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Mexican fans flock to support Perez

2012-11-18 07:10

'COUNTRY THAT NEEDS HEROES': Mexico's Sergio Perez has earned a large following of fans in 2012 as will race for McLaren in 2013.

AUSTIN, Texas, Nov 17 - At the first US Grand Prix in five years, there are no American drivers, but Mexico's Sergio Perez is something of a local hero.

Perez has drawn fans to Texas from neighboring Mexico, where there is a passion for Formula 1. There has not been a Grand Prix since 1992.

During practice sessions at Austin's Circuit of the Americas, Mexican flags waved from the stands as spectators cheered on the country's most promising driver in more than 40 years.


Liliana Pulido, a fan from Mexico City, said: "I think all of Mexico is proud of Checo Perez."

She said she waited four hours at the US/Mexico border crossing and that everyone in line seemed to be coming to see Perez in Austin, a closer destination than the other cities on the F1 calendar.

Many Perez fans already live in Texas, where nearly one-third of the population is of Mexican origin, according to the 2010 US Census data.

Perez said: "I feel at home because it's so close to Mexico."

He said his friends and family members, including his grandmother, will be in Austin, and that for many of them, it will be their first time to see him race live. Mexican President Felipe Calderon also is expected to attend the 2012 November 18 race.

Perez said: "It was amazing to see so many Mexicans supporting me. I'm definitely very emotional about this weekend and hopefully I can give a good result for the people here."

Perez, who now lives in Monaco, comes from a racing family. His father was a racing driver who later managed a Mexican driver and his brother races, too. Perez left Mexico at age 15 to pursue racing in Germany.

He said: "It was a very difficult place for me, because I went completely alone. It's been a long journey."

More than 100 000 people showed up to watch him at a Formula 1 demonstration event in Guadalajara in 2011. In 2013 Perez is moving from Sauber to one of F1's top teams, McLaren.

Earlier in 2012 Perez became the first Mexican in 41 years to reach the podium with a second-place finish at Malaysia, and returned to the podium with a third-place finish at Montreal and second place at Monza, Italy.


In Montreal, Perez supporters were crying and singing the traditional Mexican song "Cielito Lindo," said Luis Alberto Aguirre, a motor sports reporter for Guadalajara's Mural newspaper.

Aguirre said: "They lost a generation without a Mexican driver. We are a country that needs heroes."

Perez has a chance of being his country's first race winner since Pedro Rodriguez in 1970.

More F1 visitors are expected to come to Austin from Mexico than from any other foreign country, said Steve Alberts, communications manager at the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Four charter flights from Mexico were set to arrive in Austin carrying about 500 fans, said Jim Halbrook, a spokesman for Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, and more Mexican fans are flying to other Texas cities.

At the 2012 Circuit of the Americas, the first track purposely built for F1 in the United States, Ali Putnam said that 110 000 tickets were sold and that 15% went to non-American buyers, many of them from Mexico.

Fan Juan Portilla of Mexico City explained why Mexicans love Perez: "He's fast, he's aggressive, he's young."


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