CART gets a taste of tifosi passion in Mexico City

 by Mark Cipolloni
November 19, 2002

Go to our forums to discuss this article

Fans go wild when Jourdain pulls away in lead on Sunday.  How does CART take the passion witnessed in Mexico City and duplicate it elsewhere?
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Sometimes I think this politically correct world we live in has stripped our people of the passion we once knew.  Without passion we are nothing more than a bunch of stuffed shirts and lifeless robots.  If you think about it, it's passion about something that drives you to strive to accomplish great things.  I was reminded of the importance of that passion on Sunday in Mexico.

While Mexican driver Michel Jourdain was leading yesterday's CART race before his countrymen in Mexico City, I could not believe how wildly excited the crowd was and it reminded me very much like the infamous tifosi cheering for Ferrari at Monza.  Monza is special, not only for its history, but more so for its passion.  It permeates your bones.  I have not seen that much excitement at a CART/Indy Car race, since watching AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti, two heroes of American motorsport, do battle week in and week out.  It was a special time for open wheel racing in America.

I have long maintained, that in order for CART to be successful, its drivers are going to have to be heroes.  Only heroes can generate the kind of passion we saw on Sunday.  Many of the Mexican race fans are from the working class, and the Mexican drivers are heroes to those people, having attained something they can only dream of achieving. 

Similarly, many NASCAR drivers are heroes to the NASCAR fans (many of whom are fanatical about it) and Indy Car racing used to have heroes back in the days of Rose, Vukovich, Shaw, Foyt and Andretti....larger than life figures. 

Heroes don't happen over night.  Only the very best athletes in this world become heroes, and that goes for auto racing.  A wanker driver will never become a hero, much like a minor league baseball player will never become a Babe Ruth or a Mickey Mantle. 

As CART brings new blood into the series, eventually a talented superstar will emerge, a driver that can command the passion like we saw on Sunday in Mexico City.  Unfortunately drivers are too specialized today, and they don't race in multiple series like they used to, so it's difficult to determine who really has superstar talents.

That hasn't stopped NASCAR from making superstars out of its drivers.  They recognize that it's not the make of car or the paint job on the car that generates passion in their fans, it's the drivers, many of which have great personalities and who create excitement on the race track, that have become heroes to the fans of NASCAR.  Until CART, F1 or even the IRL recognize that it's the driver stupid they will suffer from mediocre TV ratings.

Sure CART, IRL and F1 can pull in a big crowd on any given race day, they have all proven that.  However, getting those people to become passionate fans of the sport who tune in on TV week in and week out, will require a wholesale change in the emphasis put on marketing their product.  The emphasis must be shifted to the driver, because in the end, that's all that really matters. 

Just give them the tools that allow their skills to shine through on the race track, a rules package that makes for close racing and exciting finishes, TV announcers who know how to convey to the fans when a driver might be doing super human things, some driver coaching on how to be fan friendly, sponsors who weave their drivers into their product line and TV and print ads, and the rest will take care of itself.

You could not go anywhere in Mexico City without seeing large billboards featuring one of the Mexican drivers, and the TV was full of news about the drivers and the race.  Mexico has a passion for its driving heroes.  The "new" CART would be well served to create that sort of passion everywhere, and it starts with a renewed focus on its drivers.

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

Go to our forums to discuss this article




Love affair in Mexico

Making sense out of Bernie/CART rumors

Changing of the guard?

Mom, apple pie, CART and....Formula1?

Why CART and Ecclestone make perfect dance partners

Miami should be a CART and ALMS kickoff party

David slays Goliath in Miami

What to make of Gurney's F1 team

Taking it to the streets, why Miami is a war zone

CART, like the Phoenix, about to rise up from the ashes

There's more than handwriting on the wall.....and here's the concrete facts

Labor Day weekend 1952...A weekend I'll never forget

Team owners show support for CART

CART still may be in cards for Villeneuve

Breaking news - No CART for Villeneuve

Bryan Herta, USA's next best chance for F1

Is Paul Ricard in CART's future?

Attendance figures, what's in a number?

Is Brands Hatch suitable for Champ Cars?

An Unappealing Appeal, George reigns in GEORGE-town

A candid conversation with Chris Pook

More than meets the eye with CART's turbo move

It's time for CART to define its own future

Key upgrades at Road America

'Back-breaking' work

The rebirth of CART

The hidden costs of Indy Car racing

CART's road and street circuits click with the fans

Is it sport, or just P.T. Barnum show-biz?

IRL debut at Fontana - a victim of friendly fire

CART's 2003 race venues #1 in the world

Meet the Gonzalez brothers

ISC is making enemies in Miami

And the 2002 CART Champion will be...

A wakeup call for CART and the IRL

Chris Pook - making all the right moves

Promoting a race - Adelaide topped them all

AUTOCOURSE is THE CART Yearbook to have

Has anyone noticed

Should CART race in Adelaide?

Remembering Bob Estes

2002 will be a critical year for Pook and for CART

Tongue-In-Cheek, we take out the crystal ball again

CART & IRL - it's becoming clearer now where we're going

CART & ALMS - Two Birds of a Feather?

What's the holdup on Chris Pook?

Will CART get Shanghaied?

CART Franchise Board fails to ratify new engines

Is Ginger just what the doctored ordered for Alex Zanardi

Vannini plays hardball with Forsythe

Spotlight on Mexico City

Is Premier1 positioned where CART should be?

Has the Gonzalo Rodriguez lawsuit turned in CART's favor?

Jim Russell Advanced Racing Course - Learning to race

CART - a stranger in a strange land

German 500 - measuring the media impact

An in-depth interview with Jonathan Vannini 

Vannini advocates major overhaul to rescue CART series

Engines - There, that was easy, now let's get on with the racing

A proposed solution to CART's engine dilemma

Ford Cosworth opens its doors

Bullish on CART

A German's first-time CART experience

My thoughts on a variety of CART issues - by Jon Vannini

AutoRacing1 Exclusive - Is Shanghai in CART's future?

As CART goes global, what about its sponsors?

The inevitable globalization of CART

Convert this page to
another language

e-mail us:

Back to the top

AutoRacing1 is an independent internet online publication and is not affiliated with, sponsored by, or endorsed by CART Inc., NASCAR, FIA,  FedEx, Winston, or any other series sponsor. This material may not be published, broadcast, or redistributed without permission.
User agreement & disclaimer

Copyright 1999 - 2001, AutoRacing1, Inc., Hamilton, NJ