Friday, December 2, 2011

La Carrera 2011 -- Final Report

December 2011 Final Report

**La Carrera 2011 – The “Great War of Attrition”
**The First Day – A Two-Pony Race?
**The Final Results – Still a Two-Pony Race
**Other Honorable Mentions
**Cure PCSD – Sign Up for the Chihuahua Express!
**Plans for LCP 2012 – Speak Up
**Contributions for Lupita
**Contact Information

**La Carrera 2011 – The “Great War of Attrition”

It is truly a romantic notion: a middle-aged male leasing a white ’65 Ford Mustang painted with vivid Mexican colors to participate in La Carrera Panamericana, the Mexican Road Race. Then the rookie convinces his spouse or partner that:

“Heck, the Pan Am is just a rally around the old colonial Mexican towns, with good food and fine tequila at every stop. After all, before the race we can work on our tans, basking on the pristine beaches of Huatulco. What’s not to like? Besides it’s been on my bucket list for several years now.”

By the time our hero manages to roll his rented Mustang over on its roof during the second day of the Pan Am, his partner probably has some notion that this race is not just another wine and cheese rally around the chateau of the Loire Valley.

Truth or fiction? Sadly, this romantic story was mostly true this year, but certain details have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent!

Yes, the revival of Pan Am, like the original in1950-1954, could be considered an automotive war of attrition fought out across the mountains of Mexico, one of the few countries in the world that still allows major highways to be closed so the more fortunate may race vintage hot rods from one end of the country to another.

The “Pana” may not be good for the local bus and truck drivers on tight schedules, but the race is considered an excellent way to promote tourism, a major commitment of the current administration in the nation’s capitol.

Looking down the carnage along the route, the High Command generals on both sides in WW I would have understood. “You get it together, you keep it going regardless, and let the last car running claim victory! “

On the first day of competition, for example, of the 114 cars that should have stated the race, thirty-four had no times posted at the end of the day. This group included (1) those cars that simply did not start the race, several for mechanical reasons, (2) those cars wrecked or disabled that did not finish the day, and (3) those that had malfunctioning timing “chips.” The largest group was clearly #2.

So it was in the 24th revival of LCP, October 21-27, 2011.

¡Viva Mexico! ¡Viva La Carrera!

**The First Day: A Two-Pony Race?

It is difficult to review the results of the race because the complete and final results have not been posted on the official website. What follows is therefore unofficial and incomplete.

The pre-race favorites for the overall championship were two: Michel Jourdain, Jr. (MEX) and Doug Mockett (USA). Jourdain, a recent Indy Car driver, has impressive racing credentials, and was made the pre-race favorite. Mockett won the race in 2002 and has been close a couple of years since, aided by his talented Mexican navigator, Angelica Fuentes.

Other contenders, all from Mexico, were: Gabriel Perez, Carlos Castillo, Ricardo Triviño, and Franco Márquez, soldiering along in his underdog Hudson. Marc Devis (Belg.) was considered an outside threat. But the handicappers thought it was really a two-horse race, between Jourdain and Mockett. After all, Jourdain had defeated Mockett at the Chihuahua Express last spring and was sponsored by the Mexican media giant Televisa. All cameras were focused on Señor Jourdain.

Within the first few speed stages of the morning of Day #1, the number of leading contenders was suddenly reduced when the engine in Jourdain’s Studebaker “let go.” Jourdain would return to the race the next day with a fresh engine, but with no real prospects of winning.

During the morning of the first day, the race headed south along the Pacific to Salina Cruz, a petroleum refining center on the Pacific about 95 miles from Huatulco. As is usual, the winding route along the coast was soon littered with wrecked and disabled vintage autos.

In addition to Jourdain’s Studebaker, a beautiful BMW 2002 and a faux “Grand Sport” Corvette suffered severe body damage in separate one-car accidents, but reportedly, there were no serious injuries. All of the wrecked cars returned to the race in a day or two, even the Corvette, which had rolled over in a ditch.

After an hour of service at a big PEMEX gas station in Salina Cruz, the race continued north on the old Pan Am Highway to the city of Oaxaca, about 155 miles away. Again, the route across the mountains was littered with wrecked and disabled cars. Not only were race cars dropping like flies, but three race officials’ cars were spotted “on the hook,” as well as several service trucks. Trailer and tow truck space was at a premium.

The combination of the heat, fast pace, and the mountain roads was taking its toll. In one small village, a local car clipped the front of a Land Rover carrying press people, forcing it to hitch a ride on a race car’s trailer.

The two-horse race concept was unexpectedly renewed when Ricardo Triviño, a Mexican rally champion, nursing a car with transmission problems, finished the day in first place, 16 seconds ahead of Mockett. From this point on, Triviño, not Jourdain, became Mexico’s best hope to reclaim the overall Pan Am championship. It’s too bad that Televisa’s cameras were not installed in Triviño’s car.

**The Final Results – Still a Two-Pony Race

How did the race end seven days later? As it began, with Triviño squeezing out a controversial win over Mockett by only 4.5 seconds—after seven days and 3000 KM of racing.

Why “controversial”? Mockett’s navigator, Fuentes, filed a protest against Triviño for blocking her car for several miles in one of the last two speed stages during the second day. It is clear from the daily results that Triviño’s car was suffing mechanical problems and was slowing down dramatically at the end of the day. Video shot of the car by a spectator suggests that the carburetor was not adjusted properly (too rich). The transmission linkage was also out of adjustment, according to one source in a position to know.

The protest by Fuentes, virtually unheard of in the annals of the Pan Am, reportedly failed because she had no proof of the violation. Neither car had a video camera, so it was her word against his. If Triviño had been found guilty, under the rules the penalty would have been disqualification. Defenders of Triviño claim that he pulled over to let Mockett pass, but that Mockett did not seize the opportunity.

In addition, on Day #4, entering Queretaro, Triviño received aid from a third party, when a timing official left his post to return the car’s time card, which they left at Control “C” at the end of the last speed stage. Furthermore, Triviño did not follow the prescribed course in the route book. Instead, he missed the Control T at the race track in Queretaro (where the laps had been canceled) and went directly downtown to the finishing arch. For these transgressions, Triviño was penalized one minute, according to unnamed sources not authorized to speak on his behalf.

To underscore the two-pony aspect of this race, the overall third-place finishers at the end of the race, Hilaire Damiron and Horacio Chousal (Mex), lagged more than ten minutes behind Mockett and Triviño! That is a bunch.

The surprise fourth place car overall and 1st in Historic C, a Historic C Mustang, was driven by Ignacio Izaurieta, a Mexican WRC rally driver. Mexicans Carlos Castillo, Francisco Márquez and Gabriel Pérez followed.

Mats Linden, driving what was reported to be a legitimate FIA Mustang with a 289 engine, finished 8th overall and 2d in Historic C. On the first day of the event, Linden had finished an impressive third overall.

Stewart and Linda Robertson notched a highly respectable 9th place finish in their beautiful Turismo Mayor Studebaker. Unlike most of those who finished ahead of them, the Robertson’s normally race only one event each year – LCP.

Jochen Mass, former F1 driver, who was running on only seven cylinders for most of the event, finished 11th, while pre-race favorite Michel Jourdain roared back to finish 13th, even after suffering a serious off-road excursion on Day #6 and problems on Mil Cumbres.

The anticipated re-match in Historic A Plus -- between Martin Lauber and Conrad Stevenson in their Alfa, the “Taxi Perdido,” and Taz Harvey and Rudy Vajdak in a Datsun 510 -- lived up to expectations when Lauder finished only 0.82 seconds ahead of Harvey at the end of the first day.

On Day# 5, Harvey finished fifth overall, the best showing for both drivers. However, pushing the cars so hard resulted in more mechanicals for each, and at least one “off” by the Taxi. Ironically, they finished next to each other, Harvey in 29th by 27 seconds over Lauber in 30th, and fourth and fifth in Historic A Plus. Mechanical problems probably kept both cars from finishing in the top ten.

The top U.S. drivers in Historic C were John and Ben Greenwood -- in one of Todd Landon’s Mustangs -- in 19th place overall.

John Gregory finished 45th and first in OPA despite the fact he was missing his regular navigator and spirited spouse, Chrislana.

Carson Scheller, a prior OPA Champion, and his daughter Lauren struggled with mechanical problems and fell back to 78th yet stayed on the podium in this small class. It was also good to see David Buchanan show up in his beautiful Chrysler in this class, which needs more entries.

**Other Honorable Mentions

Each crew in the Pan Am has a story to tell of their trails and tribulation. Here’s just a few of the participants who deserve special notice.

René Rodriguez and Vance Stewart (II and III) finished third in their car, ”El Jefe,” in Turismo Production while running against cars that some believe exceed the specifications of this class.

Paul Hladky finished his first LCP in 31st place in his green and white ’64 Corvette. Paul lost his father in an aviation accident on October 1, but decided to participate in the race. He was my pre-race candidate for the “Spirit of Carrera” award.

Steve Waldman and Felipe Arguelles not only finished in the top third, but did not suffer a serious mechanical problem the whole way. Felipe thus lost his bet with his mechanics and shaved his head in Zacatecas.

Pedro Vidal, whose Mini rolled on Day #5 while trying to pass another car, pledges like that famous general, “I shall return.” Pedro is nursing four broken ribs. His navigator, Dr. José Abreu, who was not injured, has warned him not to sneeze for six months.

Daniela Wagner and Silvia Linder from Germany, the only all-woman crew in the race, finished 43d in their Porsche 911.

LCP book author Johnny Tipler and his handsome partners Sara Baggs-Bennett and driver-wrench Bill Hemmer carried on in the best English tradition-- stiff upper lip and all--in their Porsche 914.

The only crew to actually drive their car from Texas to the start of the race in the Coyote Convoy and then race it back to Zacatecas, Thomas Ledergerber and Tino Schmidt (GER), even after bouncing off a guardrail, finished 44th in their V8 Mercedes. They too were also deserving candidates for the”Spirit of Carrera” award.

The ”Spirit of Carrera” award, however, was given to Joe Ramirez – the first Mexican F1 crew chief. Ramirez is listed as finishing third in Historic A, but reportedly the officials have upheld a protest by Pedro Vidal, Roger Sullivan, and John Herzler (USA ) that may bump him off the podium. Apparently when Ramirez’s Volvo’s engine pooped out on Day #1, he switched to another car, a similar Volvo, initially registered in Historic A Plus.

Roger Sullivan and John Herzler’s Volvo finished all the stages and, as noted above, could be soon listed as finishing in third place in Historic A. Not bad for their first trip to Mexico.

Predator Racing (David Hinton) deserves recognition because of its podium finishes in Sports Mayor but also because of the quality and beauty of their classic entries: two beautiful Jaguar 150s and one all-aluminum ‘58 Maserati.

Kevin Kelly and his ’55 Chrysler 300 – one of three identical NASCAR replicas – deserves mention as well. His car looked great and finished well. Too bad one of his partners reneged on driving the second car and another partner’s wife had emergency surgery. Next year perhaps all three of these magnificent automobiles will be in the race.

Walt Sikes and Gordon Walton drove a conservative race in their beautiful teo-liter Porsche 911, finished well, and will be back next year, probably with more engine and brakes.

As ever, Hayden Groendyke thrilled all with his glorious, supercharged ’49 Caddy-Vette racing in Exhibition.

After a few frustrating years, old friend Jake Shuttlesworth and young friend Tony Bogovich finished in their Ford—not a “Stang or “Falcoon”—but a red Fairlane.

Several of these racers have already signed up for the Chihuahua Express in March.

The BIG OOPS! Award must go the crew of the “new” white Mustang fastback that collided head-on with a civilian car going around a corner after a speed stage had been canceled. From the photos, it was clear that the Mustang was going too fast -- in the wrong lane. It was fortunate that the people in the front seat of the civilian car were belted in and had airbags. Some of the injuries in both cars, while not life-threatening, were serious. Both vehicles looked like total losses. This will be a huge hit for the event’s insurance carrier.

For the unofficial, final results go to, and look for the results for Day #7 (bottom right of chart).

**Cure PCSD – Sign Up for the Chihuahua Express!

Pilotos and co-pilotos suffering from PCSD (Post-Carrera Stress Disorder) should take the cure by signing up for the 6th Annual Chihuahua Express, March 23-25, 2012. Why wander around aimlessly, mumbling about Mil Cumbres and La Bufa? Send in your Express entry, get that race car into the shop, and ready for the Express!

The Express is around 330 miles of speed stages in a 1000 mile event. The early entry fee is only $2000 USD. Hotels are extra.

Both modern and classic (Pan Am) cars may race, and the rules are basically the same as LCP. And the best part is returning to the same luxury hotel room each night and having the driver’s meeting downstairs – on time and with the results.

An application will be sent upon request. Just hit reply on your email.

**Plans for LCP 2012 – Speak Up!

The LCP Organizing committee is considering a major change in the route next year: starting the event in Zacatecas and ending in Huatulco -- in effect, reversing the course. Since 1951, the original Pan Am ran from the south of Mexico towards the north, so has the revival since 1988.

Critics of this proposal point out that the south to north route was implemented in 1951 to keep more cars with the event, running or not. For example, a North American crew with engine problems will be more willing stay with the race if it is headed toward Zacatecas, 426 miles from the border, than Huatulco which is four times that far from the border.

Send your comments about the proposed route and the event to:

**Contributions for Lupita

More than $2700 USD dollars were contributed during LCP 2011 to help support the Mexican nurse, Guadalupe Hernandez, who lost both legs at the hip when pinned against the ambulance by a Carrera race car in 2003. A special thanks to Stewart and Linda Robertson, Dr. Ralph Carungi, and Todd Landon for their generous support. Additional contributions may be sent to:

Doug Mockett and Co., Inc.
1915 Abalone Ave
Torrance, CA 90501

Please make the check out to “Carrera Friends of Lupita Hernandez.”

**Signing Up for LCP 2012

As noted above, the route for the event in 2012 is being developed. The dates, route, and the entry fee also have not been announced. Applications will not be considered by the Organizing Committee until February 1. The Organizing Committee will make the decision about which cars will be allowed to participate.

Given the popularity of the event in Mexico, even with continuing problems with timing and scoring, the event will probably be a sell out for the fifth straight year, especially if the event’s Silver Anniversary is celebrated.

If you are considering running the event next year, be prepared to present your entry early. If you have not run the Pan Am before, you also should be able to provide the Organizers with a technical description of your car, plus a complete set of plans and diagram for the roll cage. Photos of the finished car may be more important than ever.

As reported in CARRERA NEWS before, the Organizers are looking for more diversity among the cars. According to Mr. Leon, as recently as this week, the event seems to have exceeded its quota of Ford Mustangs, faux Shelbys, Falcons, and Porsche 911/912s.

The Organizers are known to be partial to four-cylinder sports cars and sedans made up until 1972 or thereabouts. Classics from the ‘50s, and exotics, specials, and certified replicas are also invited warmly.

The under-subscribed classes are: Turismo Production, Sports Mayor (over 2000 cc), and Sports Menor (under 2000 cc). Also, the Original Pan Am class needs an infusion of entries. Where are all those ’54 “Hot Rod” Lincolns hiding?

Additional information about entering the event in 2012 and the preparation of cars will be provided upon request.


Advertize your car for sale or lease here for a $50 contribution, which is used to support . The car will be listed there for the entire year, too.


LCP, like other forms of auto racing, is very dangerous, and potentially addictive.

**Contact Information

Gerie Bledsoe, Coordinator
La Carrera Panamericana and Chihuahua Express
USPO address: 220 N. Zapata Hwy Ste 11
Laredo, TX 78043
1-650-525-9190 (Home office)
1-650-867-9488 (mobile, only in US)
Number in Mexico +52-415-185-8470

Carrera car number: Chevy II, Nova, #395, Historic C (1999-2011)

Carrera Office, Mexico City 1-310-6959 (U.S. number)

© Gerie Bledsoe 2011