The Herdez phenomenon in Mexico

 by Jose Arrambide
June 8, 2004

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Ryan Hunter-Reay in his Herdez car
Champ Car

Outside of F1 (where everyone loves Ferrari), it is very difficult to find fans following a team rather than a particular driver.  Those fans do exist in other series, but they are a special and a rare kind of fan. If you take a look at the Mexican Champ Car fan you’ll find this to be quite true.

Since the Adrian Fernandez days,  Mexican fans have been worshipping their Champ Car drivers, making them the racing equivalent of national heroes.  With the emergence of Michel Jourdain and Mario Dominguez as Mexico’s finest drivers and the addition of Rodolfo Lavin and Roberto Gonzalez a rivalry between Mexican fans has been born.

It is true that Mexican fans will support all of the Mexican drivers, but at the end of the season the fans of the Mexican driver on top of the standings will gloat to the other Mexican fans. Funny thing is that this year a new kind of Mexican fan is growing in number.  This fan supports a team, the only Mexican team in Champ Car.  I’m talking about the Herdez Competition fan.

In a country like Mexico (a third world country) it is very difficult to find many things to feel proud of compared more developed countries.  That’s why they idolize international athletes who can compete with the best in the world, especially those that have a chance of winning. This explains why they support their Champ Car drivers. Anytime one of their drivers gets a podium it’s like winning the Olympics and the World Cup altogether, it’s a matter of national pride, of national self-esteem .

But then something improbable happened, not only were there Mexican drivers but now a competitive Mexican team emerged.  Although Fernandez Racing and Herdez Competition have been around for a few years in the then CART series, their results were nothing to brag about.

The big satisfaction always came from the drivers, but everything changed when Herdez decided to fund a 2 car effort with a long-term plan to fight for the championship. Mario Dominguez and Brazilian driver Roberto “Pupo” Moreno showed that a Mexican owned team could compete with the big boys, not only did Mexico have good drivers but now they had a whole team.

The new Herdez fans were so into the team that they wanted either Mario or Roberto to get onto the podium.  It didn’t matter if Roberto was not a Mexican, he drove for a Mexican team, similar to the adoration Ferrari drivers get even when they are not Italian.   Mexican fans felt that a good showing from Roberto was a good thing for Mexico as long as he drove for a Mexican team.

Then the unprecedented happened, an American driver (a good one if I may add) , a citizen of the biggest economy of the world, of the great empire to the north, was hired by this Mexican team.  Mexico is a country where a big percentage of its population looks for jobs in the U.S.  To these new fans this meant that their beloved team was as good as any other in the world, so good that an American wanted to be on their team.

The handwriting is on the wall that Herdez fans (perhaps we should call them the Herdez tifosi) will soon rival that of any specific driver.  After Milwaukee this past weekend, many Mexican fans celebrated Ryan Hunter-Reay´s win as if a Mexican had done it.

Their team had done it, and that was the important thing.

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