Sunday, January 20, 2008

Destiny... An amazing conception.

Regarding the La Carrera Panamericana which is still the last open, top-speed road race of its kind in the world, I am often amazed how much it seems as if time has stood still. Every single La Carrera has been as exciting and spectacular as the one before. In fact the La Carrera Panamericana ranks up there with many historic automotive races with all the glory, honor, grandeur, and distinction like a fine diamond in the Crown Jewels.

Having read just about every possible thing there is to read with respect to the La Carrera about the only two major things that have changed are those amazing drivers and co drivers who competed in it and the rule changes with regard to that of improvement in safety equipment. The safety equipment changes and strict enforcement have been the single most important transformation within the race and thankfully one of the only ones thus allowing the La Carrera to remain one of the few unchanged races of all time.

Many men have lost their lives in the pursuit of the La Carrera finish line and the satisfaction of knowing they could build and drive a car thru what has remained one of the most grueling races in history. There are many literary descriptions for the La Carrera Panamericana and here are just a few;

The most dangerous torture tests of all time for man and machine.
The premier event of world racing.
World's Longest Road Race.
Battle Of The Giants.
The Mexican Road Race.
The Most Dangerous Race In The World.
The World's Toughest Race
Most Grueling Race In Any Calendar.
More grueling than Le Mans, four times longer than the Indy 500 and more treacherous than the Mille Miglia.

With respect given to no changes in the La Carrera here is an article that was published in TIME the year I was born 1951.

From the sunbaked, palm-dotted town of Tuxtla Gutiérrez near the Guatemalan border, 97 carefully tuned automobiles set off last week on the first northward lap of the second Pan-American stock-car race, a five-day, 1,933-mile scramble sponsored by Mexico's National Automobile Association. Competing with Mexican speed demons for $68,000 in prizes—and the glory of beating some of the world's nerviest racers to Ciudad Juarez—were two-man teams from the U.S., Canada, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, France and Italy. Ahead of them were the hairpin curves, roller-coaster dips and erratic paving of the Pan-American highway, bone-jarring enough at tourist speeds, and highly dangerous for even the most experienced racer.

At the start of the race, Jose Estrada, a prosperous Mexico City auto dealer and a veteran racer, announced: "I will win, or die trying." On the first lap, his 1951 Packard screeched off the road and tumbled 630 feet down into a ravine. Both Estrada and Co-Driver Miguel González died in a Oaxaca hospital that afternoon. Next day Carlos Panini, wealthy Italian-born founder of Mexico's first scheduled airline (Aerovias Panini), was killed when his Alfa Romeo skidded into a field and turned over.

Though the Mexican attitude toward bloodshed and danger is traditionally stoic, the deaths of two well-known Mexican sportsmen in the first two days of the race brought some reactions of horror and indignation. A government official publicly branded the race "an imitation of North American customs not suited to Mexican characteristics." The press went off on a crusade. Mexico City's El Universal declared that permitting such dangerous shenanigans was a "crime."

Meanwhile, the race went on, to heightened public interest. Of the 97 starting cars, only 35—all but two U.S. models—finished out the race. Among the starters who dropped out: Hershel McGriff of Portland, Ore., winner of the 1950 race. The two foreign cars that went the route, both lightweight 1951 Italian Ferraris, came in first and second. Leading the pack was Italy's white-haired Piero Taruffi, who finished fourth last year. Taruffi's Ferrari covered the 1,933 miles at an average speed of 88.2 m.p.h., 9.8 m.p.h. faster than McGriff's 1950 mark. Runnerup was Alberto Ascari, Italy's champion racer. Seven minutes and 50 seconds behind Ascari, according to the official clocking, was William Sterling of El Paso, in a Chrysler. The top Mexican came in ninth.

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