For the driver with the longest name in IndyCar, 2013 has been long on flights to and from Brazil and short on certainty for her future in the series.
In 2013, Ana Beatriz Caselato Gomes de Figueiredo, better known as “Bia,” has found herself in involved in musical racing chairs at Dale Coyne Racing, where she splits time in Coyne’s second car with Pippa Mann and Mike Conway.
It’s been an adjustment after Bia’s successful tenure in the developmental leagues of Brazil where she raced in karting, Formula Renault Brasil and Formula 3 Sul-Americana. She came to the U.S. in 2008 to race in Firestone Indy Lights.
Bia finished third in the FIL championship in 2008 with seven podium finishes including a win at Nashville. In 2009 Bia finished eighth in the FIL championship with two podiums, including a win at Iowa Speedway.
In 2010 she moved up to IndyCar, racing four times with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing with a best finish of 13th in season opener on Brazil street circuit. In 2011 Raced a full season with DRR, missing only Barber with an injured wrist.
The next year, 2012, however, was a struggle, with only two races with Andretti Autosport. So far in 2013, Bia has raced seven times. Four of those races (St. Petersburg, Barber, Brazil and Iowa) ended due to mechanical failures.
“It’s always fun to have a car that lets you past people,” said Bia of her Indy 500 run. “I wish I would have had a longer sixth gear. Sometimes I got on the rev limiter. But it was fun to drive. I think we missed a little bit on pit stops, unfortunately, on green flag stops so you pass some people and then suddenly you have to pass them again and work work work.
"I thought we had, for sure we had a top 8 car, but you’ve got to be perfect there, especially this year where a lot of people finished and there weren’t may DNFs. I was happy with what we got at the end of the day, but with the car we had we should have been better, position-wise"
Heading into this season, Bia parted with her long-time manager Andre Ribeiro, which caused her to take on more responsibility for finding her own sponsorship. Bia’s main sponsor in 2013 is Ipiranga, a Brazilian company that works in the area of refining and distributing oil, as well as petrochemicals and chemicals.
I learned a lot with Andre,” she said. “He was my manager until this year. He was amazing guy to do it (pursue sponsorship) and I learned a lot from him. It’s still difficult. I have some new people helping me out from Brazil and here in the U.S. I would love to have some American sponsors too. It’s definitely a challenge. I’m a driver, and it is very difficult to focus on business, business, business … and then suddenly you got to be in the car like the other (full-time) guys who have been running forever and, like, click, do the racing thing. I felt very, very lost when I came back (after a two-race season in 2012). I’m just kind of recovering race after race.”
Today, Bia finds herself in a fluid situation, not sure if she will be driving again until relatively soon before her next race. The next IndyCar race at Pocono is six days away and the driver for Coyne’s second car has yet to be confirmed. Justin Wilson has a full-season schedule in Coyne’s first car.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen so I keep working and running more races and it could be very busy or not, it really depends,” said Bia. “Of course I make myself available to Dale and I’m happy to be a driver and I love to be in the car. Of course he needs to sponsors to run the team and I understand that. We’ll be working for more opportunities and if something shows up I’ll be ready.
"It’s not ideal. I’d love to be running a full season to carry the momentum. Sometimes the car is really good in one race and not the other, and sometimes you’re really good in the race and the engine breaks, so I’m just hoping for each new opportunity. Somehow we haven’t been very lucky this year so we keep working on it.”
Bia said she's always been an open-wheel driver and her sponsors have always seemed to prefer open-wheel cars, but she's willing to listen to offers from any form of racing in the U.S. She does have prospects in Brazil where is he is more well known and recognized, but would prefer to stay in the U.S.
“I’d like to be still driving in America and I’d be open to those opportunities before going back to Brazil,” Bia said, “because as soon as you go back there and race there it’s hard to come back. So I feel I have great opportunities in Brazil to do that one day, and I am glad I have those opportunities, but I am still kind of still fighting to be driving in America what I love to do be doing.”