Spotlight on Mexico City
by Mark Cipolloni
November 25, 2001

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The track is located close to the Mexico City airport
Click image to enlarge

CART will be going to Mexico City in 2002, and today's spotlight is on that race.  Talk is to expect between 300,000 and 400,000 fans there on race day, possibly surpassing the Indy 500 as the world's largest attended race.

If their estimates are true, certainly crowd control, especially the first year, with that many people, will a major undertaking.  However, with Mexico-based entertainment giant Corporacion Interamericana de Entretenimiento (CIE)  involved, they are accustomed to handling big crowds at concerts and other big events in Mexico.

CIE is one of the world's top entertainment organizations and is successful in a variety of entertainment and event-related endeavors that cater to audiences in Latin America, Spain and the U.S Latin market. CIE often handles the logistical aspects of events and promotes concerts with acts such as U2, Madonna, Sting and Paul McCartney. CIE has promoted NBA and Major League Baseball games in Mexico City as well as the Olympic Champions gymnastics tour. 

CIE is involved with Broadway plays such as "Beauty and the Beast" and "Phantom of the Opera" in Latin America and Spain and also is a producer and distributor of films. CIE also is involved in marketing and sponsorship sales for its venues, events and properties. The 2002 Mexico City Grand Prix CART event will mark the company's first experience in promoting a motorsports event.

The track itself, the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, is relatively flat and is located very close to the Mexico City airport.  With so many people in attendance, it's best to leave your car home and ride the subway from your hotel to the track.  There's a stop a couple hundred yards from the track.

Several changes are being discussed to prepare the track for the fast Champ Cars

F1 cars through the 'hairpin'

Initial plans are to have 275,000 to 325,000 grandstand seats, with up to 100,000 more allowed in for general admission.  Because the track is in a large park, there's room for that many people.  When the Pope visited a few years ago, around 1 million people turned out in that same park.

We hear changes are being considered in several areas to accommodate the fast Champ cars.  Three of the areas are 1) modifying the Solana complex, 2) making a new series of bends at the Foro, 3) adding a chicane before the Peraltada.  

The main changes proposed seem to be the alteration of the "Moisés Solana complex", the S bend at the end of the front straight, which could be turned more into a 120° turn or, have a chicane added as shown on image to the right.  There is a concern with runoff area down in this turn because the main straight is fairly long.

The Peraltada is a fast perilous slightly banked turn.  The chicane(s) preceding that are to 1) slow the cars, 2) bypass the pedestrian bridge that has been constructed across the track with a pier constructed smack in the center of the Peraltada.   

The talk is to create a new curved section before the entrance of the Peraltada (that is the correct term since "peralte" means banking so a "Peraltada" turn is a banked turn) halfway down the back straight, using a few bends to pass right in front of the stands of the baseball stadium (26,000 more seats) and reconnecting with the track in the middle of the Peraltada so the cars would go onto the main straight accelerating from about 60 mph instead of 180+ mph.

Original 3.101 mile track

The "Foro" complex (Foro is a derivative from the Latin Forum and it is the name of the baseball stadium which is basically a horseshoe with a hole in the middle (which is where the cars would pass). The problem with the Foro option is that construction gets in the way of the baseball season, so it might not happen at all. There is another option, which is creating a chicane in the back straightaway before the Peraltada so that the cars don't go in as fast into it as they would otherwise (remember Senna turning over in his car there in 1991 in the Mexican GP?). 

When the F1 cars last raced there in 1992, Nigel Mansell put his Williams on pole at an average speed of 129.521 mph around the 2.747 mile circuit.  That speed doesn't seem particularly high, and although it was some ten years ago, the heavier Champ Cars probably won't average much more than that today.  Given that, one would hope they don't add too many chicanes and turn a good track into a Mickey Mouse charade. 

The final length of the track for CART won't be known until the track layout is finalized (soon I hear).  The original track was 3.101 miles long, but was later shortened to around 2.747 miles  the last few years F1 raced there.  With the chicanes adding to the length, I expect the CART version to be right around 3.0 miles in length, and more if they decide to revert back to the 'long' hairpin.

Exiting the Peraltada onto the main straight.  The grandstands for the F1 races used to be packed.  Many more grandstands will be built to handle the big crowds expected for the CART race in October.  F1 cars used to exit the corner at 180 mph

Nigel Mansell brakes for the "Moisés Solana 'S' complex".  Note large Marlboro signs.  Mexico is a very big market for Marlboro.  When they go to the IRL, they can then call Mexico City (the world's largest race) a lost opportunity for the Marlboro brand.

Ayrton Senna screams down the backstraight headed for the right-hand Peraltada.  There is now a pedestrian bridge that goes from the domed structure outside the Peraltada, across the Peraltada to the infield and the baseball/concert stadium

I hear there will be a wide range of ticket prices, with general admission being under $20 for race day.  Reserved grandstand seats will be higher, and suites higher still.  There will be something for everyone.

A little about Mexico City itself (Courtesy Great-Cities.com)

Mexico City, capital of Mexico and the center of the nation's political, cultural, and economic life. Its population of 16.9 million (1996 estimate) makes Mexico City the second largest metropolitan area in the world, behind only Tokyo, Japan. It is also the seat of Mexico's powerful, centralized federal government. Much of the political decision-making for the nation takes place in Mexico City. Culturally, Mexico City dominates the nation since most of Mexico's leading universities, intellectual magazines, newspapers, museums, theaters, performing arts centers, and publishing firms are located in the capital.

Mexico is built on the ruins of Tenochtitlan, which was the capital of the Aztec Empire. The Aztec developed an advanced civilization and dominated most of Mexico during the 15th and early 16th centuries. In the early 16th century Spanish explorers landed in Mexico and conquered the Aztec. The Spaniards founded Mexico City on the ruins of the Aztec capital, and it soon became the leading urban center in Spain's American colonies. Mexico won its independence in the 1820s, and Mexico City became the capital of the new nation.

Mexico City expanded at a phenomenal rate in the 20th century. The metropolitan area absorbed surrounding communities and rural areas to become a sprawling, modern urban center with a thriving economy. The city's rapid growth resulted in major urban problems, including poor housing, pollution, inadequate sanitation, and uncertain water supplies. 

Mexico City falls within the jurisdiction of the Federal District (in Spanish, Distrito Federal), which is the seat of Mexico's federal government. The Federal District functions as the state and city government for Mexico City and the other communities within its jurisdiction. The Federal District borders the states of Mexico on the north and Morelos on the south. 

Mexico City is located in the south central portion of the country. It lies at the southern edge of the Mexican central plateau in the Valley of Mexico, a basin at an altitude averaging 2,300 m (7,500 ft). The Valley of Mexico is ringed by a series of mountain ranges. On the eastern edge of the basin are the permanently snow-capped twin volcanoes, Iztaccihuatl (5,286 m/17,343 ft) and Popocatépetl (5,452 m/17,887 ft). To the west, the mountains separate the Valley of Mexico from the Valley of Toluca and the Lerma River basin, the present source of much of the city's water. The surrounding mountains can trap air pollution within the valley, particularly when there is a thermal inversion (warmer air passing over the valley and trapping cooler ground air beneath it). 

Mexico City's climate is fairly consistent and steady, a product of both the city's latitude, which is south of the Tropic of Cancer, and its elevation of 2,239 m (7,347 ft). Although the city is located in a tropical climatic zone, the city's extremely high altitude produces a moderate climate with a narrow range of temperatures. The average annual temperature is 16° C (61° F). The coolest season runs from November to February; the coolest month is January, with average temperatures ranging from a high of 21° C (70° F) to a low of 7° C (44° F). The warmest period is from April to June; the average temperatures in May range from a high of 26° C (78° F) to a low of 12° C (54° F). Mexico City has a distinct rainy season from June through October, during which four-fifths of its annual 850 mm (33 in) of rainfall occurs.

Mexico City's major north-south artery is the Avenida Insurgentes, which stretches 30 km (21 mi). It crosses the Paseo de la Reforma just north of the tourist area known as the Zona Rosa (Spanish for “Pink Zone”). Within this neighborhood are many of the principal hotels, restaurants, and fashionable stores catering to the tourist trade.

Southward along the Avenida Insurgentes, various stages of the city's growth can be seen. In Colonia Juárez, just south of the Paseo de la Reforma, are elegant 19th-century mansions from the era of Mexican dictator Porfirio Díaz. Less distinguished housing of pre-1940 vintage is located farther south. Finally, as the Avenida Insurgentes approaches the city's boundaries, more affluent neighborhoods appear, with modern buildings, restaurants, and boutiques.

At the southern edge of the city, the National Autonomous University of Mexico straddles the Avenida Insurgentes. On the western part of the campus is the 100,000-seat Mexico 68 Olympic Stadium, site of the 1968 Olympic Games. Just east of the Avenida Insurgentes is the university's main library. The building and its famous tile mosaic exterior were designed by Juan O'Gorman. Three-dimensional murals by Diego Rivera adorn the rectory on the main campus slightly farther to the east.

Outside the city, in the state of Mexico, lie major archaeological sites, including two important pyramids located at Teotihuacán, the capital of an ancient pre-Aztec civilization. The two pyramids face each other on a north-south axis and are known as the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. Massive in size and height, they provide an extraordinary view of the surrounding region.

Ninety-two percent of the population professes membership in the Roman Catholic Church. Only 3.2 percent are Protestant, and less than 0.3 percent are Jewish. The Roman Catholic Church plays an influential social and cultural role in the city. More residents are members of church-affiliated organizations than of any other type. Led by one of Mexico's cardinals, the diocese of Mexico City is the most important in the country.

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

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