Mexico City: Finlay team profile - Memo Gidley

RAPIDO MEXICAN GRINGO Finlay Motorsports driver Jose Guillermo 'Memo' Gidley looks forward to this weekend's big race, and to re-visiting the country of his birth Memo Gidley is a fast man with two countries. Born in Mexico to...


Finlay Motorsports driver Jose Guillermo 'Memo' Gidley looks forward to this weekend's big race, and to re-visiting the country of his birth

Memo Gidley is a fast man with two countries. Born in Mexico to American parents, he spent his early childhood on a boat moored at a La Paz shipyard. Today he is a top racing driver with many fans in both countries and is looking to score his first win for the Finlay Motorsports team in Saturday's Grand American Rolex Series season finale during the Gran Premio de Mexico at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

Returning for the first time in several years to the country of his birth, Gidley has fond memories of his youth and is proud to hold citizenship in both the United States and Mexico:

My parents first sailed to La Paz in the early 1960's in a 28 foot wooden boat called the Tia Mia. My father and mother operated a salmon buying business in Sausalito, California, and the season was closed during the winter months so they were able to take time off and sailed down to La Paz.

Once they arrived, my parents found it so beautiful and the people so friendly that they decided to make it their second home. They left the boat on a mooring in front of the shipyard and flew back to the Bay Area. For several years they returned every winter, either flying back or driving and taking the ferry over from Mazatlan. Some of the time they were in Baja was spent exploring the Gulf. In fact the year that my sister was born, they were up in some remote bay when my mother went into labor. They named my sister Maria Guadalupe because my mother wanted her to always remember that she was born in Mexico and was "una Pazena con patas saladas" (born in La Paz with salty feet).

By the time my mother was pregnant with me, four years later, my parents had sold the Tia Mia and bought a bigger sailboat, the Yo Ho Ho. My mother and sisters flew to La Paz where they rented a house near the beach while my father and some friends were getting the Yo Ho Ho ready to make the trip down. The boat did not make it to La Paz in time for my birth, so I was born in the military clinic in town. My mother named me Jose Guillermo in honor of my parents' good friend, Jose Abaroa of the shipyard.

When the Yo Ho Ho finally arrived in La Paz, I was about six months old. My father anchored the boat out in front of the house and my sisters used to sail me around in our little sailing dingy. One day my father forgot to put my life preserver on me before we went out in the boat, and the wind kicked up while we were out there by ourselves. The waves were breaking over the sides of the dingy and my parents were frantic as they watched the boat getting farther and farther from shore. My sisters and I were in danger of capsizing and drowning, but luckily some boys in a canoe saw what was happening and paddled out to rescue us.

While we went cruising on the Yo Ho Ho, my mother had a unique method of washing diapers. She would tied them on a line and let them drag behind the boat. When we changed tack she claimed the diapers were in the "rinse cycle." After they were "washed" she tied them on the halyards to dry.

Our diet when I was young was mainly fish. My father and mother traded fish hooks for lobster, shrimp, clams, and fish and we also fished ourselves from the boat. I didn't know what a hamburger was until later in life and I still prefer fish.

While we lived in La Paz, my sisters went to the nearby school and played with the many kids in the neighborhood, becoming fluent in Spanish. My mother also spoke fairly good Spanish and continued to study it, but my father was not a good student. He communicated mainly with gestures and by tacking an "o" on the end of every word like something out of a TV sitcom.

When I was about two years old my parents and my sisters and I left Mexico and sailed back up the coast to Sausalito. My father wanted to get back into commercial fishing and my mother planned to go back to school to get her teaching credential. From then on I was raised on the boat in the San Francisco Bay area.

Although I haven't been back to La Paz for many years, my father and mother never stopped spending time there. When my father retired he pulled a trailer down to La Paz and camped on the piece of land that belongs to my sister Lupe. He died about five years ago. My mother makes frequent trips to the La Paz area to see her many Mexican friends and to enjoy the culture and the weather.

After the race this weekend, my mother and I are flying to La Paz for five days before going home. I'm looking forward to seeing the place where I was born and meeting all our friends. I am also hoping to do some mountain biking and some sailing and maybe some karting. I intend to eat a lot of fish tacos too.

My experience of being born in Mexico was great for many reasons. First, even though I was obviously a Gringo (with my blond hair and blue eyes), the Mexican people accepted my entire family into their community; we were never treated as outsiders. The other thing I learned was that even though most of our Mexican friends lived a very modest lifestyle with very little money, they would always go out of their way to help other people.

I admire the Mexican people because of the quality time they spend with their family and friends and the fun they have doing it. I have always enjoyed my time racing in Mexico. It's also really fun to see my many Mexican fans and I'm happy when they point at me and call me the "the Mexican Gringo".


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Series Grand-Am
Drivers Memo Gidley