Every day, about 5 million cars turn Mexico City into a pitiless parking lot. It’s a huge logjam around the world’s third-largest city, and leads to a type of chaos from which there appears to be no escape.
Illegal racing drivers claw back their lost freedom in rundown areas on the outskirts of the city, isolated spots and outlying roads, dilapidated garages and warehouses. They break all the rules of the road, daringly racing souped-up cars in illicit pursuit of adrenaline.
“I’m just addicted to speed,” admits Joaquín, one of the drivers, and he’s speaking on behalf of all of them. “I was already in love with these races before
I had a driver’s license. My friends and I just used to sneak off to them on Saturday nights back in the day and watch.”
In addition to sating a desire for the forbidden, feeding a fascination for mechanical tinkering, and offering an escape from the everyday routine, the races go down in a party atmosphere. “All my friends are there,” Joaquín says. “We play music, smoke, drink, chat up girls, meet new people.” The only thing that can ruin one of these parties is the police. “When we hear the sirens, it means we get the hell out of there.”
The Mexican police have no sympathy for the illegal races and are rigorous in their attempts at stamping them out. Cars are seized, and drivers are arrested. However, the popularity of illegal racing has led the police to sanction certain events, which take place in a controlled environment and include safety measures for both the drivers and spectators. These events are sparsely attended, though, because much of the appeal of this kind of racing lies in playing cat and mouse with the police.
After the races are over, the stories Joaquín and his friends tell each other around the campfire are always about the same things: speed, drinking, accidents, death, and survival. “Once a friend ‘borrowed’ his father’s car to drive in a race, where he had an accident. The car was a wreck, and the only reason he didn’t end up in prison was because his uncle bribed the police.”
There is a great deal of danger, but most races pass with drivers suffering nothing worse than a few bumps and bruises. It is a lot easier to get over injuries than it is dented spoilers or doors. Drivers put all their money, along with all their time, into getting their cars into race condition. It isn’t easy getting classic cars like a 1969 Ford Mustang, a 1970 Chevy C10, or a 1966 Plymouth Valiant Hardtop to look good and perform well enough to win a race. “Speed costs money,” Joaquín says simply. “My cars are only ever as quick as my wallet allows.”
The races aren’t run for money. The only thing up for grabs here is gaining respect. That hasn’t changed in decades. Whether the drivers are 15 or 45, they take on this challenge for one reason only: to prove that they are the best.
“A lot of people ask me why I like these races,” says Joaquín. “I give the answer a professional racing driver would: I want to take the car to new limits.” But, as Joaquín knows, racing like this is more than a battle between man and machine. “It’s between me and my fears.” Like all drivers, he is willing
to risk everything for the race.
“My girlfriend knows that if she loves me, she has to accept me and my passion for speed. She stopped coming to these events. She says that someone else will have to identify me at the morgue further down the line. I always reply that the only thing I’ll swap my car for is a wheelchair or a coffin. I’ll never give up this type of racing. I’m addicted to speed, and nothing will cure me.”
Check out the August 2013 issue of Red Bulletin magazine (on newsstands July 16) for more articles. To read the magazine on your iPad, download the Red Bulletin iPad app. Follow Red Bulletin on Twitter for more.