What It’s Like To Cruise 1,000 Miles Of Brazilian Mountains And Coastline
Photography by Alvaro Pinzón
Sometimes doing two things at the same time can be a stressful stretching of your limits, however when you are an automotive photojournalist sometimes you might seek this kind of multitasking. I’ve been used to photographing the goings on in the vintage car scene in South America, but being on my side of the lens means I rarely get to participate in the activities I document—restorations, rallies, shows, telling a single car’s story—but I had the chance to fix that recently when I embarked on the 1,000-mile-long rally called the 1000 Milhas Históricas Brasileiras. I was the co-driver, navigator, and of course photographer for our team’s entry: an ex-Emerson Fittipaldi Renault 8.
Let’s start from the beginning. Back in June I was living in Sao Paulo, Brazil, spending some time working with my friend’s at Universo Marx when my friend Mauricio surprised me with the announcement of their participation in 1000 Milhas. A greater surprise came shortly after when I was listed as the copilot. This is my retelling of that unforgettable adventure.
The first day started with our departure from Sao Paulo in the early hours of the morning. Being a regularity rally, each car was sent off at a specific time (the idea in regularity racing more or less is to arrive at different points along the way at the precise times stated in the navigation book), and my task required a lot of attention to be spent on the maps in order to get us out of the tangle of traffic in Sao Paolo.
Once we’d extricated ourselves and our rather bright Renault from the urban center, we began tracing the route going down south, where we found an exceptionally entertaining road (the kind with many of the “S” and “Caution” signs on the side of it, you know what I mean) that ran for 460km to the city of Curitiba in the southern side of the country. This was one of the most vertiginous days of the event, seeing as we’d climbed and descended thousands of cumulative meters of elevation changes along the way. The most exciting scene from this roller coaster ride came when we went side by side with a ’59 Cadillac Coupe DeVille driven by none other than the legendary Nelson Piquet himself—my friend Mauricio Marx in the driver’s seat was in complete ecstasy as we were sorting out the twisty roads of the Sierras and overtaking Nelson in a spirited dual between the stately Cadillac and our tiny Renault R8!
On the second day, our route saw us doing some more timed stages than we had on the first as we headed toward the coastline and the Atlantic. Making our way further south, we stopped for a great lunch at Yacht Club Caiobá to eat with an ocean view before the 42 cars in the rally were loaded up onto a ferry to cross over to the coastal city of Guaratuba. From there we went back inland, away from the beautiful Brazilian beaches and into the winding roads of the Sierras once more, until finally arriving to the day’s final destination: the city of Blumenau.
The following day saw us starting off with a comparatively intense and tight timed stage with narrow and confusing turns which made it very difficult to follow on time, and we missed some checkpoints which left us behind of some of the other cars in the rankings. The landscapes were wild here, but seeing as my other job was taking precedence at the time I had only a few scarce moments to take the camera out and put the maps down. We eventually returned to the coast again and passed through the beautiful city of Florianópolis, stopping at a resort to have lunch before going back out to the R8 for a couple more stages until we started to climb the Serra do Rio do Rastro, which ranks as one of the most beautiful places I’ve had the privilege of seeing by car, and as we went up the foggy ascent we were robbed of a few views until we reached the top and it opened up to us.
The flora and fauna both deserved some attention, and with a bunch of coatis (sort of like your garden variety raccoons, but a little wilder if you ask me) hanging around the cars we just stopped to admire the beautiful nature around us before we hopped back in the Renualt for a few more kilometers. At this point our R8 started to lose some power that wasn’t attributable to altitude alone, and at times we ran into some electric issues with the starter motor, but we managed to keep it going until we reached our day’s last stop in the small town of São Joaquim.
On our fourth and final day of the 1000 Milhas, we started early in the morning, traveling through the beautiful landscapes filled with fog pierced by the rising sun with some of our friends in a Porsche on our tail as we made our way into the Vale dos Vinhedos, Brazil’s wine country. After a short lunch break in a vineyard restaurant, we went back to the road with a few more timed stages. One was exceptionally difficult, seeing as we ran out of gasoline with traffic in front and behind us! Fortunately we were going along a downhill mountain road at the time so we just let the car coast until we were fortunate enough to find a gas station at the bottom, at this point we had to bump the car to get it started and we lost a few minutes in doing so. All was well though, and we made it to Gramado, the day’s last stop. A few European-style buildings greeted us at the finish line at the Wish Serrano hotel, as well as the second prize in the 1960s category!
After doing more than 1,000 miles through the south of the country, I can say that cruising around Brazil in this car was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had in South America, and it’s one of many. Thanks to Mauricio Marx and the MG Club Do Brazil for the invitation.