Sebastien Loeb looked distinctly awkward at the question. What had he done with them? Where were those five pairs of cowboy boots? No matter. He'd just taken delivery of his sixth pair. And they fitted just fine.
Loeb's not a cowboy-boot kind of a bloke, but he just can't help himself; he's taken a pair home with him the past six times he's been to Mexico. Given Leon's famed shoe production - the place churns out half of Mexico's leather footwear - it's a tradition that the organisers hand over a pair to the winner of the event.
And from mid-morning last Saturday, there was only going to be one winner of the event. That makes the second half of Rally Mexico sound processional, which it was for Loeb and his Citroen team-mate Mikko Hirvonen at the front of the field. But behind them, there remained plenty of scope for surprise.
And Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala duly delivered.
Jari-Matti Latvala needs to stop crashing © XPB
The first surprise from the Finn was the pace he found in his Fiesta RS WRC. After years of breathlessly chasing Citroens through the mountains of central Mexico, Latvala discovered that the car born among the mountains of Cumbria could live the high life. Ford had worked tirelessly to get the Fiesta right for the high-altitude third round of the World Rally Championship, making changes to it right up until the last minute, and the hard work showed with the Blue Oval taking more fastest times than the French.
The second surprise was linked to the first surprise: Latvala's outrageous speed through the first half of the Guanajuatito stage. Starting the stage more than a minute adrift of Hirvonen, nobody expected the Ford man to take a shot at his old team-mate. Nobody except Latvala, that is. Told by team director Malcolm Wilson to keep the pressure on Hirvonen, Latvala blazed a trail through the first 15 or so of the 34 miles, moving 18 seconds clear of anybody else.
The third surprise is linked to the second surprise. And it wasn't actually very surprising: Latvala's crash a mile or so further down the road.
Evgeny Novikov had already crashed in the stage and the team immediately beamed the precise location of the Russian's latest scene of destruction to the #3 Fiesta. But Latvala didn't slow down. And distracted by the upturned Ford, he scattered parts of his own car alongside.
The frustration through the Ford team was massive. And understandably so. Rally Mexico was the second event from three that the underneath of Latvala's Fiesta has unexpectedly shown itself. There's already a case for sacking Latvala; Ford is already 38 points behind Citroen in the makes' race.
The reason Latvala remains gainfully employed is because nobody can drive a rally car faster than him right now. The speed Latvala showed in Mexico was quite breathtaking at times. And, for a while, he looked to have it all together. This is a crucial period for Latvala. He can't afford any kind of a wobble, especially with Portugal next - the scene of the biggest crash of his life when he rolled his Focus off the edge of a mountain.
The next couple of rallies could well make or break Ford's season and, potentially, Latvala's career. That he has the speed to be a world champion again and again is beyond question. That he can string it together and make it happen remains another question altogether.
Fortunately for Ford, Latvala's team-mate Petter Solberg is turning out to be a model of consistency. Solberg's ability to settle into a new car and a new team is a demonstration of his professionalism and experience. From being one of the most divisive and self-centred drivers in the service park, Solberg has grown into a pukka team player. He came to Ford in the knowledge that he was number two. Three years funding and running his own team forced him to swallow his pride and accept Ford's terms. And what a sensible and dependable investment Solberg has shown himself to be. He has brought a steadying hand to the Ford team and the kind of experience only a world champion can muster.
Let's not forget, this was only Solberg's third outing in a new car with his new team. And that brings me back to Citroen and Hirvonen. Mexico was Hirvonen's third outing in a new car as well - and he's three points clear of Solberg in the drivers' championship.
Just as Solberg is settling in to life in Cockermouth, so Hirvonen is fast becoming a favoured face in France. The atmosphere at Citroen is markedly different to this time last year and Hirvonen's definitely getting faster. But when he lost out to Loeb on the second stage on Saturday morning, his fate in Guanajuato was sealed. Loeb's lead rose to 18 seconds and team principal Yves Matton called a halt to the competition.
If Hirvonen is going to succeed this season - and genuinely test the French firm's policy of open competition until open competition makes no sense - then he has to put Loeb on the ropes early in an event and keep him there. Like Latvala, the next handful of events will decide the direction of Hirvonen's season: a true challenger to the sport's master or the subservient number two many have already earmarked him as.
Hirvonen needs to put Loeb on the ropes early in an event © XPB
A third driver in a critical place in his career at the moment is Chris Atkinson. Mexico was supposed to be the former Subaru star's moment. From the outside, it looks like he might have choked. Having watched Skippy at his best in 2008, I found it hard to believe three years away from the World Rally Championship had cost him the edge. Something was bothering Atkinson in Mexico, but the Queenslander was unwilling to spill, so I delved deeper. One of the engineers admitted a ball had been dropped in the case of the second Monster World Rally Team machine, with the black Fiesta running way higher than it should have been - hence Atko's constant battle to keep the rear of the car in-line with the front.
It was no surprise that with the ride height rectified Atkinson was second fastest at the final morning superspecial, before a rock whacked the bottom of the front-right damper and drained it of all its oil - forcing him into retirement.
The World Rally Championship is full of ifs, buts and maybes, but Atkinson has more speed and potential than Mexico suggested. All we have to hope is that Monster sees the massive value realised from the two-car team and runs the Ken and Chris show again in New Zealand and Finland.
Much as everything we did in Mexico last week was important, I'd like to thank my colleague Keiko Ito who put our world into perspective on Sunday. Sunday was much more than just the final day of the third round of the WRC, it was one year on from the day 19,000 people lost their lives in the Japanese earthquake. Keiko drew poignant messages of support from Loeb, Hirvonen and Solberg - all of whom talked fondly, emotionally and honestly about her country and the way it continues to move forward from that shocking day.
As far as I'm concerned, the WRC can't go back to Japan soon enough.
Now, just before I go, I have one point for you to ponder. There was plenty of talk in Mexico last week about the value of the longer stages that were included on the route.
These 34-milers are, according to the FIA, an integral part of the future of our sport. Have a think about this, beyond the Latvala charge and crash, how much genuine entertainment was derived from the Guanajuatito test on Sunday morning. Now compare and contrast with that with the entertainment enjoyed by tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of fans in Guanajuato on Thursday evening. And that stage was 33 miles shorter.
Makes you think, doesn't it...
To continue reading this feature, subscribe to Autosport Plus today.
Are you an Autosport magazine subscriber? Activate your online account
- Your Autosport Plus subscription includes:
- Unlimited access to Autosport's news - no monthly cap.
- Read the best motorsport features, analysis and opinion.
- Explore Forix, our comprehensive motorsport stats database.
- Choose from a monthly or yearly membership.