Wednesday, September 10, 2008


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

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