Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Report on 2014 Pan Am

Results of LCP 2013

Defending LCP Champion Gabriel Perez (MX) successively defended his title by beating his countryman Emiliano Velazquez in another Turismo Mayor car by a comfortable 3:34.  The pre-race favorite for many Mexicans, Guillermo ” Memo” Rojas, Jr., a professional driver in American sports car events, finished a disappointing third, more than 13 minutes behind the leader because of a crash on day one that cost him dearly.  After the race, Memo was quoted as saying, “I´ll be baaaaaaaaaaaack!”

American favorite Doug Mockett had tire and mechanical problems on Days 1 and 2, and quickly fell out of contention, ending in 19th overall.    His co-piloto and reigning queen of the LCP, Angelica Fuentes, was all smiles in Zacatecas but remained disappointed.  You can be sure that this team will also return in fine form.

Congratulations to the class winners from North America:

1.       Paul Hladky, driving a smart race, was the highest American finisher in fifth overall and first in his class, Turismo Production. Adrian Gerrits was his able co-piloto.
2.       Renée Brinkerhoff, from Denver, driving probably the neatest looking car in the entire race…made entirely of steel…finished first in Sports Menor in her Porsche 356.   This was her second race behind the wheel, but first one as a full-time driver.  She even experienced an “off” when she hit an oil spill on Day 6, resulting in a few “rally marks” on her neat little car.  Renée was ably assisted by her Mexican co-piloto Roberto Mendoza.  Americans swept all three top places in this class.  Renée may be the first woman driver from any country to mount the podium, and is certainly the first to win her class, according to Eduardo Leon, the race’s organizer.
3.       Conrad Stevenson and Nelson Chan emerged as the winners of Historic A Plus when class leader Martin Lauder´s “Taxi Perdido” pulled up lame early on Day 7.   Many considered Conrad’s red Alfa to be the sexiest car in the event with its Sophia Loren curves.  See more below about recent developments in this class.
4.       Carson Scheller and his daughter Lauren repeated once again as champs of the Original Pan Am class and 25th overall.  It was Carson´s 4th win, with three second place finishes, and never a DNF in seven tries.  Awesome!

Honorable mentions.
Taz Harvey, driving his new Datsun Z car, finished 8th overall but a disappointing 2d in Historic B, losing to a Porsche 911 from Mexico.    Last year in his Datsun 510, he and navigator Rudy Vajdak had finished 8th overall but 1st in Historic A Plus.   Reportedly, Taz had the usual problems sorting out a new car during the race.  When this car gets sorted out, it will finish much higher in the rankings.

Rene Rodriquez and the Vance Stewart boys, from TBZ Racing, won third place again in Turismo Mayor in their Ford, “El Jefe,” also significantly improving their overall standing, too.  They enjoyed major support from sibling cheer leader Kristin, who was unable to experience the cockpit this year because of the rule limiting a car to three drivers.  Vance Stewart III, apparently emerged as the hot shoe in the family.

Christian Reichardt had to leave the race early, but his partner Dan Roche, and A. J. Schwitenberg  finished in second in Original Pan Am and 54th overall in their Lincoln.    After doing so well the first few days, the only other car, a Chrysler Hemi, driven by David Buchanan, in this class was put it on the trailer by bad oil pump.

More cars are needed in Original Pan Am.

Father and son team Douglas Hampson finished third in Historic C Plus and 49th overall in their Volvo, and reportedly have adventures to remember in the wild, too-fast transit stages.

Neville Sonner and Dawson Tanner took second in Sports Menor in their Porsche 356, followed by Rob Curry and Rickey Shaw also in a 356.  They, too, experience an “off¨ on Day 6 in the oil spill, and had the dubious distinction of being pulled out of the ditch by the same fellow who helped them out the last time they had an “ooops.”

Ray Stevenson and Paul Fruchbom, team drivers, put their Porsche 911 in 20th place overall and 7th in class, a very creditable outcome for rookies.  Ray says, I was just getting started! 

 Walt Sikes and Gordon Walton, in their beautiful 911, followed in 30th spot overall, up from 52 last year.  Walt looked good on YouTube managing to avoid a spin on Day 6 on that oil slick stage that collected the two 356s and totaled an Alfa.
Other class winners included Mexican Xavier Lamadrid in Historic C (the “Mustang race”) and finished 7th overall.   The other two top spots in that class went to Europeans, leaving people thinking, what´s wrong with our North American pony cars?   Jack Rogers and C.J. Strupp, who suffered nagging mechanical problems, were the highest American finishers in this class. 

The only Chevy in the Historic C class, a ’65 Nova SS, driven by Canadians John and Chrislana Gregory, finished 35th and 9th in class, after suffering steering problems much of the way.  Fortunately they found a part in a “yonke” (junkyard) in San Miguel de Allende that helped somewhat.

Ian Swan and his wife Val from Australia finished 4th in Historic C and 18th overall in a Todd Landon-prepared Mustang.  Landon prepared four Mustangs, his personal best, for the folks from Down Under.  Results for the team of four cars, as you might expect, were mixed.

The LT Special, a Chevy Chevelle chassis with a Mexican fiberglass sports-car body, was finally hauled out of storage to win Sports Mayor again in the hands of Adrian Stephens (GB) and Sam Burg (USA).  They finished 55th overall, the only car to finish in their class.  But they looked sporty!  Sam also has driven that car to the podium in the past.

Miles Jones and Bob Gehlen, who had their share of mechanical adversity, always looked dapper, and rolled across the finish line in their daily-driver Mustang, finishing in 57th position overall.  Really, Miles drives this same car to work each day…..sans roll cage.

Jake Shuttlesworth, who led the Coyote Convoy across the Columbia Bridge this year, and navigator Gil Stuart finished in 42d overall, up eleven places from last year.  Jake plans a comeback in Original Pan Am.

In the final unreported class, Historic A, first place went to Roger Furrer and Julian Pitts (Swiss lads) in their baby blue Triumph TR4.  Furrer should be given a Spirit of Carrera award for driving his car most of the way from Houston, Texas to Veracruz with the Coyote Convoy and back to Houston after the race.

Of the twenty-six entries from the U.S. and Canada, seven did not finish because of crashes or mechanical failures:  Martin Lauber (his DNF is under review), Richard Bailey, Kaming Ko, John Daniels, Chip Fudge, David Buchanan, and Chris Ebertz.  The Alberto Bazan father and son team had to withdraw their quick BWM 2002 in Morelia because of a family emergency.

Martin Lauber informs me that he actually finished the final day way down on power, but for some reason, his results were not included in the final tally.  Stay tuned.  Martin ran a great race and it was disappointing to see his car having problems at the end of the race.  Sometimes corrections are made in the final results published on the official web site.

Northern American LCP coordinator, Gerie Bledsoe and his co-piloto, Fernando Garcia, “El Zorro the Younger,” finished 41st in a “new” silver ’53 Studebaker fabricated by Frank Oliveto in Richmond, California.   Dubbed “The Silver Fox,” it was sidelined for two days after tarry gravel ate its power steering hose on Day 1, ultimately ruining the p/s pump, and increasing the steering ratio from 16:1 to 3:1.  After one day of trying to be a 600 pound gorilla behind the wheel, Bledsoe tossed in the towel until a small pump off a Jeep was modified to work two days later. As it stands now, the Silver Fox is slated go to vintage events in the Midwest next season to promote rallying in Mexico.

Of the 84 cars that actually started the race on Day 1, only 62 were running on the last day.  There were several off-road excursions, but no serious injury was reported.  Reportedly, four or five cars failed to start, for whatever reason. Last year race had over 100 entries.  Some believe that the significant increase over the past few years in the entry fee has caused diminishing returns.

With the exception of the misadventures some racers and support crews had in entering and exiting Mexico City later in the evening, most North American competitors seemed highly pleased with the event this year.  Apart from some problems with missing hotel reservations, the Organizers got high marks for improvement in the drivers’ meetings and timing results.  The lower number of cars probably made the event run smoother, as well, one competitor noted.  On the other hand, most of us would vote not to run speed stages on fresh tarmac and have a little more time in the transit stages.

Finally, we missed a lot of old friends, like Stewart and Linda Robertson, Bill Shanahan, Tom Overbaugh, Steve Waldman, Kevin Kelley, Tony and Lee-Ann Streslzow (rumored to have survived the Peking to Paris), and Marcia Duncan Blas one of the event´s greatest supporters, to name just a few.  We hope to see them all back next year.

Gerie Bledsoe
Evanston, Illinois
December 2013