Mexican sponsors have been very important
to the survival of the Champ Car series, either sponsoring a car or a
specific event. Companies like Cerveceria Cuahtemoc (Tecate), TELMEX,
Gigante, Herdez and Cerveceria Modelo (Corona) are helping in the effort
to return the series to its former glory days. This year there is a new
kid in town, Nextel Mexico, and AutoRacing1.com had the opportunity to
talk to them, especially with Carlos Ortega, “Communications Director”
of the group, so Autoracing1 readers can get to know more about the
Nextel Racing Team.
Talking to Carlos we found out that Nextel Racing Team is not a
one-time, one-year effort. They have cars in 4 different categories.
They have 3 different cars in the Mexican Formula Renault, sponsoring 3
Mexican drivers, Homero Richards (which by the way is last year's
champion), Fernando Iriarte and Hugo Olivera; they have 2 different cars
in the Mexican Cup Clio, sponsoring 2 Mexican drivers, Horacio Richards
and Leslie Gonzalez (the only female driver in this category); 2
different cars in the Mexican rally circuit where they sponsor pilot
Carlos Tejeda and his copilot Hugo Rios, and pilot Alejandro Pineda and
his copilot Javier Merino; and of course the Champ Car driven by Mexican
driver Roberto Gonzalez. 7 cars in 3 different Mexican categories and 1
car in an international category is something to brag about taking into
consideration that Nextel Mexico has a short history in the racing
They began their involvement in the racing world 4 years ago by
sponsoring a car in the Mexican Formula 3. When Formula 3 was reborn as
Formula Renault 2 years ago Nextel decided to cosponsor the Herdez cars
in the Formula Renault and the Cup Clio (which is the support series for
the Formula Renault),. Last year they had a small sponsorship of Mario
Dominguez’s Champ Car, and they made the arrangements to get Roberto
Gonzalez on the 2nd Herdez car in the Mexico City race last year. But 2004 has
proven to be their awakening year. They decided to end their
relationship with Herdez Competition in the Formula Renault and Cup Clio
to create their own team Nextel Racing Team, and decided to expand their
efforts by adding cars in the Mexican Rally and Champ Car.
Nextel Mexican Racing drivers
We wanted to know why Nextel decided to
expand so quickly their Nextel Racing Team operations. Carlos explained
to us that there are two main reasons for this. The first one is that
Nextel Mexico views racing as a great analogy for their business, “What
we sell is speed Jose, we promise our customers the fastest way to keep
in touch in the business world, and what a better way to reinforce this
than by sponsoring racing cars,” Ortega said. The second reason was the
profile of their customers, “Our main customers are companies, we have
mainly corporative accounts, and our services are mainly used by
executives. We have found that a high percentage of these customers are
Because of their involvement with Herdez Competition in the Mexican
categories they decided to do a one race effort in 2003 with Herdez
Competition, sponsoring Gonzalez in the Mexico City Champ Car race.
After all of the exposure they got out of that race, they decided to
look for a permanent ride for Gonzalez for 2004. They had talks with
most of the Champ Cars teams, but they saw in PKV Racing the best option
for their main objective, to improve Gonzalez's skills in a short time, so
he can start battling for the top positions next year. They are betting
on Jimmy Vasser to do with Roberto what he did for Michel Jourdain Jr...
Their next step was to talk with NII Holdings (they control Nextel in
Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Peru) so they could sponsor the second PKV
Racing car driven by Jimmy Vasser.
We asked Carlos to explain why they decided to enter Champ Car in a very
difficult time for the series, just after the bankruptcy and subsequent
court battle, and the air was full of rumors of the death of the series.
“We had no doubt in our minds that the series was going to survive.
After getting to know Kevin Kalkhoven we knew that the series was in
very good hands, and because Kevin is also one of the owners of PKV, we
knew the team was here to stay. Besides, Champ Car is the only
international series with great Mexican drivers, so it was a no-brainer
I also wanted to know why the PKV cars only have the Nextel logo for the
races outside of the US, but in the US they have the NII logo. He
explained to us that although Nextel is a household name in the US, NII
is not recognized yet by the public, so this is a way for the holding
company to get exposure in the US, “but you can count on seeing the
Nextel logos this weekend in Toronto” Carlos said.
We also wanted to know if their experience so far with Champ Car has
been a good one or a disappointing one. “We are very happy with how
things have been this year; Roberto is driving very well and is
improving a little bit faster than we expected. His last race he
was in 7th place and we see this as a sign of things to come.
We also asked Carlos to tell us if they got more out of their Mexican
categories or out of Champ Cars and he explained to us that they don’t
see it that way. “We see both sponsoring strategies as complementing
each other, by having a car in Champ Cars we got national exposure by
the media, but while sponsoring Mexican Categories we get regional
exposure in every race, that way we work together with our different
Are you here to stay in the racing world; particularly are you here to
stay in Champ Car and the 3 Mexican categories, we asked Carlos? “We are
here to stay as long as the end results are good for us. This year has
been great for the Nextel Racing Team. We have had a lot of exposure in
all 4 categories thanks to the results of our drivers If things continue
like this we will continue to sponsor the 3 Mexican categories and the
Champ Car effort. Things are looking great for Nextel Racing and we want
this to continue for many years.”
We also wanted to know if they are going to keep sponsoring only Mexican
drivers or they are looking to sponsor different nationality drivers.
“As I told you we want to have great results in our different
categories, and as long as we keep getting great results from Mexican
drivers we will not look for drivers outside of Mexico, we want to
support our local boys.”
At the end of the interview Carlos told us to keep an eye on Homero
Richards, as he is their biggest hope for the future, and said that this
will be a very busy weekend for Nextel Racing Team, all of their cars
will be racing somewhere. We left the interview knowing that this team
is here to stay and will keep getting great results in their racing efforts.
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