While the majority of sport fans and media members of the world have been
concentrating on the soccer World Cup, the fans that have been keeping up with
racing, and more specifically with Champ Car, canít complain - the last couple of
weeks have been anything but boring.
The shuffling of drivers and the on track drama of the Portland and Cleveland
races have been discussed in detail by AutoRacing1.com, but thereís one aspect I
want to concentrate on. With the possibility of Mario Dominguez ending up without
a seat or ending up in one of the uncompetitive teams,
many believe will result in a dramatic decrease in the Mexico City
race attendance. So I wonder, do Mexican fans need
Mexican drivers to be interested in Champ Car or any kind of racing for that
During the 60s Mexico City hosted a few non paying points Formula 1 races (the
practice of staging non paying points races ended in the 70s). Formula 1
returned to Mexico City in the 80s, when the ďAutodromo Hermanos RodriguezĒ
hosted official Formula 1 races from 1987 until 1992. Every one of those races
were a sellout and a financial success despite the fact that no Mexican had run
in F1 since 1981 (Hector Rebaque). If F1 didnít need Mexican drivers then
why would Champ Car?
National pride is very evident in Mexico Mark Cipolloni/AutoRacing1.com
AutoRacing1.com has stated many times that the series needs to sell the drivers to
the public. Ask our editor Mark Cipolloni about it and he will explain in
detail why the drivers should be the real stars. While this has yet to
happen in the U.S., in Mexico Champ Car (and CART before them) was very successful
at turning drivers into stars, as a matter of fact they turned Mexican drivers
practically into national heroes. Every race was broadcast live on network
TV, the two Mexican races were sold-out events, every Mexican including non racing
fans knew who Adrian Fernandez, Michel Jourdain Jr. and Mario Dominguez were, they
couldn't get enough of them.
Ironically, what made Champ Car so popular in Mexico is now also to blame for its
present decline. They did such a great job of selling the Mexican drivers to
the public that they forgot to sell the other drivers and the series itself, and
as successful as this plan was, its biggest flaw is that it only works if you
have Mexican drivers as front-runners. There is no backup plan.
What if Mario loses his seat at Dale Coyne Racing and canít get another one?
What if Mario gets to keep his seat but canít get any spectacular results? The
most probable outcome is that the Mexico City event will yet again have declining
attendance. The Mexican media will continue to cover less and less of the
series, and fans will keep losing interest until a new Adrian Fernandez or Michel
Jourdain Jr. comes along.
Donít get me wrong, making heroes out of Mexican drivers was a great marketing
tool for Champ Car in Mexico, but you canít have all your eggs in only one basket.
Champ Car should have taken advantage of the big success they had in the country
to start selling the benefits of the series to the fans and sponsors. They
should have invested a little bit so they wouldnít have to rely on Mexican drivers
so much. F1 proved you donít need them to have successful races in the
country, but Champ Car does not command the kind of respect in the international
community like F1 does, and Champ Car does very little marketing of its own in
Champ Car was most successful in Mexico when it had
a team of people led by Joe Heitzler looking after its interests and living in
Mexico City. Now Joe and his team are gone and Champ Car's success in Mexico
has gone right down the tubes. So much for Champ Car's NAFTA model.
With fully staffed offices in Canada and Mexico, NASCAR is marching right in and
stealing it out from under their noses.
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