Presentable, articulate and displaying a mature approach to racing from his early days, Mauricio had a great deal of skill as well. A Formula Ford champion in 1981 in his native Brazil, Gugelmin followed his friend and ex-karting rival Ayrton Senna to Europe, initially taking the same route to the top - FF1600 and FF2000, then Formula 3 with West Surrey Racing in 1985. Fast, safe and above all consistent, Mauricio took the title, and rounded off the season, and his F3 career, with a win in the prestigious Macau GP.
Gugelmin moved into F3000 with West Surrey Racing for 1986, enduring a frustrating year fraught with problems, but his fortunes improved the following season. Now running a works Ralt-Honda with fellow Brazilian Roberto Moreno, he won the opening round at Silverstone, but a spate of mid-season non-finishes left him fourth in the points at season's end.
Mauricio then joined the Leyton House March team and was happy to remain with them for four seasons in which he experienced the highs (third place in Brazil in 1989) and lows (a run of non-qualifications in 1990 when the car's sensitive chassis proved nearly impossible to set up) of F1. By the end of 1991 the whole organisation was crumbling after 18 months of internal dissent and personnel changes, and Gugelmin took his leave to join his old mentor Ian Phillips at Jordan. The year was a debacle for the team as they struggled with the Yamaha engine, but Mauricio earned their respect by never giving less than his best.
Without a drive for 1993, Gugelmin made his Indy Car debut in the last three races of the season, and while he enjoyed little success he showed enough promise to decide that this was where his racing future now lay.
Despite a minimal budget, he joined Ganassi Racing in a team run quite separately from that of star driver Michael Andretti. The lack of a helping hand from an experienced team-mate and the absence of shared technical feedback (though there was some cross-fertilisation by mid-season) no doubt frustrated the Brazilian, who must have been pleased to out-qualify his illustrious peer on more than one occasion.
In 1995 Mauricio moved to the small but promising PacWest Racing Group and really got moving with a career-best second place in the season-opener in Miami. Crucially this cemented his sponsorship for the year, and allowed him to face the season with renewed confidence. At Indianapolis Mauricio showed just how well he had adapted to oval racing, leading the most laps in the race before handling problems caused him to fade to sixth at the finish. Thereafter his form was patchy, but he bounced back at Laguna Seca with a strong third place.
Without doubt one of the most popular drivers in the series, Gugelmin has since remained a fixture with Bruce McCaw's Californian-based team. Thus far his best season Stateside was in 1997, when the Brazilian posted his only CART victory to date at Vancouver and finished fourth in the championship.