Mexico's forgotten racing heroes

 by Jose Arrambide
April 27, 2004

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Pedro (left) and Ricardo Rodriguez

Every year just before the Monterrey Grand Prix and then just before the Mexican Grand Prix, the Mexican media likes to go back in time and pay homage to all of the Mexican heroes of motorsports.  They talk about the first F1 drivers, Ricardo and Pedro Rodriguez (The track in Mexico City is named after them).  They talk about Moises Solana, who was at the same time an F1 driver and also a Jai-Alai player (he was considered the best Jai-Alai player in Miami, Florida were he played professionally).

Pedro Rodriguez leads at Spa in his BRM

When they talk about the Champ Car drivers they talk about Adrian Fernandez and how he opened the doors for every other Mexican driver while becoming the first Mexican driver to run a complete season in Champ Cars and the first Mexican to win a Champ Car race.

The problem is that Adrian wasn't the first Mexican driver to run a complete season and wasn't the first Mexican to win a race in Champ Cars.

It was 1981 when the 19 year old young driver from Monterrey, Mexico, Josele Garza, became the youngest driver to drive a Champ Car, the youngest driver to be at the Indy 500 with 19 years 70 days, the first and only Mexican to be the rookie of the year at the Indy 500 and he became the first Mexican driver to race a whole season.  The first Mexican drivers were Michel Jourdain Senior (not a Mexican by birth but he considers himself Mexican because he spent most of his life there) and Daniel Muiz in 1980, but it was a one race deal for the Mexican Grand Prix of 1980.

Actually Josele Garza is not the only Mexican to get the rookie of the year at Indy. Bernard Jourdain (technically not a Mexican by birth), brother of Michel Sr., was co-rookie of the year (with Scott Pruett) in 1989.  Bernard Jourdain also ran a full season in 1989 in CART, so actually Adrian Fernandez was the third Mexican to do that.

Josele Garza

He ran from 1981 to 1987, for Garza Racing, Schlitz Gusto and Machinist Unions. Although Josele was never a contender he wasn't a backmarker either, his best season was 1987 when he finished 11th in the championship. 

In 1986 he was in 7th place of the championship when he had a horrible accident in Mid-Ohio and missed the last races of the year, ending up 14th place of the championship. His best race was the 1981 Indy 500 where he qualified in 6th place and was the leader from lap 126 till 132, unfortunately he crashed on lap 138.

Hector Rebaque

Rebaque drove for the Brabham F1 team in early 80's

In 1982 ex F1 driver Hector Alonso Rebaque was hired by Forsythe Racing to run the complete 1982 season.  He won at Elkhart Lake, becoming the first Mexican driver to win a Champ Car race. 

Unfortunately he had a terrible accident 2 weeks later in the Milwaukee Mile, he crashes against the wall and lost his memory for a few hours.  He decided to go back to F1 arguing that ovals were very dangerous.

Although Adrian had a lot to do with Mexicans having a chance in Champ Cars, Josele Garza and Hector Alonso Rebaque were the real drivers to open the doors to the Mexican drivers, including Adrian in 1993. It is a crime that the media forgets these 2 great drivers, it's sad to see that Josele`s hometown has its own Champ Car race but forgets its hero.  It's sad to see magazines and newspapers in Monterrey giving Roberto Gonzalez credit for being the first Monterrey native to run in Champ Cars.

Josele, Hector, wherever you are, thank you.


Hector Rebaque (second left) stands with current Mexican drivers Mario Dominguez, Michel Jourdain and Adrian Fernandez during practice for the CART Motorola 220, round 12 of the CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams) Fed Ex Championship Series, at the Road America circuit on August 17, 2002 in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

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