The Autódromo Monterrey (sometimes known as Autódromo Apodaca) is Mexico's second-most important circuit and has been operating for 50 years, offering a base for top level road racing and dragster competition from both sides of the border with the USA.
The circuit was the dream of one man, Filiberto Jiménez Orozco, better known as "Don Fili", became one of the most prominent figures in Mexican motorsport. Captured at an early age by a love of all things mechanical and racing cars in particular, he was soon competing in his modified machinery and even crossed the border successfully to compete in Texas, after striking a deal with the promoter for more money if he wore a traditional green charro suit while racing...
In the early 1960s he formed the Autoclub Monterrey, with the aim of providing better organised races thanks to his observations of races elsewhere. He also dreamed of providing a better training ground for up-and-coming local racers, who had essentially dirt ovals and road courses only.
By 1968 Don Fili had advanced his plans to create the Autódromo Monterrey and by the end of the year was able to present a model of the track, with a design by himself and architect Daniel Jara. Soon after land was obtained in front the Del Norte International Airport and construction could finally begin.
The finished circuit featured a quarter mile drag strip which doubled as the main straight for the road course, which wound back on itself through a variety of turns to a banked final corner. An unusual dogleg oval course was also formed, though the first turn was not banked. It's odd shape soon earned it the name 'El Frijol' - the bean.
The circuit's inauguration took place on September 27, 1970 with a programme of drag races, while road racing would debut the following weekend, albeit somewhat interrupted by rain.
From the beginning Don Fili was able to attract the support from across the border - despite speaking no English - with a variety of events sanctioned by the NHRA and the SCCA. This helped cement the track's reputation nationally and internationally. In 1971, an SCCA Formula B event was held at the circuit, won by Allan Lader in a Brabham BT29-Ford.
Serious incidents prompt safety concerns
Over the years, various modifications to the circuit were made in the name of safety, most notable being those of 1986, which saw chicanes added at Turns 1 and 7 and the first half of the banked final turn bypassed by a new series of corners.
Sadly, these didn't stop two serious fatal crashes occurring in subsequent years. In 1993, during the fifth round of the Mexican Formula 2 series, Marco Magaña and local radio journalist Alfonso García Martínez were killed when rocks thrown by an errant car struck the helmet of Magaña, causing him to lose consciousness and possibly killing him instantly, then careering over an embankment and into a commentary box. Martínez was struck by the car and another unnamed journalist was also seriously injured.
Then in 2004, during a round of the Desafío Corona Stock Car Series on the El Frijol course, Marcelo Núñez lost control on the entry to the first turn. In an attempt to avoid slamming into the outside retaining wall, he spun onto the infield, raising a cloud of dust in the process. His car ended up backing into the wall and coming to rest broadside across the circuit.
Approaching the scene Rafael Vallina was running side-by-side with another racer and, vision obscured by the dust cloud, was unable to avoid the stricken Núñez's car. Both drivers were seriously injured and, while Vallina recovered, Núñez succumbed to his injuries just over a week later.
It was a tragic episode which highlighted issues with the sanctioning of races and the abilities of competing drivers (Vallina was in his first ever race start), marshalling standards, track conditions and insurance coverage for competitors.
Nevertheless, the circuit continued to host the major series, alongside a strong calendar of local racing. Further improvements came to the circuit in 2017, when a new chicane was added on the entry to the first turn of the oval course, while the troublesome retaining wall was removed altogether.
Sadly Don Fili did not live to see these improvements, having succumbed to a brain tumour almost a decade beforehand. However Autódromo Monterrey (and it's sister track at Guadalajara) remains firmly under his family's control under the auspices of the Dispa Motorsports promotion firm that he founded. It continues to host races for NASCAR México, drag racing, karting and club racing and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2020.