A lap around Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez (Mexico City) with Roberto Gonzalez

 by Jose Arrambide
October 12, 2004

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I know the next race is in Surfers Paradise, but being a Mexican I'm partial to this season's closing race, Mexico City's Grand Prix Telmex/Tecate presented by Banamex. Roberto Gonzalez was good enough to share with us his views of this track that has seen both Formula 1 and Champ Car races.

This is a track with a very high technical level and it has a lot of history. It was created for Formula 1, so it resembles the old F1 European tracks. It's very different from what we usually run. I don't think any other track on the Champ Car circuit resembles this one, except perhaps Elkhart Lake just a little bit. They are both wide tracks, but that's the only thing they have in common.

You start with a very particular straight. It's a very long straight that lets you get into 7th gear, and then you have to step down to 2nd gear to enter the first curve where you have to brake very hard.

The second curve is 90 degrees. This is a great point to pass, but you have to be very careful because it doesn't have very much grip. In my opinion this is the best part of the track to try to make a pass, either on the start or while battling with someone.

The next curve is to the left. It's kind of a U-turn. There is not a lot of grip, so acceleration is the key to this curve. You have to accelerate as soon as possible because of the straight that follows. This is also a great passing point.

Then you get to a curve that goes to the left. You enter this turn at a high speed. When you have just entered this curve you have to take down a couple of gears, then the curve takes you to the right. You have to brake as little as possible, trying not to slow down the car too much. Once you have entered this curve you hit the brakes very hard while going down two more gears. You need to have the car in the exact position because, if not, it's very possible you will need to brake more than you need.

In the next curve the most important part is the braking. You are running on a very short straight. Before entering the curve you have to brake very late and as little as possible. If you brake too much you'll get understeer.

Just as you get out of this curve, you'll enter the next curve. It goes to the left. The car makes a very high jump in this curve. You tend to lose the back part of the car. The idea here is to start the curve in 2nd gear and start accelerating as soon as possible.

The next curve is to the right and is very wide. At first glance it looks like it has different lines, but in reality there is only one. You have to enter this curve very early and get to the inside part of the track. You need the grip of the inside part, and you need to play with the accelerator. If you don't enter correctly, your car goes to the outside part and you lose a lot of time.

Then you get to a straight and then to the different esses. The first one is to the left. It has only one line, and you can't pass on this one. You need to be very focused on the rest of the esses. A mistake on this one and you will pay for it in the rest of the esses. The trick here is to accelerate more and more while going through the esses.

The second S is not a very big challenge.

In the third S, you get up one gear just entering this part. You tend to lose grip a little bit on the front part of the car. But then the car jumps a little bit and you lose the back part of the car. The trick here is to try to go as fast as you can. You push the accelerator very hard. Last year, I could do it only one time, but it's fundamental to do it on a consistent basis.

In the next curve, the fourth S is to the right. Here you try to go flat, and you fight a little bit with your brakes.

The fifth and last S is a very fast curve. It's where Michael Andretti crashed the first year Champ Car ran here. It's very easy to lose the car there.

Then you enter the baseball stadium. You are running in 7th gear and then you have to brake very hard. It's very easy to make a mistake or to block the tires.

Then you get to the next curve where the track material changes to concrete. The car has less grip on this material. The braking is the most important part of this curve. Last year I was losing my brakes and this was the part where I suffered the most.

The next curve is a 90 degree curve. It's to the right and not a big challenge.

But then the next part of the track is very exciting. Traction and grip play a very important part here. You go through the stadium stands. It's just overwhelming to go through the stands filled with 60,000 spectators to your left and right.

Then you get to the last curve which is the slowest curve of the track. But then you get to the main straight, and you're ready to do it again and again.

With this track you need to decide with your crew what is the most important part of the track. Then you work with the car to excel in that part, even if it means not performing great in other parts.

So there you have it, a lap with Roberto Gonzalez, driver of PKV Racing.

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