Monday, September 29, 2008

Lucky's Blood Line Appears At NASCAR Race

Last weekend prior to the start of the Camping World RV 400 at Kansas Speedway soldiers from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command thrilled race fans with a daring pre-race demonstration as the official Ford Fusion pace car was taken on a special “ride”.It was airlifted and then offloaded onto the track by an MH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne).

Boy, I know a few teams that would give their right arm to get a ride like that to the La Carrera Panamericana.

Lucky Attends Car Show

This last weekend my wife, children and grandson spent the day at the Livermore car show. With over 700 cars in attendance Lucky was parked in a guest of honor position in the main sqaure while other cars were parked over many blocks. Any car show is a good car show but one that I can spend the day with my family at get's highest honors in my book any day.

With over 700 very cool cars there was lots to see but one of the coolest cars I saw displayed was a pedal car. It was a special built 75th anniversay edition of a 32 Ford Roadster but get this... It is signed by Edsel B. Ford II. Tell me that isn't cool as hell! It was being sold via a silent bid for charity.

To see some of the other cars there, CLICK HERE.

San Miguel and Master Chefs Ready To Honor Coyote Convoy

Good friend Mary Murrell from San Miguel de Allende has a great writeup in the current edition of ATTENCION SAN MIGUEL which is the local paper in San Miguel. Not only is it a great article but it talks in detail about the gala celebration as well as the sophisticated, world class cuisine that is being prepared by master chefs just for the occasion.

By Mary Murrell September 26, 2008 San Miguel de Allende

Panamericana Gala
Concurso de Motorsports weekend
Sat, Oct 18, 7pm
Hotel Refugio del Molino
Salida Real a Querétaro 1

An important part of the Concurso de Motorsports is the arrival of the convoy of cars and drivers who visit San Miguel on their way to start the Carrera Panamericana Mexican road race.

The Panamericana Gala will be a tribute to the Carrera racing teams and racing legends in Mexico, and it will be an example of the importance of community collaboration in San Miguel. Where else would one find experienced chefs willing to create an outstanding evening, not as individual stars, but as part of a team of stars?

The gala showcases how healthy food can be delicious, especially in Mexico. Why? Because original Mexican cuisine, one of the most sophisticated in the world, is a delightful and delicate blend that tastes good is also good for us.

Kirsten West, who has 35 years of experience in designing and producing extraordinary meals, is a key member of the team. The ancient culture and cuisine of Mexico has been a focus for her during the past 20 years. After studying in Michoacán with Diana Kennedy—one of the world’s top scholars of Mexican cuisine—West worked as her assistant. Together they shot 26 shows on Mexican cuisine for the Discovery Channel.

She has also worked with Rick Bayless, America’s foremost authority on Mexican cuisine. Bayless and his wife, Deann, own the highly acclaimed Mexican restaurants Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago. West acted as a recipe researcher and kitchen director for his PBS show Mexico, One Plate at a Time. She also worked on his companion cookbook of the same name, winner of the James Beard Foundation award (foodie “Oscars”) for 2001 in the international category.

West is now the managing director of Rancho Casa Luna Culinary and Organic Garden Event Center ( Rancho Casa Luna has a large organic garden, state-of-the-art kitchen facilities for cooking classes and beautiful dining spaces for large groups. Conceived as a way for visitors to better understand the culture and cuisine of Mexico, Rancho Casa Luna is located in the countryside very close to town.

Another experienced chef and caterer, Fernando Padilla, is contributing his extensive knowledge of the finest-quality local ingredients and his skills in cooking for very large events. Padilla is from a family of chefs and learned the importance of memorable meals from his grandmother, who ran a successful catering business in Mexico City.

Padilla has worked in France, Belgium and Israel to learn other cuisines and is a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. He directed the Lando Grille in Mexico City, selected by Condé Nast Traveler magazine to join their list of top new restaurants. Now he lives full-time in San Miguel, teaches cooking classes at Sazón and runs his catering business, Chef y Más ( He also produces a line of natural gourmet products sold across Mexico.

Together the two chefs have created a menu for the Panamericana Gala reflecting what original Mexican cuisine is all about: healthy eating.

As West pointed out, “Whenever I made this statement, with conviction, in teaching classes about Mexican cuisine, my students gave me this incredulous look of disbelief. They thought of Mexican food as combo plates served smothered with blankets of melted cheese.”

She says, “The gala dinner includes many indigenous foods but, mind you, healthy is not boring. It is fabulous and tasty. It is not covered with cheese or too spicy for sensitive palates. Come and indulge.”

European influences of chicken, beef and nuts will be paired with the foods of pre-Hispanic Mexico—squash, chile, potatoes, corn, herbs and tomatoes. The finale will be a unique Carrera dessert—fruit from Mexico and the glorious crown of global enrichment from the New World: chocolate.

This memorable meal also includes verdolago, a plant seen in the local markets quite often. Many of us have no idea what it is or what to do with it. “The plant has both European and ancient Latin American origins, a global weed so to speak,” West pointed out. “It is the latest new miracle food besides the nopal, with more omega-3 fats than most fish. We are getting closer to healthy Mexican food, without sacrificing flavor.”

Hotel Refugio del Molino, only nine blocks from the Jardín, hosts the Panamericana Gala. It promises to be an exceptional evening. In addition to the wonderful meal, the winners of the Concurso de Margaritas in July—Hecho en Mexico and Dila’s Restaurant—provide their traditional and exotic margaritas.

An exhibition of rare automobiles from private collections will be open only to gala guests.

Most of the gala ticket price goes to two outstanding nonprofit organizations, CASA and Casita Linda. You can reserve tickets over the internet at or order tickets and pay by credit card at

Visit for more information about Concurso de Motor Sports.

Concurso de Motor Sports Panmericano Schedule

A weekend of classic cars, vintage motorcycles and motor sports entertainment

Fri, Oct 17, Carrera de Pokers, a “poker rally”

Drivers pick up cards from five locations around San Miguel, Dolores Hidalgo and Guanajuato, lunch, then return to lay down their hands. Highest and lowest poker hands win prizes.

US$20 registration

Sat, Oct 18, Panamericana Gala

Homage to legendary driver Hershel McGriff, the first driver to win La Carrera Panamericana

Hotel Refugio del Molino

“The Coyote Convoy” arrives in San Miguel

Sun, Oct 19, Exhibit of racing cars


October 24, Carrera cars race back to the Texas border, via Querétaro on
October 26 and San Luis Potosí on

October 27. The race also visits Aguascalientes and Zacatecas before ending in Nuevo Laredo on October 30.

Mary Murrell is a member of the Advisory Committee for the Concurso de Motor Sports and a CASA volunteer.

Gerie Bledsoe's Carrera Driver, Last Edition

CARRERA DRIVER September 30, 2008

(Some added notes from Gary Faules at the bottom)














In two weeks many of us will be starting the long drive to Tuxtla Gutierrez and the start of the Pan Am. Most of us are scrambling to finish our car and make all the necessary arrangements for the adventure. Good luck in getting it all done. Don’t get to tired and frustrated. OK?

This will be the last regular CARRERA DRIVER. I hope that you have found this email newsletter useful. Please do not hesitate to call or write if you have questions. I will leave home on October 15 for LA and Phoenix, before going on to El Paso and Laredo.


Coyote Convoy participants will meet in the lobby of the Residence Inn de Mar (Marriott) in Laredo, Texas at 9 PM, Oct. 17 to discuss crossing the border and the 540 mile trip down to San Miguel de Allende.

Each convoy crew member who has paid the $30 fee for the reception, breakfast, and related activities will be given an admission ticket for these events at the meeting.

After the meeting, the hotel’s shuttle will take us down to the border to obtain visas and car/truck tourist permits. If you arrive earlier in the day, the shuttle will take you down there. The building is right down on the river, between and under Bridges #1 and #2. You may walk across Bridge #1 (the old one) and then follow the road down to the building.

Have you ordered your Coyote Convoy T-shirts yet? Only $11 for all but huge sizes.


At 6 AM the Coyote Convoy will roll down I-35 to the border, across the bridge into Nuevo Laredo, Mexico where it will hang a left, and go around the eastern side of town. It will then turn left onto Highway 85 to Monterrey. (Detailed instructions will be emailed.)

About 18 miles outside of Nuevo Laredo, all traffic must stop at the Mexican Customs checkpoint. No foreign car or truck may go beyond this point without a tourist permit and windshield sticker.

Cover up stacks of new tires, equipment, and other items that may be subject to import duty (fees). There is no reason to tempt fate at this important checkpoint. Normally, after a brief pause, we are waved through.

If you are crossing the border later on Saturday or Sunday, make sure you quickly identify yourself as being with La Carrera Panamericana. Show the Mexican officials papers, signs, T-shirts, or anything that will help make the connection. They should let you through.

If for some reason they want you to pay customs duty on something, there is an expedited process when you can bring in $2500 of stuff for a set fee. Consider it as a way to speed up the process of getting your stuff into the country.


When you fly into Mexico, you will fill out a visa form on the airplane. After you land, you will first clear Immigration, where the officer will check your visa application, stamp it, and then stamp your passport. Then you will get your luggage and clear Customs. I believe your visa is good for thirty days and can be renewed. If you are flying into Tuxtla Gutierrez, you will probably change planes and clear Customs in Mexico City.

On the visa form, where it asks for your destination, write in Camino Real Hotel, Tuxtla Gutierrez (city), Chiapas (state).


Thirty-four members of the Coyote Convoy have purchased tickets to the Panamerican Gala on Saturday night at 7:00 after we arrive in San Miguel de Allende. Thank you very much for supporting CASA and Casita Linda. Tickets are still available ($150). (We also need a couple of tickets for locals who cannot afford to attend, if anyone is feeling especially generous.)

For those who want to visit the historic downtown area instead, there will be a group leaving the hotel at 6:30. Later in the evening those young in spirit will gather at Mama Mia’s for some music and libations. It’s a local hot spot. Another hot spot is Nuesta Tierra, which is next door and up the stairs. It’s a nice open-air restaurant that specializes in Spanish tapas and very popular with the chic people from Mexico City.

On Sunday morning, those who wish to display their cars in the main square should drive their cars downtown at 10 AM. It’s about 10 blocks down the hill. You will have a map.

Plan to stay until 4 PM on Sunday.

During the day, there will be a VIP lounge in a mansion about three blocks from the main square, where free buffet lunch will be served. It will be OK to lock your car up, visit the VIP lounge, or walk around during the day. Admission to the VIP lounge is by Coyote Convoy ticket only. The VIP lounge is being provides by a sponsor of the Concurso de Motors Sports that is building an upscale development Artesana in the center of town. Houses start at one million.

There will be a brief check-in meeting at the VIP lounge at 3:30, if anyone has questions.

Lunch and snacks are also available around the main square, including a Starbucks (!).

About 140 Americans, Canadians, and Europeans will be in San Miguel because of the Convoy and the Concurso. 250 are expected for the gala banquet. Get ready to be a celeb and carry a couple of pens to sign autographs.


There are two or three seats available for the Pam Am tour being conducted by the former public relations officer of the Carrera Panamericana, Rosa Maria Mandragón. She has been a co-piloto in four Carreras, too, so she knows her way around.

She will start the tour in San Miguel on Oct. 19 for the trip down to Tuxtla Gutierrez with the Coyote Convoy. Then she will accompany the race back to Nuevo Lardeo in her eight-passenger Ford Expedition SUV.

You may join her for the whole trip or just part of the trip. If you want to save some money on hotels, she will have some suggestions, too.

Contact Rosa Maria at


We have only five rooms available at the Hotel Refugio.

So far, the Carrera Office in Mexico City has not released the names of the official hotels during the race. I am assuming that the HQ hotel in Tuxtla Gutierrez will be the Camino Real Hotel.


Do you have your unofficial Carrera Check List handy to review before you leave home? If not, I will e-mail it again.

A few important items to do:

1. notify your credit card companies that you will be traveling in Mexico.
2. enable your phone to work in Mexico (at a reduced rate, if possible).
3. check the age of your tires
4. get your personal papers in order
5. check your medical insurance, need air ambulance service
6. bring sufficient quantities of your meds (bring the prescriptions, too)
but do not take aspirin unless your doctor advises it for your heart.
7. have a plan to extract your car from the ditch on Day 1
8. get a Garmin GPS or software


The weather in Tuxtla Gutierrez should be hot and humid, so pack walking shorts, T-shirts, and hat. Bring bug spray and sunscreen, too. It should be hot on the first day of the race, too. (Ice to cool your hands or head would be good.) Drink lots of water. Do not drink booze or try to limit your consumption, especially at higher altitudes.

Once we reach Oaxaca (5000 feet) the weather should be mild until the last day, when we lose altitude before entering Nuevo Laredo. Typical dress will be jeans and T-shirts, with a light jacket or sweat shirt at night. Cold fronts sometimes come through Central Mexico during the event, and it can get chilly, especially at higher altitudes like Zacatecas (8000 feet). It takes about three days for your body to adjust to the altitude.

While driving during the day from Oaxaca to Zacatecas, the temperatures should be in the high 70s to low 80s. You will be comfortable in the shade and transits stages, but during competition, your core temperature will rise considerably. Drink water. Keep your head and hands cool. Bring a baseball hat to wear when you are out of the car, because the sun is hotter at high altitudes. Stuff it in your driving suit when you are in the car. Normally, the air will be dry, but we have had rain at least part of one day—from showers in Oaxaca to downpours in Nuevo Laredo. If it rains, slow down!

Dress occasions? About the only time anyone dresses up is for the final driver’s meeting. For most of us a pair of slacks and Carrera jacket will suffice. Women, of course, are expected to wear something silky. J

Some hotels will clean your driving suit or do laundry overnight. Ask at the desk.


The exchange rate right now is about 10.4 new pesos for one US dollar. The best exchange rate is at the border, Mexican airports, and banks. The hotels will exchange a small amount of money, but charge a high commission.

Do not confused when you see prices written like $101.50. The Mexicans also use the dollar sign.

On the trip to Tuxtla, a tow vehicle and trailer will need around $600 USD in pesos for gas and tolls. Coming back, the tow vehicle will need around $800 USD in pesos, and the racecar around $600. Of course, cars will turbo chargers will burn more gas. More and more PEMEX stations are now accepting credit cards, so there is no so much pressure to carry large amounts of pesos.

For typical crews (SUV and race car), around $2000 in pesos is sufficient to make the trip: gas, tolls, and “tips” for the “policia” for the entire race.

The buffet breakfast at the hotels is fast, but expensive. You can get a continental breakfast for a fraction of the cost. Take a couple of rolls for later, too. Bananas are especially good for snacks while driving. Do not leave town without a couple of bottles of water.


Speaking of the cops, the best way to avoid problems with the local cops (not our friends, the Federales) is to obey the traffic laws. This is especially true of the service vehicles pulling trailers. When local cops see you break the law, they see a big payday, because it is customary in Mexico for cops to collect and keep traffic “fines.”

Being good capitalists they will charge what the traffic will bear (pun intended)--200 pesos for a Mexican and 4000 pesos for a gringo. The “fine” is negotiable for a gringo, however. But time is against you, because you are in a timed race. You can offer $50 and settle for $100 or go down to the police station to pay the real $20 fine. Your choice.

If stopped, the cop will ask for your driver’s license. He will not return the license until you pay the “fine” to him or at the police station. It is up to you to fork it over or not. Maybe it would be good to take an international license down for this occasion?

The Mexican government has been working to eliminate this, the “mordida,” system, but it is so engrained in the society, progress is slow.

When entering and leaving cities, the racecars will be frequently escorted by motorcycle cops at unbelievable speeds. Be careful. There have been local fatalities during these scary events.

Please understand the Federales – the guys in the black and white cars – are our friends and have only been helpful. Several Federales will travel with us and will try to be helpful. However, they do not have jurisdiction in the cities. Still, if you have a problem with a local cop or have a fender bender, check to see if a Federale is around to help out.


Please do not show up at the border with two vehicles registered in your name and expect the Mexicans to give you tourist stickers for both. There is still time to get stickers from At the border you may sign the title of one vehicle over to another person who is with you. As a last resort, use a Mexican customs broker, but allow extra time for this option. (If you have company vehicles, bring the necessary documents.)

The Mexican consulate in San Francisco is no longer issuing car stickers. Those in Northern California must use the consulate in Sacramento. There are consulates in Los Angeles and San Bernardino that sell stickers.

Mexican car insurance? It is available on-line from You can also buy insurance on either the US or Mexican side of the border in Laredo, including the customs office on the Nuevo Laredo side. Best to get it before you cross. The insurance agencies in the customs house may not be open all night. It is unlikely that any insurance company will sell insurance on a car that will be raced, however. The insurance only covers the car when it is not being raced. You are covered during the raced by the event’s liability policy. However, the policy may not cover you if you have been drinking or are willfully negligent.


As I have explained over the past year, my role as North American Coordinator is to help you sign up for the race, prepare for the event, and assist your trip to Mexico. Once we arrive in Tuxtla Gutierrez, I have no official role. As I have said, I do not make the rules, interpret the rules, nor enforce the rules. In fact, sometimes I can’t even figure out what the rules are! I can only offer my unofficial, personal opinion, based on 10 years of experience.

As you know, I will be a competitor in Historic C (car #395), and there is a inherent conflict of interest therein. Like you, I will be driving hard all day and working on my car until late at night. (I will try to attend the nightly driver’s meetings, however, if you have a problem.)

I will continue to answer questions and provide solicited and unsolicited advice as needed and necessary. We will try to make sure that the rookies get a good orientation into the timing system before the race, as we’ve never had an adequate explanation yet by race officials, especially for visual learners.


Here’s the basic concept again:

Each day’s route, as described in the route book, is divided into six to eight Sections. The first Section in the book starts when we leave Tuxtla Gutierrez or the starting city each morning. Timing for the rest of the Sections during the day starts when you actually are launched into a speed stage, except for the Section after lunch. To begin the timing process, you must first be able to where to find your Start Time – in the morning and after each speed stage. Then you add your Start Time to the Section Time to calculate when you should check-in at the next speed sage (Z Control).

Therefore, 6-8 times a day you will make this calculation:

Start Time + Section Time = Z Time

Memorize this formula. Understand it.


Here is the formula explained in more detail:

Start time + section time = when to report for next speed stage (Z).

1. “Start Time.” This is your “A” time that the timing officials will write in the “A” box on your time card, right before you start every speed stage. It is a time of day, like 10:45 (AM) or 14:20:30 (PM). Typically they will write down only the minutes and seconds.

2. “Section Time.” This is the amount of time you have to complete the Section or route in the book, which begins with the speed stage (A). The Section Time is printed in the route book and on the time card. Know where to find it.

3. “Z Time.” This is the “correct” or perfect time for you to report to the next speed stage (Z Control). By adding the “Section Time” to the “Start Time” you calculate when you are supposed to check in at the next “Z” control. Remember you can be 59 seconds late to check-in without penalty. The pros try to be around 15 seconds late.


1. Mornings. Each morning, the officials will give your car a Start Time based on your performance the previous day. Add the amount of time for the first Section in the book to your Start Time determine when you are supposed to check-in at the first Control Z of the day. (You always want to arrive a Control Z a few minutes early and wait until your “correct’ Z time--plus about 15 seconds--to roll up to the control marshal.)

2. Service Stops. At the service stop (normally for lunch), your calculation will be more complicated. You will add four times together:

1. A Time

2. +Section Time

3. +Service (lunch) Time

4. +Section Tim

= Z Time

Last A time + section time + time for service + section time (after lunch) = next Z time.

So you have four times to add up. Start Time is your last “A” time. Then add the Section Time allotted to drive to the service stop, plus the time allocated for lunch, and finally the Section Time allocated to drive to the next speed stage (Z control).

3. End of the day. After the last speed stage of the day, you will add the last Section Time to your last Start Time (“A” Time) to determine when you are supposed to roll through the arch at the finish line in Oaxaca or the next city along the route. But you will not be timed when you arrive in the next city and you should have 15 minutes of grace.

Terms to memorize:

Start Time – the time of day that you start a section in the route book.
Section Time – the amount of time allocated to travel that section in the route book
A Time – the Start Time for a Section or when you are launched into a speed stage
Z Time – the “correct time” when you are supposed to check-in for the next speed stage at Control Z

PLEASE! PLEASE! Be safe. This is a dangerous race, especially the first day. Please join me in the Tortuga Society – those whose primarily objective is to finish the race.

CARRERA DRIVER is a special publication just for those who have registered for the race and a few others, like car fabricators. Please do not post it on the internet or circulate it beyond your race team. I want to be able to continue giving you the information you need to have fun, be safe, and contend with the uncertainties of racing in Mexico.

Hasta pronto, y'all.


Gerie Bledsoe
North American Coordinator
La Carrera Panamericana
677 Highland Ave.
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
650-726-9890 (home office)
650-726-9599 (fax)
650-867-9488 (mobile)

Please note: my cell phone works in Mexico, but please only call with real emergencies. After four rings hang up. Do not leave message, because I usually have no way to check them.

Finally, here's what happens when the "red mist" overwhelms common sense!

Notes from Gary Faules:

Like many of you I am very well traveled and feel confident that I know how to get around without someone holding my hand but if there is a single best piece of advice I could offer anyone joining the Coyote Convoy it would be this... THE SECOND YOU GET TO Nuevo Laredo TEXAS (if you need to cross the border the night bfore), AND ONCE YOU LEAVE THE FOLLOWING MORNING, GET ON GERIE BLEDSOE'S TAILGATE AND STAY THERE! Also be sure to invest in a CB radio for the drive. There cheap to get and worth every penny. Remember, there is saftey in numbers so DO NOT lolly gag. This is NOT a sight seeing adventure on the way down. It's more like the law of the jungle where only the strong survive and it's eat or be eaten. I remember the night we took a cab ride with Gerie Bledsoe across the border to get everything taken care of and I heard everyone talking about how they "knew what they were doing." But had it not been for Gerie some of them would have really regretted ever hearing of La Carrera Panamericana. Not only did he know what to do but in fact at least twice I heard some of the Mexican Officials say to Gerie, "Oh it's you! Hola Senoir. Now what can I do to help you?" While with the convoy, there are some places you could take a rong turn and regret it so keeping up with the convoy is a MUST! And as you will find out, some of the streaches of road you will be on are MILES FROM NOWHERE and you DO NOT want to be alone out there. Ever heard of the Frito Bandito? Well, trust me, he lives there.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

One Of The Greats.... Gone

One of my fondest racing memories was the first time I met Paul Newman and all that led up to it, a day I will never forget. I remember how awestruck I was at the time like a kid the first time he talked with Santa Claus simply because he seemed bigger than life. That same awe remained for the next 30 years and I know it will remain with me for the rest of my life. Thank you Paul and Gods speed.

Legendary Actor Paul Newman Dies

WESTPORT, Conn. (Sept. 27) - Paul Newman, the Academy-Award winning superstar who personified cool as an activist, race car driver, popcorn impresario and the anti-hero of such films as "Hud," ''Cool Hand Luke" and "The Color of Money," has died. He was 83.

Newman died Friday after a long battle with cancer at his farmhouse near Westport, publicist Jeff Sanderson said. He was surrounded by his family and close friends.

Friday, September 26, 2008

28 Days Left

Can you believe it! There are only 28 days until the start of 2008 La Carrera Panamericana. I'm positive everyone already has their cars completed, tested and positive everything is perfect as well as loaded in the trailer and all packed and ready to go so that there is nothing to do but sit back and relax. Right? (Sorry, but it's hard as hell to contain the laughter.)

Last year this time with less than a couple weeks before Will and I were to take off for Mexico we were testing Lucky at Sears Point International Raceway.

Lucky gets a shake-down at Sears Point

Lucky for us, everything went off without a hitch. The car ran perfectly and not only didn't it need one thing touched but in fact it went on from there to Phoenix where we spent the entire day driving the car with Bob Bondurant. From there Lucky took us all the way to the tip of Mexico and only one bolt found it's way loose. In the two weeks prior to leaving there was more than enough to keep us busy. We had to install decals, install communication and video equipment and get the trailer ready.

Jon, taking charge of navaigation and Video equipment

Did I say trailer!!! Where in the hell is the trailer??? (Flashback) Even the best made plans suffer a glitch at times and we realized that fact as we came to work one morning only to find Lucky's trailer had been stolen during the night. Thank God we had another trailer ready especially considering you can not take a trailer into Mexico unles you own it. As things turned out, the trailer being stolen was a blessing in disguise and the enclosed trailer we took suited our needs far better than the other one would have.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Don't forget.. You Are Their Guest

Taking part in La Carrera Panamericana is always exciting and life changing in so many ways. I guarantee you can't possibly come home from it not having changed your life in some special way. Part of the whole experience is the welcome you will receive and it last from the second you set foot there until the day you return back across the border. It takes some months before they want to remove their "Piloto" or "Co-Piloto" identification badges off.

Something you almost ever hear about or see is any problems the locals have as you drive through their country for 7 whole days. You will not hear any complaining. You won't see anyone complaining about other nationalities but what you will see is hundreds of thousands of smiles and hand wanting to be shacked. All this seems to erase any concerns you may have about political unrest that may be taking place there and why not... The entire country makes you feel like a national celebrity is sorts. IN fact you will be.

At the same time, keep an open mind to what is happening around you and stay on your toes because as much as you won't usually see or hear about it, even Mexico has it's problems. In 2007 Jon and I were driving around in Lucky the GT350, and we came upon a huge political altercation with hundreds of protesters in what was quickly escalating into a violent street riot of sorts. Jon hung on as I ran through a road off road block lined with angry protesters just to get to where we needed to go. In retrospect, we were extremely fortunate to get out of there un-injured.

This week in Morelia which is one of the most beautiful colonial cities that we stayed at during last years La Carrera Panamericana there was a terrible act of violence and exactly the sort of unexpected event that could be devastating to such an event as La Carrera Panamericana. I have to say, when I heard there would no longer be a race through the famous Mil Cumbres and no stay in Morelia I was broken hearted. But now it seems as if it just may have been an unexpected blessing considering.

So to anyone who is taking part in La Carrera Panamericana... Always stay alert. Stay with the rest of the group and don't stray and most important of all... Keep in mind you are in THEIR country and respect everyone.


Attack in Morelia sends shockwaves through the republic
By Atención staff

Mexico’s traditional independence celebrations were shattered when suspected drug cartel gunmen threw two grenades into a crowd of 18,000 patriotic onlookers in Morelia, the state capital of neighboring Michoacán. Eight spectators were killed and 132 injured.

Just as Michoacán’s governor, Leonel Godoy Rangel, concluded his speech on the evening of September 15, a grenade exploded just 50 meters from the governor’s entourage and another a few blocks from the governor’s mansion. The explosions occurred just as the crowd joined in the cry “Viva México!” and bells rang in celebration of 198 years of Mexican independence from Spanish rule. Hundreds of soldiers and police evacuated the area immediately and paramedics treated the injured. Eyewitnesses described a robust man dressed in black as the instigator.

The traditional military parade held every September 16 was cancelled. Governor Godoy announced on national television that the attack was committed by members of organized crime.

In his traditional Independence Day speech, President Felipe Calderón pledged that the government’s resolve to confront the drug cartels is “firm and unbreakable” and he called for national unity in this “critical hour.” Calderón, who has already sent thousands of soldiers to the state, said the attack demands an immediate response by the armed forces. He also appeared on national TV to ask that Mexicans help in any way possible to combat crime and provide any information they have linked to the attack. The president visited Morelia on September 17 to assess the situation and the aftermath of the attack.

In 2006, President Calderón launched his anti-crime crusade from his hometown of Morelia. Since then the country has witnessed escalating violence, including kidnappings, murders and battles between gangland bosses. Only a few days after tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Mexico City in protest against the wave of violence in Mexico, 24 bodies that had been shot execution-style were discovered outside the capital.

CREDIT: Atención San Miguel Newspaper

Saturday, September 20, 2008

In Retrospect

Two of the greatest legends in automotive racing history, one living and one gone to that great racetrack in the sky. Both my my son Will and I have met both of them and we were blessed not only to know them but to call both of them our friends. Will only met Phil Hill one time but fortunately it was after Will had become a young man and was able to truly appreciate all that Phil had accomplished. Regarding Carroll Shelby, I had know him since the late 60's and he always had a fond place in his heart for Will, always making time to spend some one on one time with him. One of the things that impressed me most about Carroll Shelby was his ability to remember almost anyone he met, the Shelby he owned and conversations he had with you 15 years ago. Funny, but I know for a fact that Bob Bondurant was the same way and from what I have been told, so did Phil Hill before he became ill with Parkinson's disease.

How many times have I read or heard guys say, "I wanted to do something exciting like race down Mexico way in La Carrera Panamericana way back in the days when men like Shelby and Phil Hill raced it." It all seems trivial now, but one thing I regret is never haven talked to Hill or Shelby about the time that they raced in La Carrera Panamericana. Just imagine sitting back and watching their eyes light up as they recall those days.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Going Back With Nicola Wood

A friend informed me about a website which belongs to Nicola Wood who is one of the world's premier automotive artists. To see more of Nicola Woods awesome and talented work CLICK HERE. Larry Crane of Automobile Magazine said, "Nicola Wood is an enchantress. Her spells are cast with paint and brush. Many automotive artists are able to move the soul of a car nut, but Wood can create powerful emotion in mere mortals."

I believe everyone will enjoy her work but of special interest to me is the watercolor titled, "Carrerra". This is the Porsche 550 Spyder driven by Hans Herrmann that gained prestigious 1st place victories in the 1954 Carrera Panamericana and Mille Miglia in it's class.

To this day this is one of the most sought after Porsches designs and is very popular even as a reproduction. Car number 415 driven by William Hemmer and co-piloto was Adriana Robles is the one in the photos below raced with Jon and I in the 2007 La Carrera Panamericana. It was in the Original Panam Class and simply beautiful.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ed Shadle in hospital

I was just notified a few minutes ago that Ed Shadle has been admitted into the hospital tonight where he is going into surgery to have his appendix removed. Lets all keep Ed in our thoughts and prayers.

Ed is the driver of the North American Eagle Supersonic Landspeed Challenger. Since I am a member of North American Eagle and know Ed personally I can honestly say he's as tough as they get so I am confident this should be nothing but a short inconvenience for him. Hopefully Ed will be out soon and will be speeding along at 800 miles per hour in no time at all. Get well Ed.

It's True... I Invented Air Bags When I Was 12 Years Old

It all began when I began hitting the Root Beer.

Ya Had To Be There

How many times have you heard that? Or, "You should have been there!" In the year before Jon and I ran the 2007 La Carrera Panamericana I was sponging every tid bit of information, facts, stats, video and articles that I could get my hands on. There were even a few websites and blogs that had been posting regularly but once everyone left for Mexico it seemed as if they were virtually cut off from the entire world. All the blogs went silent and the websites were sparse with minimum details at best and what few did have something seemed for the most part to only be about a specific car or team. I told myself that when Jon and I got down there that would change and I would find time to make regular post so that anyone wanting to find out how things were going could.

That was just before all my good intentions went right down the crapper. What I quickly found out was while sitting at home in the evening relaxing with a computer only a few feet away, it's easy to keep a blog updated. But once you are trying to race a car all day, then get to a shower, dinner, awards ceremony, work on the car for tom morrow, talk strategy with your team and a few thousand other details there isn't any time left to do anything let alone worry about what the folks back home are doing. Now even "IF" you did have time to sit and relax in front of a computer there are a few other things to consider. First of all, shouldn't you be getting some well deserved and needed sleep? Then there are a few problems like, even the finest hotels in Mexico do not have but two or three computers and yet just about every team involved in the race want the same thing you want... a computer! So then you hold your place in line until you get a computer only to learn, "WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU ONLY HAVE DIAL UP!!! AND IT'S IN SPANISH!!!" The common quote on every one's blog reads, "I will post photos later."

The facts are, it's is impossible to maintain any good reporting with what limited time and computer availability you have during that week. By the time you drag your weary butt back home the last thing on your mind is to sit down and blog. That means that by the time you do begin to rejoin any normal semblance of the real world you have forgotten a lot of what took place. As a matter of fact here it is a year latter and I still have to ask my team mates... "What day did we almost hit that donkey? Was that in Tehuacan or was it after Aguascalientes? What day did that beautiful BMW crash? Was he ahead of us or behind us?"

There is so much to tell and every time I talk with another team member or driver they remind me of something else I had forgotten all about. There is just so much excitement that it's impossible to remember it all let alone tell others about it.

But wait.... The REALLY good news is, every single stage, both transit and race, have been documented with state of the art video equipment and our cameraman has hours of film of all the cars in the race both in city squares with thousands of fans as well as race footage and more. Better yet it's all high definition!!! It has taken the producers literally hundreds of hours to edit this documentary and I am not talking about handy-cams in the hands of amateurs. The three production companies involved are leaders in the industry each in their perspective fields. Besides, NOTHING tells a story of excitment, beauty, exhilaration, melodrama and danger better than film! As soon as they are finished you won't have to hear.. "You should have been there!"

Carrera Article From Motor Sports Magazine

This is a very good historical write up of La Carrera Panamericana from the November 1997 Motor Sport Magazine.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Joe Harding, Out Of The Ashes?

Mythology teaches us the Phoenix enjoys immortality, which had to be renewed with fire every 300 to 500 years. When the end of its life cycle drew near, the phoenix would gather aromatic herbs, woods, and spices from around the world with which to build its own funeral pyre or nest.

Sitting in the nest, and having turned to face the rays of the sun, beating its wings, it deliberately fans the flames for itself and is consumed in the fire. Once the old body was consumed, the phoenix would be reborn from a worm, its marrow, or an egg found among the ashes and would embark on another 500 years of life.

According to some legends, the renewed phoenix carried its old bones to the City of the Sun in Egypt where they were disposed of with special funeral rites. In this case I think it may have been Joe Harding who fanned the flames and was consumed by fire but he didn't carry his old bones to Egypt but instead had the doctors put some screws in them and went racing in San Diego.

During the 2007 La Carrera Panamericana Jon, Will and myself were blessed to have met so many unique people and better yet to have formed friendships that will surely last a lifetime. Blame it on the Spirit of La Carrera Panamericana but it's contagious and it just happens.

One of these unique personalities was none other than Englishman Joe Harding who drove the beautifully prepared Ford Falcon car number 380 in Historic C Class. Not only is Joe a true gentleman racer in every sense of the word but he's every bit of a fierce competitor as you can find. One evening during the awards dinner while Jon and I were standing on the top podium holding up the first place trophies for winning the most dangerous stage of Mil Cumbres, Joe leaned over with a huge smile on his face and said, "Enjoy it while you can but just remember... tomorrow is another day." Gotta love this guy.

While racing in the most recent Chihuahua Express Road Race, Joe suffered a honorific accident which not only destroyed his Falcon burning it completely to ashes but hospitalized him as well with a terribly broken ankle. Joe has had to undergo a lot of physical therapy after having a box full of screws and metal installed in his ankle a challenge he dealt with as if it were just another day.

Fortunately I have been able to stay in touch with Joe over the many months of recovery and true to the man we met on the Podium, Joe still haunts me with comments like, "Foot is healed enough to work a clutch. I will be racing on Saturday 27th and
Sunday 28th on Coronado Island, San Diego." Like they say, It's hard to keep a good Englishman down.

Clearly Joe never even considered for a second not racing and while he was not even fully recovered yet had already bought a beautiful race car. I wonder why? (Riiight)

Joe bought this beautiful little 1954 Kurtis 500S which he has already entered in the 2008 CORONADO SPEED FESTIVAL which is a sister event of the world famous Monterey Historic Automobile Races at Laguna Seca. The Coronado Speed Festival gathers together racing history's most unique and pedigreed machines at one of the most distinctive stages, Naval Base Coronado, the birthplace of Naval Aviation, on September 27-28, 2008.

These were NOT kit cars and was in fact built by Frank Kurtis himself. Kurtis was famous for his midget and Indy Racers. In total there were about 30 500S built between 1953 and 1955. They were typically used by serious privateers as well as factory teams for racing. Mickey Thompson, Briggs Cunningham,and Frank McGurk all drove a 500S and in 1954 Jack Ensley won the SCCA B/Modified National Championships. Bill Murphy won many times in California sports car races and Sam Hanks (1957 Indy 500 winner) at the 1955 Sebring race. Joe wrote, "My cars history is unknown prior to my ownership but has run with VARA and at Monterey and Coronado with me."

California's Best Racing Team would like to congratulate Joe Harding for being the fierce warrior that he is not to mention being a fine gentleman racer but also for showing us that what might be a major set back for some may as well just be the beginning for others just as it was for the Phoenix.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Mexico Waits To Honor Hero From 57 Years Ago

Thanks to ATENCION SAN MIGUEL, one of the most popular newspapers in all of Mexico, everyone in Mexico now knows we're coming and that our guest Hershel McGriff will be honored at the Panamericana Gala at Hotel Refugio del Molino on October 18 during the Concurso de Motor Sports in San Miguel de Allende. Click HERE and then on Motorsports to see the news article as it appears in the newspaper.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lucky in Jay Leno's Garage


It seems all the celebrity late night talk shows host enjoy cars, especially fast ones. Back in the early 80's not only did I have the privilege of meeting Johnny Carson in person but I also got to work on one of his Corvettes while he was in Northern California. After I finished working on Carson's Corvette for a few days he picked it up but before he left we talked cars for a while and surprizingly he was extreamly knowlegable with anything automovite. I told him I was upset that I didn't know he was coming and that I didn't have my camera. He laughed when I said, "Well, it's not like I don't get to see your face every week night anyway is it?" With his charm and a smile he agreed but even so, a few days later I recived an autographed photo.

Everyone knows about David Letterman's affliction with speed both in his personal involvement of Rahal Letterman Racing in the Indy Racing League as well as all the tickets he seems to get on the highways. And don't forget Jay Leno. It seems Jay Leno's Garage is quickly becoming a popular place to see La Carrera Panamericana race cars as well. A few days ago even Lucky graced Jay Leno's collection and so did Michael Emery's 67 Datsun Fairlady 1600 and Francisco Ortiz's 72 Datsun BRE 510 and Ralf Christensson's Monte Carlo Falcon.


Carrera News
September 2008

The Annual Handicapper’s Edition












There has been a little turnover in entries recently, but the official web site continues to show 105 entries for 2008.

A breakdown by county shows:

USA and Canada = 57
Mexico = 22
Germany = 10
Belgium = 4
Netherlands = 4
Sweden = 2
Britain = 2
Austria, Spain, Italy, and Monaco = 1

Many entries and crews are international--driver from one country and co-driver from another. Several entries from North America include citizens of other countries, both as pilotos and co-pilotos, who may live and work in the USA or Canada.


It’s always fun looking down the list of entries to see who is returning and trying to predict how they will do this year. Here is a little handicapping by classification.

Turismo Mayor. Who do you like for the overall championship? Missing from the official entry list this year is Pierre de Thoisy (FR), who has won the modern Pan Am more times (6) than anyone, including last year. De Thoisy has changed jobs and decided to take the year off. Filling his shoes, perhaps, is Stig Blomqvist (Sweden). Blomqvist is a former WRC Champion, many times the national champion of his county and victor in international competition. He will drive a beautifully prepared ‘54 Studebaker fabricated in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico by his countryman, Mats Hammarlund.

Given the absence of de Thoisy and former Mexican champions, like Carlos Anaya and Juan Carlos Sarmiento, the pre-race favorites must be Doug Mockett (USVI), Blomqvist, and Gabriel Perez. Both Mockett and Perez are former champions. Perez drives a less powerful car in Turismo Production, but handles it well. He also has a not so secret weapon—his co-driver reportedly compiles the route book. (Only in Mexico!) Other serious contenders for overall champion include: Lars Stugemo (Sweden), Bill Beilharz (USA), and John Daniels (USA). All have extensive Pan Am and racing experience.

Historic C (1955-1965 V8s). The favorites in Historic C, which has the largest number of entries, will again be veteran Bill Shanahan (CT), who won last year, and Richard Tyzack (Wales), who finished 5th and 6th overall, respectively last year. Tyzack will be back in the same Mustang prepared by Todd Landon. Shanahan reportedly has moved to a Falcon from his Corvette, and has already lowered his best practice time at Lime Rock.

Other contenders in Historic C, Ralp Christensson (Sweden) and crew are reportedly taking a break this year, so we will not get to see newly married Anna. The Tropical Gangsters, everyone’s favorites (Matt Hamilton, James Gublemann et al) have retired their ’57 Chevy to an auto museum. This colorful crew will be missed!

The ranks of Historic C will also be short another new star: Gary Faules (CA), an accomplished endurance racer who finished 9th overall last year in his beautiful Shelby. This was a significant accomplishment for his first trip down. Faules intends to return, maybe next year. Also missing is Carrera vet Joe Harding (CA), who crashed his Falcon in the Chihuahua Express, and Richard Row (CA), whose Chevelle did well last year. However, the Chevelle will be in the hands of David Geldreich (Canada) and Wilhelm Ostrop (GR) this year. Carrera survivor Gerie Bledsoe (CA) will be celebrating his 10th anniversary at the Carrera by introducing a new Chevy II Nova to the event. Mike Sharp and Jon LeCarner, both from So Cal, will look sharp in their little red Falcon, too.

A couple of rookies in Historic C, driving hot Mustangs, with mucho racing experience in the U.S. look strong in this class and may surprise some vets. Historic C includes a dozen Mustangs and several “Monte Carlo” Falcons (pumped up “Atlanta birds” with fiberglass body panels). Do they have FIA papers and real rubber bushings? Also, is it time to hand out The Best Shelby Clone Award, based on performance and looks?

“Styling” awards also must go to Miles Jones (CA) in his SunbeamTiger and Gary Hassler (EU) in his ’55 T-Bird roadster, which has competed in the Targa Florio and Mille Miglia. (Wanna bet?) These two cars will add an extra touch of class to Historic C

Original Pan Am. Once the bane of the Organizers, with a little encouragement, this group has grown to a dozen beautiful, fast cars. Carson Scheller (CA) will return in his ’54 Ford Vicky to defend his 2007 title in Original Pan Am (OPA). Herve Willems (CA), returning to the event after ten years, will challenge in a ’54 Chrysler hemi that claimed the title several years ago. Other challengers include Rich Morrision (KS), Brad Kaplan (CA), and everyone’s favorite doc, Christian Reichardt (PRSM).

While OPA cars are not exactly equipped like they were in 1950, they are a diverse selection of sedans and sports cars, all competing in one class. And they are a fun group of guys and at least one gracious woman. Sadly, we must announce the withdrawal of the only “original-original” Pan Am car, the ’49 Lincoln of Terry O’Reilly. Terry was kind enough to bring his car, old number #54 in the 1950 Pan Am, down to the event in 2006, but experienced terminal mechanical problems before the race started. This year he was forced to withdraw because of personal reasons. Terry, his brother, and the Cosmo flathead will be missed.

In the other classes we also see a resurgence of the Porsche 356. Depending on their engine and state of trim, the little Porsche will appear in Sports Menor, Historic A, or Historic A+. With a small engine, an early 356 could also run in OPA.

The distinction between A and A+ is increasingly difficult to determine and explain. For some reason steely-eyed Volvo fanatics tend to show up in A+. It is understood, however, that four-cylinder cars made up to ’72 are eligible, which includes the BMW 2002. (The rules also allow ’68 Mustangs and ’68 Barracudas, but not Camaros. Go figure.)

Richard Clark (Monaco) and Andy Prill should continue to dominate Sports Menor (under 2000 c.c.) in their specially built 356. Sam Burg may well repeat in Sports Mayor, the class with the smallest number of entries, (over 2000 c.c.). If Diana can get them safely across the bridges this year, they will finish well. Burg drives the Mexican “L.T. Special” with a Chevy 305 under the bonnet, another Hammarlund creation, which has the potential to be a top-five car.

Historic A and A+ should offer some exciting competition for Alfaistas, Datsunites, Volvoites, other four-bangers, including our dynamic duo of Mini maniacs, Tom and Jimmy Davies (TX). Fortunately, Tom has a business in Jolly Old England so he can smuggle mini parts back to Texas in his shave kit.

Historic B, six cylinder cars (1955-1965), should belong to Brian DeVries in his 911. Other 911s should be competitive, too. And everyone should be aware that, our old friend, Roel Mulder, running a mild-mannered MB 230 SL, is the Formula V champion of Europe. We never know who will show up from Europe and whether or not anyone has explained the rules to them, especially for Historic C where alloy cylinder heads are not allowed. Sadly, the entry list does not include our good friend, the beautiful Elke Middledorp and her co-piloto, Leila Lesche, from Germany, the last all-woman team to participate in this event.

In Exhibition the car to watch is a Lister Chevy powered by a ZR1 engine that probably has the best HP to weight ratio in Pan Am history, even more than Roger Ward’s Henry J. The big question is, can Charles keep all that power stuck to the tarmac? We hope so.

Never forget that the greatest variable in the Pan Am is mechanical dependability. Blow a speed stage because of a mechanical and you are off the podium, no matter how fast the car or how good the driver. McGriff and Fangio won the race without winning a speed stage, because they conserved their equipment. Anything can happen on the road from Tuxtla Gutierrez to Oaxaca (326 long miles), and it usually does!


By the rules of the event, entries from the U.S. and Canada are combined. Of the fifty-seven entries from North America, five are from Canada. Of the norteamericanos, twenty-one are rookies going down for their first Pan Am. Several have already participated in the Chihuahua Express. Twenty-two of the fifty-seven survived the Pan Am last year and are returning. Fourteen are veterans of races in the past three years, while two are vets of the ’90s.

A 63% return rate is excellent for an event like this. It gets under your skin!

Several of the cars coming from the U.S. and Canada have bi-national crews, in that the driver or co-driver is from another country, such as Germany, Britain, or Mexico. At least three cars have Mexican citizens as co-pilotos. (Think they know something?)

Eighteen states in the U.S. are represented. California leads with 17, followed by New York (4), Texas (3), Washington State (3), and VA (3). Other states with one or two entries are: AZ, FL, MA, MN, MI, NH, OK, PA, NE, KS, IL, NV, and GA, plus one U.S. territory, the U.S.Virgin Islands.

As noted in an earlier CARRERA NEWS, a dozen of these entries were members of the Carrera Class of ’99: Beilharz, Bledsoe, Daniels, DeVries, Mockett, Nyland, Shanahan, Sharp, Varni, Waldman, and Rusty Ward. Two members of this class, T. Landon and M. Hammarlund, car fabricators extraordinare, will be back supporting their creations. This group is the core of the Carreraista fraternity in the U.S. A few of these stalwarts have been running the event since the early ‘90s.

In the rookie category, Kip Moncrief (CT), a recent Hobarth and Wm Smith grad, will be the first person to attempt the Pan Am in a vehicle fired by McDonald’s grease (or Pollo Loco).

Ron Lee is working assiduously to finish his Carrera “special” (El Correcaminos) in the same vein as AK Miller’s famous Caballo de Hierro from the ‘50s. Lee, well known for his beautiful hot rods, is fabricating one of the most exotic cars ever to compete in the event—a Ford Model T with a period-correct flathead engine If he can’t finish it on time, he might be forced to bring his ’55 Kurtis coupe, which was build especially for the Carrera in ‘54. Oh, darn, what a fallback position!

Dan Landon in his long ton Corvair, with ample horsepower, might be a sleeper in Historic B. (Maybe Ralph Nader will come down to bless personally the car that almost repelled the invasion of Beatles. Of course, he may be too busy bleeding votes away from Barry O’Bama to visit Mexico.)

Finally we must acknowledge the couples—at least those known to us—who have enough confidence in their relationships to put it into a cockpit of a racecar. Suerte!


Want to sample a little Pan Am fun in a really special place? Come on down to San Miguel de Allende for the Concurso de Motor Sports, Oct. 17-19. Participate in the car shows, gala banquet, poker rally, and display of Carrera cars in the main square of town. It is easy to do.

San Miguel is a jewel of a city of 140,000 located about 1 hour from the Leon (BJX) and Querétaro airports. American and Continental airlines serve Leon, as well as Mexican carriers. A ticket is around $476. From Leon, you travel by shuttle to San Miguel. You may also fly into Mexico City and take an airport bus to Querétaro and then to San Miguel. Of course, you can always land your Citation at Querétaro’s airfield.

The highlight of the weekend is the gala Panamericana banquet on Saturday night, Oct. 18, 7:30 PM at the Hotel Refugio del Molino. An international team of chefs is preparing a special dinner of modern Mexican cuisine. The evening will pay tribute to Pan Am heroes, such as Herschel McGriff, who won the first race in 1950 and went on to a NASCAR career. McGriff and his wife are making the trip down from their home in Arizona.

All proceeds of the gala will go to support two local organizations that provide assistance to children and families in San Miguel and the immediate area: CASA and Casita Linda. Tickets are $150. If you want a ticket or want to sponsor a local child, please mail a check payable to “CASA” to Gerie Bledsoe. CASA and Casita Linda are recognized as tax-exempt, non-profit organizations by the IRS, so your contribution is tax-deductible, if your CPA agrees.

Clink on for more information about this attempt to bring a little Pebble Beach to central Mexico, without the salt air, to be sure. (Cars will survive a lot longer in SMA than the shores of Monterey.)


Want to experience the whole enchilada? Take the Pan Am “tour” with Rosa Maria Mondragón Fiesco. Rosa Maria, who been a co-piloto in the Pan Am several times and has served as its public relations director until this year, is taking time anyway from her new job to show people around the event. Rosa Maria knows literally everyone involved in this event and how to get you close to the action. She has a couple of seats left in her Ford Expedition, and can pick you up in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico City, or Tuxtla Gutierrez, for the trip back to Nuevo Laredo. This is a difficult race to watch, given the logistics and distances, and it is great that Rosa Maria is making this offer.

Email Rosa Maria at:


Over $2600 has been collected in recent weeks for our favorite Mexican nurse, “Lupita” Hernandez Ramirez, with a big boost from two generous donors in Canada. As most of you know, Lupita lost both her legs at the hip in a Carrera accident in 2003, while serving as a volunteer nurse with the Mexican Red Cross.

Contributions should be mailed to:

Friends of Guadalupe Hernandez Ramirez
C/o Ms. Fanny Davila
South Bay Bank
2200 Sepulveda Blvd.
Torrance, CA 90501

To wire the funds:
Acct. #: 009400710
Wire routing #: 122237308


Interest in the Chihuahua Express seems high. It is a 1000 mile stage rally (325 miles of speed stages) through the glorious countryside of northern Mexico, in the state of Chihuahua. The City of Chihuahua is only 145 miles from Texas, so the logistics are relatively easy. The early entry fee (if paid by November 31) is $1800; hotels are extra. The Express Convoy will leave El Paso for the short drive to Chihuahua City on March 26.

The Chihuahua Express is the best way to test your car and learn rally timing and navigating for those who plan to enter the Carrera in 2009. Any car may participate, but to run in open competition a six-point roll cage is mandatory.

Email for an entry packet and click on for more information.


Given the Organizers’ early decision date of April 1, pre-registration for LCP next year will start on December 1. The forty slots reserved for the U.S. and Canada should sell out quickly. More may be allocated, but we never know. This year we could have filled over sixty slots.

Those who raced this year will have priority for 2009. Consideration will be given to those with a new car under construction. After that, it’s “first come,” assuming a proper registration form and a car that conforms to a class. The Organizers retain the right to refuse any application and are interested in a diverse field, with outstanding cars in all the classes.

To pre-register, be prepared to send an entry form and a non-refundable $500 deposit to the North American Coordinator (address below) anytime after November 30. Your entry will be confirmed no later than April 1, 2009, if your pre-registration is complete.

The keys to preparing a car properly are the roll cage, safety equipment, and engine family and capacity. If you have any doubts about the rules, especially the requirements for the roll cage, please consult the North American Coordinator.

STORAGE IN MEXICO? Mats Hammarlund Racing in San Miguel de Allende will keep your car at his shop and have it ready for the Chihuahua Express or the Pan Am next year at very reasonable rates. Mats, a car builder and contractor, and his partner, Eva, will also build you a garage, stable, or home in San Miguel. Contact Mats at Call this number in the U.S. 213-291-1840.


La Carrera Panamericana, like all motor sports, is dangerous. Your and your car can get seriously hurt or totaled. It involves racing nearly 2000 miles through mostly mountain roads and long transits in scary regular traffic. Danger lurks around every corner, especially in a forty-year old car, and in open-range country, where cattle and horses graze by the roadside.

Make sure your car and body are sufficiently prepared for the rigors of this race. The starting city, Tuxtla Gutierrez, may be extremely hot and humid. Tropical storms may disrupt the event with wind, rain, and floods. Drink plenty of water, avoid the dengue fever, malaria, “turistica,” and jungle parasites. Never leave polite company to meet someone’s sister, even at a steep discount.

Dangerous? Yes. Fun? Hell yes! But ask about “STS,” the Secret Tortuga Society.


Gerie Bledsoe

Car #395 “Durango Deuce Dos”
North American Coordinator

La Carrera Panamericana
677 Highland Ave.
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
650-726-9890 (home office)
650-726-9599 (fax)
650-867-9488 (mobile)

To make hotels reservations for the event: e-mail

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tribute To Phil Hill During Lord March Goodwood Revival

The 2006 Goodwood Revival was held 60 miles from London, and many race legends celebrities participated. The Goodwood Revival, the brainchild of Lord March, is a race meeting that brings together cars and motorcycles that would or did compete on the Goodwood Motor Circuit between 1948 and 1966.

In addition to the spectacular vintage racing action, the entire event takes on a vintage look and feel. The Goodwood Circuit itself has been restored to its original appearance and many spectators wear period clothing. It is truly a one-of-a-kind event and a highlight of each vintage racing season.

The following drivers, represented by Race Legends, made appearances:

Derek Bell, five-times Le Mans winner, drove a Jaguar Mk I (St Mary's Trophy) and a Jaguar E-type Lightweight (Royal Automobile Club TT Celebration).

Sir Jack Brabham, three-times Formula One World Champion, was there for the entire event.

Tony Brooks, former Grand Prix driver, was also in attendance.

Phil Hill, triple Le Mans winner and the USA’s first F1 World Champion, took part in a series of track parades in recognition of his career achievements as well as his son.

Sir Stirling Moss drove a Jaguar Mk VII (St Mary's Trophy), an Austin Healey Sprite (Fordwater Trophy) and the unique four-wheel drive Ferguson Project 99 (Richmond Trophy).

Paul Chenard sent me a photo of Phil Hill visiting with UK driver Julian Balme while sitting next to his #54 Lincoln Cosmopolotin that he drove in the 1991 La Carrera Panamericana. This is just the sort of gentleman I knew Phil Hill to be. While many drivers who drove most of the "high end" cars tend to hang with their own crowd, Phil Hill made all drivers feel as important as he was.

Monday, September 08, 2008

As I Walked Down The Streets Of Laredo

Isn't it funny how we can be reminded of something almost a year after it took place. This evening I was enjoying looking through some of my photos from the day many of the teams first met at the hotel in Laredo Texas to form the beginnings of the Coyote Convoy which would leave the next day. As I looked through them I began humming a melody I have enjoyed since I was a boy. Growing up I never met Roy Rogers which was one of my childhood idols, however it was common for the American cowboy singing group, The Sons of the Pioneers to drop by our house and visit. Most of the time whenever they showed up either at my parent's ranch or us at one of their homes on the Rogue River, everyone would have something to eat and then out would come a few instruments and they would sing great songs. One of those songs that really stuck with me to this day was "The Streets of Laredo."

It's interesting to note that since I am of Irish decent maybe that's why I took a liking to it. After all this cowboy song was of Irish origin and made its first known publication in Cork, Ireland in 1790 and originated from an Irish ballad titled "The Sailor Cut Down in His Prime".

I only wish I had remembered all this while I was in Laredo only because I feel that many times in our lives little moments we experienced years ago were somehow previews of our own destiny and while we would never realize it, it gives us something to reflect on as our destiny plays it 'self out.

For many other teams heading down to this years La Carrera Panamericana they will find themselves relaxing in a Laredo hotel the night before the real adventure begins... crossing the border into Mexico. And then they will again find themselves in Laredo when the adventure comes to it's finish. If they find time to reflect, I wonder what songs they might hear in their head?

The Streets of Laredo

As I walked out in the streets of Laredo
As I walked out in Laredo one day
I spied a poor cowboy wrapped up in white linen
All wrapped in white linen as cold as the clay

"I see by your outfit that you are a cowboy"
These words he did say as I proudly stepped by
"Come sit down beside me and hear my sad story
I'm shot in the breast and I know I must die

"'Twas once in the saddle I used to go ridin'
Once in the saddle I used to go gay
First lead to drinkin', and then to card-playing
I'm shot in the breast and I'm dying today

"Let six jolly cowboys come carry my coffin
Let six pretty gals come to carry my pall
Throw bunches of roses all over my coffin
Throw roses to deaden the clods as they fall

"Oh, beat the drum slowly, and play the fife lowly
And play the dead march as you carry me along
Take me to the green valley and lay the earth o'er me
For I'm a poor cowboy and I know I've done wrong"

We beat the drum slowly and played the fife lowly
And bitterly wept as we carried him along
For we all loved our comrade, so brave, young and handsome
We all loved our comrade although he done wrong

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Latest on The Steampunk Racer

Some time back I reported on the Steampunk Racer, Volvo 122 S entry into this years La Carrera Panamericana and here are some photos which show their progress. The amazing artwork is the work of Florian Satzinger of Satzinger & Hardenberg in Austria. The car is a Volvo 122S and will be driven by La Carrera veteran Lars Kroiss from Salzburg, Austria. I am looking forward to their progress and seeing how they do in the race.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

America's La Carrera... Good luck boys, give 'em hell!

Recently I talked about my childhood dream of being able to take my father's old Jeep and go back in time to the days of the Pioneers and their wagon trains. Coincidentally, just a few days later I stumbled over some interesting facts with regards to a historical marker located on Highway 20 at The Santiam Pass near my birth place in Lebanon Oregon. Having spent so much time as a young man racing up and down that stretch of highway I was completely unaware of the history right under my nose, some I would have appreciated had I only noticed.

I am speaking of America's First Transcontinental Automobile Race. It seems Americans have a race that in every way was the predecessor of The Great Mexican Race where cars were raced across North America in an effort to promote that it could be done. (The following historical information can be found in the Oregon Historical Archives.)

The automobile was a growing presence in larger cities and even in some towns. Endurance races and tours were popular events. The densely settled Eastern states had a network of established roads, some of which even had graveled surfaces, but most were little more than smoothed-out trails. There were less than 150 miles of hard-surface roads in the entire country, all of it in cities.

America's First Transcontinental Automobile Race

On June 23, 1909, a Ford automobile arrives in Seattle from New York City in 23 days flat, completing the first transcontinental automobile race across North America. This Model T Ford arrives first but is disqualified because the drivers changed the engine during the race. The winner (the second to arrive) is a Shawmut. The race is part of Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (A-Y-P).

Initially as many as 35 autos were going to enter the race, but when the race started in New York City at on June 1, 1909 at 3:00 p.m., the exact moment that President Taft officially opened the AYP, only six vehicles crossed the start line. They were an Itala, Shawmut, Acme, Stearns, and two Model T Fords.

Sixty years after the first great columns of prairie schooners lumbered along the Oregon Trail, two tiny and primitive automobiles followed the historic ruts across the West. The year was 1905, and the cars were in the first transcontinental automobile race.

The pair of 7-horsepower Curved Dash (so called because of the sleighlike front of the body) Olds Runabouts made their historic journey from New York City to Portland, Ore. Essentially motorized buckboards, these were the first automobiles negotiating the Oregon Trail, first to cross the United States from east to west and the first over the Cascade Range. Although parts of the United States were quite "civilized," in 1905, the 20th century was only a spotty veneer over the western United States. The little cars and their drivers faced bad weather, sickness, wild animals, thirst, accidents and unforeseen breakdowns. Crossing the Oregon Trail was still a rough trip.

The automobile was a growing presence in larger cities and even in some towns. Endurance races and tours were popular events. The densely settled Eastern states had a network of established roads, some of which even had graveled surfaces, but most were little more than smoothed-out trails. There were less than 150 miles of hard-surface roads in the entire country, all of it in cities.

The race was a publicity event as well as a contest. The first prize was a very respectable (particularly in those days) one thousand dollars. James W. Abbott, a major organizer of the race, wrote: "[The] important purpose was to bring vividly to public attention a clearer knowledge about all phases of existing transcontinental highways."

Abbott worked for the Department of Public Roads in the Department of Agriculture. Together with Olds Motor Works and a group called The National Good Roads Association (a group of bicyclists who acted as the first highway lobby), he published an advertisement for entrants in the race, called "From Hell Gate to Portland." The Association's 5th annual convention was to be held at the Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland on June 21, 1905.

The race began auspiciously in New York City on May 8, with fanfare and good weather. One of the cars, Old Scout was even cautioned for speeding. Everyone was optimistic. But, like so many earlier westbound emigrants, these pioneers found the trip much harder than expected. Organizers had estimated the trip would take 30 days. They were wrong.

The cars were single-cylinder, tiller-steered, chain-driven and water-cooled. Old Scout was driven by Dwight Russ, an employee of Olds and an accomplished driver. His mechanic and co-driver was Milford Wigle, also of Detroit. The other Runabout, Old Steady, was driven by Percy Megargel and Barton Stanchfield. Both Megargel and Huss had driven in tours and races. Huss had raced also in England and Europe, accumulating an impressive record of victories. Only 13 years after the first American car-the Duryea-was built, Americans were racing at home and abroad.

The previous year, a 90-pound "motor-bicycle" had crossed the continent from west to east, following (and often riding on) the tracks of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads. But driving a race over the Oregon Trail turned out to be a much greater challenge than riding a motorized bicycle.

For the race's organizers, a snow-free crossing of the Cascades was considered the most important factor. They had not considered the unpredictability of spring weather. Three days into the trip, rain began and continued for half of the race. It rained every day for three weeks. Miles and miles of the route became lakes and swamps. Dwight Huss wrote of following roads that were completely under water, and he steered by keeping parallel to the telegraph poles.

Because of supply logistics, the route followed the Oregon Trail as the Union Pacific followed the trail. Ruts from iron-tired wagons were the nearest things to interstate highways. At Julesburg, Colo., the cars turned northwest into Wyoming. They reached Cheyenne 11 days behind schedule.

Old Scout took an early lead and held onto it. The two Runabouts began meeting numerous covered wagons still using the trail. As one participant wrote: "We passed many parties of traveling prairie schooners to and from the east. These schooners, usually a single wagon drawn by two or four horses, or mules, with one or two saddle ponies and a cow tied behind, are visible for miles, their big white canvas bow tops glistening in the sunshine, and we often pass as many as half a dozen of them traveling together."

The race was a well-publicized and popular event for the lonely settlers. Townspeople, ranchers, cowboys and sodbusters rode for miles to see the Runabouts pass through their country. People were interested not in the sport of the race, however, but in the utility value of the machines. They wanted to know if automobiles were practical in the rugged West. Horses bucked and kicked as the cars chugged by. The riders laughed and stayed on their bucking mounts. They shouted at the drivers, "Good luck boys, give 'em hell!"

The drivers didn't give" 'em hell"-they got it. Navigating through the gumbo, Huss wrote, the cars carried a half-ton of mud. That nearly doubled the little cars' weights. (A popular joke of the time claimed that the cars sold for a dollar a pound-650 pounds for $650.) Two hundred pounds of tools and fuel were carried as well. The cars were packed to double their weight, counting the mud. Driver and mechanic added another three hundred pounds-7 hp to move nearly a ton. Surprisingly, on good stretches, the cars could actually speed along at 15 miles an hour!

There weren't a lot of good stretches, however. Huss wrote of one day in Wyoming, "we drove 18 hours, forded five streams and made a total of 11 miles."

Where the trail had dried, the ruts were so deep and numerous the cars couldn't stay out of them. Their axles high-centered between the ruts, forcing the drivers to dig out with shovels. They often had to back up half a mile to a place where they could steer onto relatively smooth ground. But soon, Huss said, they would end up high-centered once again. Iron-hard clay cut the tires to shreds. Rocky stretches were worse. One set of tires was worn out every 90 miles. Huss said he had no idea how many tires were destroyed on the trip.

Supplies, for the most part, were not a problem. Abbott arranged supply depots along the course. While gasoline was generally available, at least in small quantities (in drug stores, for dry cleaning), larger amounts had been stockpiled in advance by train and stagecoach. Stocks of oil, tires and batteries had also been arranged. The cars did not have magnetos. Instead, the engine spark was produced by dry-cell batteries, with a limited lifespan. Deep water would short out the batteries and the engines would die.

While researching this race I also found a great 5 page read by which gives much more detail about the race.