Tuesday, November 11, 2008


November 11, 2008 Veteran's Day Edition










Two new names have been added to the list of Pan Am Champions – piloto Bill Beilharz of Phoenix, Arizona, and his navigator, Jorge Ceballos of Mexico. Driving his black ’54 Studebaker, “The Batmobile,” Beilharz sent a shot across everyone’s bow when he finished second in qualifying on Thursday, only one second behind local Chiapas hero Jorge Pedrero.

On the first day of competition, Beilharz again ran second to Pedrero by 2:26, but on the second, third, and fourth days, he finished first each day, slowly erasing Pedrero’s lead. By the end of the fourth day, Beilharz was the overall leader by 51seconds. The question was -- could he protect such a small lead over the next three days?

On day five, Stig Bloomquist, former WRC champion, won the day, but Beilharz still finished 5 seconds ahead of Pedrero. On the 6th day, Beilharz gained another 14 seconds on Pedrero. Bloomquist, who had problems the first day, lost too much time to make up to challenge seriously for the top spot.

On the seventh and final day, Pedrero made an all out effort to win, clocking 16:55 for the day, but Beilharz followed in second place with a 17:08, enough to win the championship by 57 seconds -- one of the closest victories ever. Pedrero, it should be noted, was running in Turismo Production, which is limited to 305 cubic inches displacement, compared to Beilharz’s Turismo Mayor car with 366 c.i.

Last year Beilharz crashed out on the first day, but in 2000 he and Paul Jenkins won Turismo Production and finished 4th overall. To his credit, Bill fabricated the “Batmobile” in his own garage. Congratulations Bill and Jorge, our new champions!



Pre-race favorite Stig Bloomquist, the World Rally Champion of 1984, and his copiloto Ana Goni, driving a new Studebaker prepared by Mats Hammarlund, unfortunately had problems the first day and was unable to overcome the deficit. However, on days two and four he was second, and on day five and six he finished first. At the end of the race, he was 4th overall and third in Turismo Mayor. Lars Stugemo, also from Sweden and also driving another Hammarlund Studebaker, finished 5th overall.

Our other pre-race favorites, Doug Mockett and his navigator Angelica Fuentes finished 3d the first day, but dropped to 6th on day two and fourth on day three and four. By day five and six Doug and Angie were back on the podium in 2d, but then fell to fifth on the final day, or second in class and third overall. (Obviously, their problem was a neglected windscreen.)

Gabriel Perez and Horacio Chousal (who compiled the route book) were early contenders, driving a Turismo Production Ford, but were forced out on day four because of engine problems.


In the highly competitive Historic C class (eight cylinders, 1955-1965) Richard Tyzack (Wales) driving a Mustang prepared by Todd Landon finished 6th overall and first in class. He was followed in Historic C by Bill Shanahan (Falcon) and Marc Davis (Mustang) in second and third, respectively. Bill edged Marc by only 20 seconds. David Geldreich and Wilhelm Ostrop, driving a ’64 Chevelle, finished a respectable 4th in class in their first Carrera together.


Brain DeVries and Marc Noordeloos won Historic B (six cylinders, 1955-1965) in their Porsche 911 and finished in 11th overall. We will look forward to Marc’s report on the event in a future issue of Automobile magazine, where he is an editor.

Richard Clark and Andy Prill repeated as Sports Menor Champs in their highly-modified Porsche 356. Sam Burg and Dyana Marlett, avoiding bridges at all cost, coasted to another championship in Sports Mayor in their Chevy powered LT Special-- finishing 20th overall, and seven minutes ahead of Byron DeFoor and David Hinton in their beautiful Jaguar. Sam says the LT is for sale; some say it has the potential to win the event.

In Historic A+, Ulrich Lanius and Trevor Smyth finished 1st in class and 17th overall -- a great showing for their little Alfa sedan.

In Original Pan Am, which boasted twelve entries, Carson Scheller and Shields Richardson edged Formula 1 driver Jan Lammers in a Porsche 356 by 25 seconds on the last day to repeat as champion and to finish 21st overall, a great showing for this class. Rich Morrison and Rick Hamlin, in their red and yellow Mercedes, finished third (49th overall).


This was a year without serious injuries, but there was on spectacular crash that collected three cars – one Studebaker and two Mustangs from one team -- in one corner on a particularly treacherous, poorly marked stretch of road outside of Aguascalientes.

A pretty Sunbeam Tiger was also destroyed in a ravine the first day on a wet, mossy road in the mountains of Chiapas. Other casualties included the ’54 Stude of Mat and Jacob Gregory, the sons of John and Chrislana. Mat and Jacob returned to drive their parent’s OPA Studebaker. (Mothers and fathers make these sacrifices.). Sadly, Gerald Johnson’s regal white Jaguar 150 found its way into a deep ditch outside of Aguascalientes.

Mechanical problems claimed the following: Helge Nyland and Chris Cochrane, Gerie Bledsoe and Chris Cooper, Ron Lee and Jack Heydorff, James Oster and James, Jr, Herve Williams and Michael Kruch, Clyde Morter and Carl Jensen, Tony Bogovich and Chris Schaffer, Dennis Varni and Dick DeLuna, and others.


Apple farmers Richard Bailey and Nate Wilson finished a respectable 3d in class and 39th overall in their Volvo and even passed a car or two on La Bufa. Michel Sharp and Jon LeCarner finished 8th in class and 37th in their new, classy Falcon.

Respectable finishes were posted by: Rusty Ward, (26th), Jon Gross (34th), Steve Waldman (38th), and Bob Summerour (40th), and Neville Sonner (42d). Steven Walters and Janet McFarland, who are about the only ones who drive their racecar from their home (in Virginia) to the race and back, finished 41st. Well done!

Other running at the end of the race and wearing a big grin were: David Gussack and Nate Munday survived a bump and spin the first day to finish 4th in class in TP and 24th overall. John Daniels and Bob Youndahl also survived a suspension failure the first day to finish 29th overall in the famous Blue Whale (’49 Caddy). Stanley Bauer, now a seasoned Carrera vet, finished 43th and 4th in Historic A+ in his beautiful Porsche 356. Stanley is already preparing for a return next year!

Other US and Canadian entries – some with an international flavor – who finished were Guenter Sundag and Barbara Hernandez (50th, Mercedes), Tom and Jimmy (“Happy”) Davies (52d, Austin Mini), Brad Kaplan and Derek Dwyer (51st, Lincoln). Another OPA Lincoln, driven by everyone’s favorite, Dr. Christian Reichardt and Daniel Roche finished 67th. Christian, a chiropractor to Hollywood stars, also helped some competitors contend with back pain or assorted aliments along the way.

Dan Landon and Greg Shaw drove their mostly stock ’65 Corvair-- with a “Nader for President” bumper sticker -- down from Laredo with the Coyote Convoy and survived the race in style, finishing 70th.

Tom Boes and George Sullivan finished 76th in their Volvo. Joel Eisenberg and Marcia McCraw, styling in a red XKE Coupe, were 79th, and Joe Brubaker and Michael Emery (80th). Rumors abounded that the Brubaker/Emery Datsun Fairlady, boasting all of 95 HP, was being powered by premium tequila, at least after it was extracted from a narrow street in San Miguel de Allende. Few competitors seemed to have more fun that Joel and Marcia, which saying a lot, because Joel made the trip a cast on his left foot!

Given the fact that several cars listed above these in the overall standing did not finish the race (see below), they can argue that their overall position should be higher than indicated on the official results. A curious thing about the overall Carrera results is the fact that cars that drop out or crash during the race, cars that do not actually finish the race, may be posted higher in the final results than some cars that actually finish. Most of the cars in listed in the overall positions from 60-85, it would appear, could be moved up seven or eight places in the absolute results because of the number of cars that were “DNF.”


Six cars ran the event in Exhibition, a class that was won easily by Charles Breed and Bernard-Michel Rumpf in their powerful, sleek 600+ HP Chevy Lister replica. This powerful car greatly assisted by a ’89 Ford Taurus radiator fan salvaged from a ’63 Nova that self-destructed in the qualifying run. Assisted by suction of that fan, which must have created some ground effects, Charles and Bernard finished 6th in the overall standings (unofficially). Now the big question is will they return in a real Lister?


Finally, it should be noted that a good friend from the Netherlands, Roel Mulder, and his navigator Marcus van Tol, Belgium finished 31st in their Mercedes 230 SL. Roel, it should be noted, is the European and German Formula V Champion, and has waiting for years to drive the Pan Am.

And thanks to Duane Wilcoxon and Tom Dragoun (7s Only) and family for transporting cars to the event and helping the owners deal with mechanical problems along the way.


Carrera cars are not only getting faster, but seem to be much more dependable and durable. For example, Eduardo “Lalo” Leon announced in Nuevo Laredo that “83 cars had crossed the finish line in Nuevo Laredo, the highest number ever.” If accurate, that would be an amazing number, given the attrition along the way.

Here are the numbers. There were 106 official entries listed before the race. Of these, six did not start the race on October 24.

Around fourteen cars were known to be on their trailers at the end of the race, so if 83 of 100 starters actually finished the event, it was a high percentage indeed. Some cars were actually towed to Nuevo Laredo and taken off the trailer to limp across the finish fine.

Sadly, at the end of the event, there was still no news about the fate of the first bio-diesel entry, Kip Moncrief and Mike Devine (’59 Mercedes 190D), who reported that both racecar and tow vehicle had broken down the first day! They surely have stories to tell!


Haven’t got enough of open-road racing in Mexico? Applications for the 3d Chihuahua Express are being accepted. The Express follows the same rules as the Pan Am, except that modern cars are welcome. There are 325 miles of speed stages out of a total distance of only 1000 miles. (The Pan Am has around 350 miles of speed stages out of a total of 2000 miles.)

Each night the competitors return to the same hotels in Chihuahua City, which is only 143 miles from Texas. Most competitors will stay in town from Wednesday, March 25 through Sunday, March 29.

The Express Convoy will depart from the Holiday Inn at 8 AM, March 25 for the 220 mile trip to Chihuahua City. It will pass through Mexican customs at Santa Teresa, New Mexico that morning, and arrive at the headquarters hotel in the early afternoon.

The early entry fee is $1800 USD. Hotels are extra. Entries in the touring or bracket class (no roll cage) pay only $1200. Prices increase $200 on January 1, 2009.

Contact the North American coordinator for an entry form, multi-colored brochures, or more information at gbledso@aol.com. Also click on www.chihuahuaexpress.com.

The Chihuahua Express is part of the Silver State Classic Challenge’s International Series. For more information go to www.sscc.us or www.silverstateclassic.com.


All Carrera-eligible cars are invited to enter the SVAR vintage race at Road America, Elkhart Lake (WI), May 15-17, 2009. The Carrera cars will have their own dedicated run group. The weekend will include three practice sessions, a qualifying race on Saturday, and a feature race on Sunday. The entry fee is $475. The cars are also eligible to participate in the longer enduro race. Entrants must hold a current racing license from a recognized racing association.

Check the web site at SVRA.com or call Cal Jensen, SVRA Competition Director at 561-379-7751. Transport of cars from the Left Coast will be arranged.

Carrera cars are also invited to return to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in July.


The dates for the 2009 Pan Am are October 23-29. The final route has not been announced.

Applications/entries from North America will start being processed on December 1. A nonrefundable deposit of $500 will hold a spot until the balance is due on March 31. The amount of the entry fee has not been established, however.

All entries are provisional until a complete registration has been made, which includes photos of the car. Cars new to the Carrera must include a full set of photos of the roll cage or the detailed plans for the cage. An insufficient cage may cause the car to be disqualified at the start of the race; there will be no refund of any fees paid.

The Organizers retain the right to deny entry to any applicant. North America is initially limited to 40 entries. Entrants in 2008 also have a priority.


Hershel McGriff, who won the first Pan Am in 1950, and his wife, Sherrie, were the guests of the Concurso de Motor Sports in San Miguel de Allende on Oct. 18. Over 40 participants in the Coyote Convoy were able to share the evening with McGriff at a gala banquet. McGriff recounted some great stories about the original race, including clipping a horse with his car after the poor beast had been “beaned” and knocked down by a stone tossed by a Mexican policeman trying to scare it off the road.

In 1950 it was widely reported in the press that Hershel was a nice, well-mannered, unassuming young man when he stepped forward to collect the $17,000 first prize. Now 58 years later the same adjectives apply. Youthful and active, McGriff continues to be a true champion.

At the end of his presentation, McGriff wowed the audience and the event sponsors by delivering a check for $10,000 from a local family foundation to advance the work of C.A.S.A., the main charity supported by the Concurso this year. For twenty-five years, C.A.S.A. has provided medical care, early childhood education and nutrition, midwife programs, and a host of other programs to improve the lives of children and families in San Miguel and surrounding areas. Currently, its program for training midwives is being replicated in the Mexican state of Chiapas and Guatemala.

McGriff and his wife spent most of the day on Sunday in the main square of San Miguel at the Pan Am Car show, talking with Carrera drivers and crews. The car show was attended by thousands of local citizens who welcomed the Coyote Convoy.

This year the Coyote Convoy included 100 participants and 35 cars.


There’s a new Pan Am book for coffee tables everywhere. Johnny Tipler, “La Carrera Panamericana, The World’s Greatest Road Race” is the first book (272 pp) to cover the original race and its modern revival. The graphics, 350 photos, and contents are great. Published by Veloce Publishing in September 2008. For more info go to www.veloce.co.uk. The introduction is by Jo Ramirez and our favorite navigator, Angelica Fuentes, provided much assistance to the author, including many photos from the original era.


La Carrera Panamericana is a long, hard endurance race. Like other forms of motor sports, it is extremely dangerous.

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)

No comments: