade as a personal manager and advisor at his side. For 1978 the Fittipaldi brothers had restructured Team Copersucar. Designer John Baldwin was sacked. Team manager Jo Ramirez from Mexico, once coming to Europe as a mechanic with Ricardo and Pedro Rodriguez and later the charismatic team co-ordinator of McLaren, also had to give up his position. Both joined the US-American Shadow team later. After leaving Copersucar Ramirez critized the Fittipaldis very harshly, thinking too much of the team`s sponsor money being not available for the technical budget, but instead going directly onto the Brazilian family`s private bank accounts. The official budget of Copersucar Ford for 1978 was declared being 2 million US-$ totally for a single car entry for Emerson Fittipaldi, Hoffmann`s sporadic second car did not compete any longer to concentrate all the team`s efforts on the popular twice world champion. Peter McIntosh, a man of enormous experience in Formula One politics, had been appointed Copersucar`s new team manager. From Italy, from Ferrari, had come engineer Caliri, at the beginning of the seventies responsible for the successful 312P prototypes in the Worldchampionship of Makes followed by working for the Grand Prix cars of Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni at the side of famous Mauro Forghieri. Caliri modified the Copersucar Ford F5, looking pretty similar to the Ensign Ford MN177, and transferred it into a ground effect car with wings containing the radiators in the sidepods and lateral skirts being the 1977 Lotus Ford 78 with it`s front oil radiator the model for. It was not the most beautiful looking car of the year, but especially the handling was so good, that Emerson Fittipaldi considered as easy to drive as a Formula 2 car. In contrast to the beginning of the Copersucar team back in 1974 & 1975 , only parts and not the complete car were manufactured in Brazil. At Copersucar Fiitipaldi`s British base another world class designer had started working meanwhile, Ralph Bellamy had been resonsible for the McLaren Ford M19, the Brabham Ford BT37 and the revolutionary, but less successful Lotus Ford 76. His task was to construct Copersucar`s 1979 car following the lines of the new ground effect cars at that time very quickly installed at all teams competing in Grand Prix Racing.

Emerson Fittipald always had considered bringing Brazil`s national Grand Prix car up to the top in the business a greater sporting challenge than automatically winning in a Lotus or Ferrari. As Jack Brabham, John Surtees and Graham Hill before, Emerson Fittipaldi had been the fourth world champion establishing himself as a constructor in his own rights. After the two frustrating years of 1976 and 1977 success came back to the man, who already had won the fourth Grand Prix of his career (at Watkins Glen in 1970). An excellent second place in Jacarepagua behind Carlos Reutemann`s Michelin equipped Ferrari 312T3 in the second championship round of the year had brought back Emerson`s nationwide popularity. In Germany (Hockenheim) and Austria (Zeltweg) he finished fourth position, he scored fifth places in Holland (Zandvoort) and the USA (Watkins Glen), in Sweden (Anderstorp) he received the chequered flag on sixth place. Emerson Fittipaldi finished 9th overall in the 1978 drivers` worldchampionship with 17 points together with Ferrari`s Gilles Villeneuve, Copersucar became 7th (of totally 15 teams) in the constructors`competition also with 17 points. Things looked promising for the future, but the Copersucar Fittipaldi team never was able to repeat the 1978 results.

Klaus Ewald



Model Designation: Copersucar Ford F5 A Year: 1978 Chassis: Fiitipaldi aluminum monocoque Engine: Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 litre V8 Gearbox: Hewland FG 400 5 speed manual Tyres: Goodyear Sponsors: Copersucar (Sugar) Designers: Ralph Bellamy, Giacomo Caliri Driver: Emerson Fittipaldi


Technical exclusive images taken at the 2005 Jim Clark Revival at Hockenheim


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