Mexico's Great Rally Race
La Carrera Panamericana is one of auto-racing’s most historic and longest running speed rallies. It can only be compared to other great rallies such as Mille Miglia and Targa Florio in Italy.
The Golden Age of the carrera panamericana
La Carrera was first run in 1950 as a 6-day, 9 stage event. It’s purpose was to promote tourism and investment in Mexico, as well as promote the newly completed Pan-American highway that crossed the country.
La Carrera Panamericana owes its beginnings to the initiative of Don Enrique Martín Moreno, who with the support of the Mexican government, organized the first five editions of La Carrera in 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953 and 1954. In 1955 a fatal accident during the 24-hours of Le Mans in France caused the Mexican government to suspend the race for the safety of the drivers and spectators.
From the beginning La Carrera attracted the best drivers and racing car manufacturers in the world. Ferrari, Porsche, Mercedes, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, VW, Ford, Lincoln, and Oldsmobile all sent teams. European driving stars such as Ascari, Fangio, and Bonetteo raced with North American stars of NASCAR and INDY to prove who was fastest. In 1953 when the FIA created the World Drivers Championship and Manufacturers Championship, La Carrera was the final event on the world race calendar.
As the speed of the cars eclipsed the safety of the roads and the safety of the equipment La Carrera become to dangerous to continue. It was increasingly difficult to secure the race route and keep spectators, and drivers, safe. In light of the spectator deaths at the 1955 Le Mans, racing La Carrera was suspended. But, not forever.
The Modern Era of la carrera
34 years passed before La Carrera Panamercana was raced again. In 1988 group of supporters revived La Carrera with the strong, continued support of Mexican Federal and Regional governments.
A new rule book was developed which reserved the event for cars manufactured between 1940 and 1956, but modernized the safety standards. La Carrera cars today have more in common with modern NASCAR entries than they do with the sedan and coupes of the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s.
Cars are organized in four groups and nine categories, based on year, type, and engine size. Our ’65 Volvo Amazon, with its 2.0 liter B20 engine, runs in Historic A Plus. Nearly every Carrera since 1988 has been won by a car from the Tourismo Mayor group, which is dominated by V8 Studebakers.
The race still follows some of the original routes, traveling through the iconic states of central Mexico including Puebla, Mexico City, Morelia, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas, and Durango. The route changes each year and covers 3000 Km over seven days of racing.
In 2107 La Carrera Panamericana celebrated it’s 30th anniversary. An amazing achievement that speaks volumes about the passion and dedication of the organizers, drivers, and teams. Chris and I had hoped to race in 2017 to be part of that celebration, but there wasn’t enough time to get ready. The “Spirit of La Carrera” lives on and we will be there in 2018 to share it.
All About La Carrera Panamericana
Photo of Lincoln coupe and Studebaker Commander by Victor Ricardez