Thursday, March 6, 2014





North American and European participation in the Chihuahua Express continues to increase.   Drivers from the U.S. have also signed up for the Express Rally Tour, a time/distance event, as a way to experience rally driving in Mexico.
The Express offers a great opportunity to test a new car for stage rallying in  Mexico and learn the timing and scoring routine without spending two weeks and untold thousands only to find out that it’s not your cup of tea.  Most track cars--modern and vintage--from the US are eligible to participate.  They do not have to be “street legal” and registered for the road in the US or any other country to enter.
Worried about the bad media Mexico gets?  There is ample evidence that the violence associated with the drug wars in Mexico is on the decline, perhaps because of the installation of the new president of Mexico.  This fact has been determined by private intelligence analysts in the US. 
In the twenty-six years of the Pan Am and the nine years of the Border Challenge-Chihuahua Express, there has not been one incident of violence toward a competitor, foreign or Mexican.  That’s a good trend line!  Besides, the state and city of Chihuahua mobilize around 350 police officers to secure our route.  It’s awesome!
The entry fee for the Express is now $2750 USD.  A registration form will be send upon request, along with a memorandum for rookies about racing the Express. 
It is also possible to start the registration process in Chihuahua on April 2.  So, come on down!
The Express is three or now four days long.  Each day offers a different set of roads and different terrain.
Thursday, Day #0 --  There will be an optional pre-qualification stage run on Thursday morning on a two-lane highway just north of Chihuahua.  It is a 10-12 KM stretch of the original Pan Am highway used in 1950-44 for the Carrera Panamericana.  It is a good dress rehearsal for the main event.  Normally, one of the race tracks in town will be open for testing, as well.
Friday, Day #1 – leaving at 8:00 AM, the cars run north of Chihuahua City and then west toward the city of Madera.  The cars begin with a 22 KM  speed stage through the mountains that is spectacular.  What a way to start to start the event!   After that initial stage the cars will run several more stage through smaller mountain ranges.  The race will pass through several American Amish communities along the way, too.  After the service stop in Madera, the cars will race back to Chihuahua on the same roads, running the same speed stages the opposite way.  This is open country, with nothing to slow your progress.  Villages are few and far between.
Saturday, Day #2 – the cars leave early for a long transit southwest of Chihuahua on a four-lane toll road to the city of Cuauhtemoc.   Not long after that city--the only one traversed in the whole race--they will line up for a series of speed runs through beautiful sierra canyons on the way to the first service stop in San Juanito or Creel.  After fueling up, the cars then run speed stages to the top of the famous Copper Canyon, which is bigger than the Grand Canyon, to admire the view and have lunch.  Then they run the same speed stages back down the mountain, which is hard on the brakes.  There's another stop for gas, and several more speed stages.  It’s the longest day of the event.  Usually, the racers bring a few toys as gifts for the local Indian children.
Sunday, Day #3 – leaving later in the morning, the competitors head 145 miles due east toward Ojinaga, Mexico, across the river from Presidio, Texas. It is the shortest and fastest day of the event.  They will run a series of speed stages across the desert and over several smaller mountain ranges.  A brief pause at the famous Pequis Canyon is included so crews can admire landscape that closely resembles the Moon’s surface.  The cars ten race on to Ojinaga for service, before returning on the same stages toward Chihuahua.  Some of the stages include long, flat sections across the desert that are the fastest of the event. Some cars will reach speeds of 160-180 MPH, that were Doug Mockett overcame the lead car last year to pull off a surprise win.
The Express is a racer’s race.  There is minimum ceremony and maximum driving time and public security.  The roads are challenging but in excellent condition.  There are only a few villages and one city along the way, and a minimum number of topes (speed bumps).   After each day the drivers’ meeting starts on time and daily awards are handed out.  After the last day’s run, the final meeting includes an awards banquet. 
It was designed as a weekend event for for busy people with limited time to race, and it is only 240 miles from El Paso or 145 miles from Presidio, Texas.  A convoy will depart from El Paso on April 2 for the trip across the border, through Santa Teresa, New Mexico, and on down to Chihuahua.  Other racers will cross at Presidio.
The announced dates for the Pan Am are October 17-23, 2014, and the starting city will most likely be Veracruz again.
The route for 2014 will most likely includes overnights in Oaxaca, Puebla, Queretaro, Morelia, Guanajuato, Aguascalientes, and Zacatecas.  Changes in this route are always possible.
All rookies or those bringing new race cars to the Express or Pan Am should submit a complete set of photos of their cars for approval, even if the vehicle has not been painted.  Good photos of the entire roll cage are essential, and it may be necessary to include photos of the engine bay and the front suspension.
It’s a good idea to send the North American Coordinator or the race organizer’s office a diagram of your new roll cage before you pay some drag-car shop $4500 or more to weld it into your C-Jag.   Send in the diagram or sketch as soon as possible.
Upon request, I can send you some detailed instructions and diagrams about how to design a cage suitable for a stage rally in Mexico.
The big difference in cage designs between Mexico and the US is the former’s requirements, based on FIA rules, that the car must have an “x” brace in the ceiling above the crew’s heads, “x” braces in the doors, and in some cars, especially bigger coupes, a “Toyota bar” (brace) by the “A” pillars.  Not many US racing organization, like SCCA, NASA or even NASCAR, requires all of this.    The inspectors also like to see additional bracing (gussets) around the halo or rectangle above the crew’s heads.
This extra bracing is deemed necessary in high-speed stage rallies in Mexico where cars can go off into a ravine and crash head first into a big tree or huge boulders.  Thus support of the front of the cage is considered imperative.   Such protection is not deemed necessary on a track in the US by SCCA, NASA, and most other race organizations.
For the Express, however, it is my understanding that since 2012 any cage approved by SCCA or NASA will be accepted, including cages that have support braces connected to the main roll cage by using 8 inch slip joints, grade #5 bolts, and not being welded together, per SCCA or SSCC rules.  Cages for either event (Express or LCP) may be properly bolted to the floor/frame of the car or welded in.
Registration for the Pan Am is open this year on the official web site Click on the tabs Participantes and then Hojo de Registro.  Please follow the directions closely.  Basically, you download the entry form in Adobe Acrobat, fill it out, and then send it via email to the office, with digital photos attached.  Certainly, anything that a 16 year old can manage. :)
To register properly, you will need digital photos of the faces of the driver, co-driver, and the car ready to upload.  You will also need the blood type and Rh factor of the crew, plus their coat sizes.  Some information about the car will be required, and you will select a class or category for your car. 
Only three drivers, co-drivers, or navigators (three in total) may be registered for each car
Registration for the Pan Am is pretty much first-come, first-serve, with no limitations on the number of entries from the US-Canada.
The registration fee has increased by $500, and the early or discounted fee is good until March 30.  For the total fee, please email me.
Please note that the rules about refunds of registration fees tend to vary somewhat from year-to-year, but one rule is consistent:  once you pay for any extra hotel rooms, that money is non-refundable and the rooms cannot be transferred.  Some part of the entry fee may be credited toward next year’s event, if you withdraw in time.
Any form of auto racing is inherently dangerous, and the Express and Carrera are no exception.  Participants will be required to sign waivers absolving the Organizers and the Mexican Auto Sports Association of all responsibility.
As many of you already know, our good friend and racing buddy Steve Waldman passed away last Sunday, after a long illness.  Steve was part of the founding of three races: La Carrera, the Express, and of course, his own event, The Silver State Classic Challenge.  For a variety of reasons, Steve was one of the most interesting , fun people I have ever met.  All of us who knew him will miss him greatly.  Hasta la vista, Caballero!
Steve Waldman
Gerie Bledsoe
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
1-650-525-9190 (US number)