Saturday, January 23, 2010

From The Desk Of Gerrie Bledsoe

January 23, 2010




Twenty-six North Americans have committed to the Chihuahua Express, March 19-21. Another ten or so Europeans and twenty-two Mexican racers are expected to join the fun. Virtually all of the competitors have experience in La Carrera or have run the Express before. A few have signed up for the bracket class and the regularity T/S/D rally.

The Express comprises three days of racing – 325 miles of top speed stages -- across some of the most remarkable landscapes in the world. It’s open-road racing at its finest--only 145 miles from Texas. Go to and click on English for more info, or click on to receive a three-page FAQ via email.

Registration and technical inspection are a snap, the cost is low, the time commitment is minimal, just about any car may be enrolled, and the race organization is professional. In only three years, it’s become a world-class event.

The Express Convoy leaves El Paso, Texas on March 17 for the short drive across the border and down to Chihuahua City.


Eduardo de Leon, the President of La Carrera Panamericana, is predicting another big year for the event. Last year 107 competitors enrolled, up from an even 100 in 2008. Although North American participation dropped off in 2009 because of the recession, our European cousins made up the difference.

After the race was over, we learned that the brother of the President of Mexico was among the competitors! (No wonder so many Federales were hovering about!)

According to the official rules of the event, North America (Canada and the U.S.) is limited to thirty entries, but we have been granted ten more routinely over the years. However, this may be the first year we are not allowed to exceed our quota.

North Americans may reserve a spot on the grid with a deposit of $500. The deposit is non-refundable, unless the organizers refuse to accept your entry. Let me know if you are interested


Increased use of the Internet, especially YouTube, FaceBook, and bloggers like Gary Faules, has raised the visibility of La Carrera and the Chihuahua Express enormously. Now you can watch Pan Am cars blast through Mexican canyons only hours after the actual event and get nightly updates.

For the first time last October, folks back home followed the race courtesy of Gary and his hardy band of amateur “reporters” and photogs in Mexico. Heck, he even covered the Coyote Convoy on its way down to Huatulco. Gary’s blog can be found at

Other bloggers provide excellent insights and content, such as the “soul” of LCP Marcia Blas at Another fine example is Kristin Vance's Michael Emery’s site provides excellent info about his team, beautiful photographs (he is a pro), and a comprehensive list of links. Even rookie Hayden Groendyke has a new web site--with an unapologetic title-- Hayden, who is no stranger to Mexico, is now actively promoting the Pan Am.

The expansion of the Internet and cell phone service in Mexico has also greatly improved communications during the event, making expensive satellite phones largely unnecessary. Cell and text service is available in most of Mexico, at least once we survive the first day in the boonies. Regardless, GPS tracking devices in the cars would be a good thing to continue. Is there an OnStar system for racecars in Mexico? It would be good to hear a comforting voice say, “Hello. Our system has indicated that, while your airbags have not deployed, you have disappeared into a steep ravine. Are you OK? Should we call for assistance?”

This year a character called “CarreraCoyote” will “tweet” late-breaking news to Carrera competitors and crews before and during the event. To sign up for these messages, go to Detailed info will also be posted more frequently under the “News” tab at or


No official announcements have been made about the route of the Carrera for 2010. It is quite likely that the starting city will be Tuxtla Gutierrez. But anything is possible. We also have reason to believe that the “meta” will be Nuevo Laredo. Other overnight stops along the route may be Oaxaca, Puebla, Queretaro, San Luis de Potosi, and Zacatecas. Wouldn’t it be nice to spend two nights in Zac?

Most 2009 competitors who responded to a brief poll in November did not wish to spend another night in Mexico City or Guadalajara. With the new, magnificent toll road around Mexico City, it is much easier to avoid that traffic nightmare, even if a few laps on the historic Dos Hermanos racetrack would be exciting.

The official route is determined by negotiations with the various cities and hotels along the route. The entire route will not be announced until much later. When it is posted on the official web site, “CarreraCoyote” will “tweet” it. Exciting, huh? Perhaps some day these negotiations will involve multi-year arrangements, so the route can be announced earlier, rather than later.


The entry fee and hotel package for Pan Am 2010 also have not been announced. (The publication of this newsletter has been delayed awaiting the news.)

Regardless, you may sign up by going to the main web site: The format is not user friendly, so you must have your blood type info, car info, and digital photos ready to upload in order to complete the registration.

Alternatively, North Americans may use the entry form provided at For new people, in particular, this form solicits information useful to providing them with the best advice and assistance prior to the event. The race organizers in Mexico make all decisions about the eligibility of cars.

Hotels? Traditionally, those who enter the race first get the best hotels. Those signing up early have the best shot at scoring a room at the fabulous Quinta Real Hotel in Zacatecas, for example.

However, more competitors are reserving rooms along the route via the Internet, rather than pay $150-300 per night to the race organizers for extra rooms for their crew or luxury accommodations. This was apparently the case last year in Huatulco, an under-utilized Pacific resort, where some competitors and their support crews stayed in less expensive hotels during the days before the race began.

Everyone loves a good deal, but if this trend continues, it may result in a significant increase in the entry fee, since the two profit centers are inextricably tied together. On the other hand, the race organizers could index the cost of the hotel package to the dollar-peso exchange rate and the actual cost of the rooms, which are bought in bulk. They might also act as a travel agent, providing competitors more hotel options, and charging a reasonable commission. Certainly, they should reconsider the “once you pay, there’s no refund” policy.


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)
CarreraCoyote (
Car #395, ’63 Chevy II Nova, 12th Year

This newsletter may be copied, reprinted, and distributed with proper attribution. The views expressed here are the author’s and sometimes do not reflect the views of the organizing committee. You may sign up for or have your name deleted from this mailing list by a short email to

© Copyright Gerie Bledsoe 2010

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