On Tuesday, news came that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez passed away at age 58. His loss could have widespread ramifications across the motorsports world, as the Venezuelan government has supported several of its native drivers’ racing careers.
In Formula 1, Pastor Maldonado (right) has raced with the support of the Venezuelan government for nearly a decade. The PDVSA signage has been prominent aboard his Williams F1 car since his 2011 debut; Maldonado of course stunned the establishment with his win in the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix.
PDVSA has also supported IndyCar’s E.J. Viso, now of Andretti Autosport and formerly with KV Racing Technology and HVM Racing. A year ago Viso’s car displayed CITGO signage but had been PDVSA in all years prior. Viso has also launched a “Team Viso Venezuela” initiative to support young drivers in the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, the support ranks to the IndyCar series.
Besides Viso, Milka Duno also raced in IndyCar with CITGO support, but a lack of pace led to her withdrawal from the series at the end of 2010. In 2008 and 2009, both Viso and Duno each made the Indianapolis 500 starting field.
Countless others have competed in sports car racing with that level of support. It remains to be seen how his death will impact the amount of funding applied to motorsports.