Andre Ribeiro, a one-time Indianapolis 500 starter who gave Honda its first INDYCAR SERIES victory and later drove for Team Penske, has died of cancer in his native Brazil. He was 55.
Born in Sao Paulo, Ribeiro was a key member of a Brazilian revolution of drivers in the top level of North American open-wheel racing. His rookie class at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1995 included fellow countrymen Gil de Ferran and Christian Fittipaldi, and they helped set the stage for Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Bruno Junqueira and Cristiano da Matta, among others, to race in North America.
Ribeiro’s four seasons in CART were highlighted by a 1995 victory from the pole at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which was Honda’s first win in the sport. That was the first of his three victories for with Tasman Motorsports, the team that brought him to the U.S. through Indy Lights.
He won four races as an Indy Lights rookie in 1994, finishing second in the standings to teammate Steve Robertson and one position ahead of Greg Moore, who went on to win five CART races.
Ribeiro started 12th and finished 18th in the 1995 Indianapolis 500 in the No. 31 LCI International Reynard/Honda in his only start in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
In 1996, Ribeiro scored a popular victory in CART’s first race in Brazil. Ribeiro held off Al Unser Jr. by two seconds to capture the second of his three career victories. He added another victory later that season at Michigan International Speedway, edging Bryan Herta. That was Ribeiro’s best season, finishing 11th in the standings after leading 166 laps.
Ribeiro joined Roger Penske’s organization for CART’s 1998 season, which was his last in the sport after 68 career starts. He retired at the end of the year at age 32.
Ribeiro spent the next chapter of his life leading a group of auto dealerships owned by Penske in Sao Paulo.