Friday, May 15, 2009

Carrera Driver Newsletter

May 2009 It’s the-time-to-get-serious edition!


In only 152 days we will be leaving the Bay Area for Mexico. Are you ready?


On June 1 the entry fee jumps another $500. We now have thirty-five paid entries from North America. I expect five or six more to enter by the next deadline. Last year at this point, we had fifty-one paid entries from our part of the world.

Instead of last year’s total of 105 entries worldwide, I expect the number will be around seventy-five. On the bright side, this will make registration and tech a lot quicker, while reducing congestion at the timing controls during competition. On the down side, we will miss some good friends who are sitting it out this year because of the economy.


Your entry is not complete until I have your personal photos and at least one photo of your racecar. Please send digital photos, if possible, to Just about any digital shot is OK.

Your blood type and Rh factor are also critical, if you have not sent this info to me, please do ASAP.


Go to to cover your tow vehicle and racecar while not racing. Using Baja Bound is easy as 1-2-3. It is one of the few companies that will cover old cars.

You must buy liability coverage on your tow vehicle and have proof of this in Huatulco.

I also recommend collision coverage on your tow vehicle as well. But just buy liability on your racecar from Baja Bound’s list of insurance companies, although it is not required. They are all solid, reliable companies. Most are subsidiaries of U.S. companies.

The liability coverage on your racecar is only needed before the event starts and at night. It does not cover you when you are racing, of course. While racing you are covered by the organizer’s insurance arranged through FMAD.


All competitors – drivers and navigators/co-drivers – must have a FMAD rally license. It costs only $195 USD this year, considerably less than last year. The license comes with a small amount of medical insurance. You may pay extra to increase the amount of coverage. There is a special license (optional) for support-crew members, too. Most American medical insurance programs do not cover you in Mexico. Be prepared.

The license application can be found at Send it or email it, with two small photos of your handsome face, to the FMAD Office in Mexico City. The address is at the bottom of the form. If you do that, your license will be ready to pick up in Huatulco. You can pay then. Make the check out to “FEMADAC.”

If you are importing your racecar into Mexico with the help of a Mexican customs broker, you must apply for your FMAD license and apply for the importation permit. That form is also on their web site.


Spectators, photojournalists, spouses, and friends who want to observe the race or take photographs should sign up for the Pan Am Tour, offered by Rosa María Mondragón. Rosa María was the PR director for the race for many years and knows everything about the event. She knows the route and how to get you in position to enjoy it up close. You can pay by the week for the whole event, or by the day, if you do not intend to be there the entire week. Rosa Maria provides transportation in a Ford Expedition for six passengers with a modest amount of luggage.

Contact her at


Have you reserved your rooms in Huatulco and elsewhere along the route? You should deal directly with Monica Grossmann in the Carrera Office in Mexico City about hotels. Best to e-mail her at

If you plan to arrive with the Coyote Convoy in Huatulco on Tuesday, Oct. 20, you will need an extra room(s) for two nights (October 20-21). On Oct. 22 the double room that comes with your entry begins. Of course, if you need an extra room for your crew, spouse, or mother-in-law, please let Monica know.


Please note that when you register through the web site or through the North American Coordinator you are agreeing to abide by the rules of the event, which are posted on the Mexican web site You should review these rules. If you have any questions, please let me know.

During registration in Huatulco, you will also sign a classic racing waiver.


The Carrera’s rules regarding roll cages remain somewhat uncertain. The written rules still do not match up with the diagram that is provided separately on the web site. Apparently, the inspectors will again determine the value and integrity of the cage somewhat subjectively.

The minimum requirements seem to be:

--a full six (or more) point roll cage
--13 gauge steel tubing (0.089”)
--one door bar (two is better)
--sufficient bracing—laterally and diagonally--with gussets in the “halo”
--an “X’ brace across the top of the cage (a single bar diagonally or laterally sometimes will suffice)

If your car door is a wide one and you have an unsupported lateral expanse (along the top of the doors) of more than 23-24” or so, they may want you to install a additional vertical bar to brace the top, like a “Toyota bar” running down the A pillar, or from the main hoop up to the rear end of the halo.


After eight years of losing no cars to fire because of crashes during speed stages, we have lost three in the past year or two: one in the Carrera 2007 and two in the Chihuahua Express 2008. In 2006 a car burned during a transit stage in the Carrera because of fuel system problems. Are there lessons to learn, other than slowing down?

Two fires started after solo crashes when the fuel cells or tank ruptured, while the other fire probably was the result of hot exhaust pipes landing on dry grass. Apparently, in none of these cases did or could a fire suppression system save the car. When properly installed and used, however, the systems should at least knock down a fire and allow the crew time to exit the vehicle.


The official rules for the Carrera say that a HANS or Leatt brace will be required this year for all competitors. I assume, however, that any SFI-rated or FIA-approved head and neck brace will be accepted. Please note the word "assume."

The company that makes HANS devices is now making a Sport Series for $695. It’s a bit heavier than the original version, which still sells for $895. You must have posts installed in your helmet to hook up them up. Some helmets are pre-drilled, too.

Simpson sells a restraint system for $399 (#856-50000), and Safety Solutions has one for $325.99 (#872-SAFHR101). There’s another one called an R-3. G-Force has one for only $249, which fits on their helmets, but it is not SFI-rated and was not accepted last year in Mexico. The Leatt-Brace, used on primarily on motorcycles, is available and will be sold in Mexico. It was developed for m/c racing and cost $395 in the States.

I use the light-weight HANS device but cannot recommend any of them. You may use a 2” harness belt with the HANS, although the company says they will work fine with the traditional 3” belt, too. I find it somewhat difficult to keep the 3” shoulder belt positioned properly on my HANS device.

Also make sure that your neck and head restraint system is compatible with your seat. You head should not be touching the back of your seat, and you should be able to sit up straight and be comfortable—especially after driving six hours a day.

Wine County Auto Sports is offering incentives on buying a HANS from them.
If you buy your HANS from Wine Country Motor Sports, they will give you a free OMP helmet-HANS bag worth $89, free installation of the posts for the HANS in your helmet, and free shipping. They will also install posts in old your helmet for free, if you send it to them.

Wine Country Motor Sports is located in Sonoma, CA (Infineon Raceway) and Juniper, Florida, near the Moroso Motorsports Park. Call (800) 708-7223 to order or go to

It is my understanding that SA2005 helmets are required, and seat belts should not be more than five years old.


If you plan to drive down with the Coyote Convoy or even think you might want to do that, please let me know ASAP. I will have a separate mailing list for the convoy. Right now the itinerary for our expedition looks like this:

Friday, Oct. 16 – rendezvous in Laredo, Texas, 9 PM meeting
(Please make your own reservation at the Residence Inn del Mar by Marriott)
Saturday, Oct. 17 – drive to San Miguel de Allende, 6 AM (540 miles)
Tour and group dinner in San Miguel, 7 PM
Sunday, Oct. 18 – Carrera car show in the main square (10 AM-3 PM)
Monday, Oct. 19 – drive around Mexico City to Oaxaca, 8 AM
Tuesday, Oct. 20 – drive into Huatulco, 8 AM (180 miles)

When making your reservation in Laredo use the code “carr” or "Carrera" for the discounted rate.

I will offer a package deal on the convoy’s hotels in Mexico in a couple of weeks. Anyone—friends and family--may join the convoy.

Note that the convoy hotels are separate from the hotels offered by Monica Grossmann.


Auto racing in any form is dangerous, and that includes the Pan Am. Each year in the Pan Am there are several wrecks the first day because the drivers are nervous and trying too hard. Be careful, especially the first day.

Fortunately, we have not had any serious injuries of late, but there have been some horrific wrecks. Never forget that this is a long endurance race. For most of us a victory in this race is simply crossing the finish line in Nuevo Laredo in one piece, under our own power. If you drive this race at 70-80%, have no mechanical failures, and make every special stage, you will finish high in the standings. But most importantly, you have succeeded where many others have failed.

Viva la Carrera Panamericana!

Note: Normally, Carrera Driver goes only to those signed up for the event and a few others who transport or support cars while in Mexico. The special, edited of Carrera Driver is provided as an example of the information and support provided to those who participate in this unique event.

Gerie Bledsoe