Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Last Minute Information

Photo-Fiesta in Tehuacan 2003
Carrera Driver
September 29, 2009

**Day 1 -- Running the Old Pan Am Highway
**Report from Mexico
**Obtaining Your Car Permits
**Tourist Visa
**Coyote Convoy
**Calibrate Your Rally Computer
**Mexican Car Insurance
**Hotels in Huatulco
**Service Crews
**Cars and Slots Available


On the first day of competition, in the afternoon, we will run the old Pan Am highway from Tehuantepec to Oaxaca. This is one of the last original stretches of the original Pan Am Highway that exists, on which we will race. It's around 250 KM long.

This highway cuts through the mountains, starting near sea level and steadily climbs to over 6000 feet in places, before we get to Oaxaca at a little over 5,000 feet. We'll pass through some great river valleys and small towns. Finding premium gas has been a problem in the past. Make sure you fill up -- completely at the service stop at lunch, and if you must have gas, buy a little regular.

This route means that in the morning of the first day, we will run speed stages on the coastal highway going eastnortheast out of Huatulco.


I spent five days down in Mexico last week and saw little evidence of swine flu. In fact, on the way back to the airport, I learned from a doctor's wife that a higher percentage of people in Texas (the Houston area) had the flu than in central Mexico. She said that some of the hospitals there were not even testing for it.

I did note that travelers were being checked with thermal sensors when arriving in Mexico City for fever. And traveler's were required to fill out a health questionnaire.

About the violence: so far, all episodes of violence have been drug related, except for one American family that got kidnapped AT NIGHT in northern Mexico pulling a racing trailer with a fancy SUV. Lesson? Do not travel at night. The biggest threat are cows on the road, however. If you must travel at night, drive slower or equip your vehicle with powerful lights, and do not stop for anyone, even if they have a blinking red light on their car. Head to the next PEMEX station.


I am getting mixed reports about obtaining permits over the Internet from http://www.banjercito.com/. I just went through the process for my racecar and got the permit and sticker for my car in four days.

In most parts of the country they should be able to get the documents to you within 10 days.

Please let me know if you are having problems. We will get them at the border, if necessary.


Everyone must have a tourist visa (FM-T) to go more than 30 KM into Mexico, whether you are importing a car, truck, m/c, or not. You must also pay $22 at any bank for the visa, because you will stay in the country for more than one week. You can pay this in Huatulco or anywhere along the race route.

If you want to come back to Mexico later, stop at the border (the Migracion desk) and surrender your visa before you leave. This is a major pain in the butt, but try to do it on Friday, Oct. 30, before you leave.

You should turn in your car permit and sticker, too, before you leave Mexico, unless you plan to come back for the Chihuahua Express. You may keep it until March (it is good for 180 days), but if you replace your windshield, make sure you bring back the glass with the old sticker on it! (Not kidding.)


We have around 20 cars and 40 people signed up for the convoy. Some more Carrera people will meet us in San Miguel for the pool party.

If you have not paid for your room in SMA and Oaxaca, please send me a check or PayPal to my email address: gbledso@aol.com. You may also charge it on a credit card via PayPal, if I send you an invoice.


I will send out a set of my chart-maps for the trip down to Huatulco. The big news is the new toll road completely around Mexico City known as the Arco Norte. The entrance to the Arco is at the KM 90 marker on highway #57 between San Juan del Rio and the last toll booth before Mexico City. The exit is poorly marked, I have been told.

If you are driving down alone--not in the convoy--do NOT drive into Mexico City, except maye between 11 PM and 5 AM, and then be careful where you go. Do NOT go on the Viaducto -- an elevated highway -- at anytime.

We also may have a new toll road around Monterrey towards Saltillo that will eliminate a short, but dangerous, stretch of road with heavy truck traffic.
Mexico Maps software for your Garmin GPS is recommended only for entering and exiting the larger cities, not for use while racing. Mexican software for a GPS does not have anywhere near the precision of North American software, but they are making progress.


If you have a rally computer in your car, calibrate it before you leave for mexico or learn how to do it. Find a measured mile or KM and get it set right.

A rally computer is primarily useful for the navigator to find her/his place in the route book during a speed stage. (Yes, we all lose our place at high speed.) The timer on the computer will also track the amount of time left for a section in the route book. The route for the day is divided into sections, and each section, which starts with a speed stage, is allocated a certain amount of time. At the end of that allocated time, you are supposed to report to the next speed stage (Control Z). Got it?


Did you get your service truck and race car insurance from Baja Bound at www.bajabound.com/?r=panamrace. It is easy with a VIN and credit card. It is required for your service truck, and only recommended (by me) for your racecar. Rememeber, regular car insurance is not valid while you are engaged in racing or a competition event, but before the race or at night, it might be useful.


Apparently, some competitors have not yet made arrangements for hotel rooms in Huatulco before the race begins. If you need a room call Monica or Karen at 1-310-860-6959 or email monica.grossmann@yahoo.com.mx.


CB radios are recommended in service vehicles. They are cheap. The smaller, hand-held CBs have a shorter range, but are better than nothing. If the two trucks are close together, you can be heard. They can also be used the paddock and some hotels. Cell phones work pretty good in most of Mexico. Don't know about Huatulco. The sure-fire telcom instrument is an Irridium sat phone. If you want one, contact All Roads Communication in San Diego and mention the Pan Am for a discount. I am getting mixed reviews about the pre-paid Mexican sim cards, but I will try one in my tri-band phones. Walgreen's is supposed to have some cheap sim cards for LD around the world, too.

I do not know if the racecars will be tracked by the much flawed GlobalStar system. It only works in real time when their "birds" are in the right position. Someone told me that the race will be reported daily on FaceBook and/or YouTube.


Does anyone need a extra service crew person or have a extra seat in their truck? The ideal is two people in each truck -- driver and navigator, just like the racecar. A route book will be given to each registered truck. It is not nearly as detailed as the book for the racecar, however.

Service crews should find another crew, maybe supporting a similar class of racecar, to work with. I will push this concept in Huatulco. We should be helping each other.

The first day will be the day we will lose the most cars. Some of the route is pretty remote, so make sure you have a recovery plan for your car.

There will be mechanics and welders following the race, too.


There are still fully prepared racecars out there for purchase or rent. I was told that I have one entry for North America left, too. My theory continues to be that the organizers will not turn down a properly prepared car and mucho greenbacks en la mesa in Huatulco.

Viva La Carrera!