THE boys from Brazil covered themselves in glory at the 11th annual Honda Indy 300 – and the men, women and children of the Gold Coast, Australia and the world turned out in record-shattering force to cheer them on.
Defying the doom and gloom of the terror attacks in the US and the Ansett collapse, and revelling in postcardperfect Gold Coast weather, 110,187 people flocked to Indy to see baby-faced Brazilian Cristiano da Matta take the chequered flag and emotional compatriot Gil de Ferran claim the world championship.
The massive last-day turnout helped the event set a new record four-day attendance of 286,610 people, eclipsing the previous year’s 10th anniversary crowd of 269,890.
Moments after crossing the finish line to claim his second successive Indy world championship, de Ferran was overtaken by his emotions.
Overcome with the enormity of his achievement, and mentally and physically exhausted after one of the most gruelling Gold Coast Indy races ever, de Ferran broke down as he took a congratulatory mobile phone call from his wife, Angela, back home in Florida.
Surrounded by his ecstatic team, the 33-year-old Brazilian cut an emotional figure as he sat hunched on the edge of his car, tears streaming down his face. He had just become only the fourth man in Indy racing history to win back-to-back championships.
His hard-fought fourth placing in the 11th annual Honda Indy 300 was enough to secure him the prestige Vanderbilt Cup and the $US1 million bonus prize.