Monday, December 13, 2010

New Team Tortuga Video

Today when I got an email from Dan Brubaker the nephew of Joe and Brent Brubaker in the little black Volvo, he said, "Here is a low resolution version of the video footage I shot in Mexico. Not bad for my first attempt at making a movie. Let me know what you think."

Well after watching it I have to agree with him 100 percent and I'm sure anyone elese affiliated with LCP faternity will agree as well. Good job Dan!

Brent Zerull and Joe Brubaker race a 1966 Volvo Amazon in La Carrera Panamericana 2010. Film by Dan Brubaker and Scott Ayers.

Racing a '66 Volvo through Mexico (low resolution) from Team Tortuga on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

From The Desk Of Gerie Bledsoe

December 2010



Twenty North Americans have committed to the 4th annual Chihuahua Express, April 8-10, 2011. Most of the competitors have experience in La Carrera or have run the Express before. Thirty or more Mexicans and Europeans are also expected to participate.

Some rookies to rallying in Mexico use the Express to learn the ropes south of the border.

The Express is three days of open-road racing—about 325 miles of top-speed stages--across some of the most remarkable landscapes in the world. It’s a stage rally 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 and entry form 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 Santa Teresa, New Mexico (near El Paso, Texas) on April 6 for the short drive across the border, around Juarez, and down to Chihuahua City. Detailed instructions for the border crossing are provided, along with other news and information, to those on the CHIHUAHUA EXPRESS NEWS email list.


According to the published rules of La Carrera Panamericana, thirty of the one hundred entries are reserved for North America (Canada and the United States). As of this date, 26 entries have been received from these two countries.

Prior to 2010, it was normal to have a North American contingent of forty or more, but that was not the case last year when North American participation was limited to thirty, mainly to accommodate fifty entries from Mexico and a good turn out from Europe.

Bottom line: if you are living in the Canada or the U.S. and want to guarantee a place on the grid for 2011, send in your entry form and a non-refundable deposit of $500 payable to La Carrera USA…ASAP. (See Contact Info for the address.) If for any reason your entry is not accepted by the Organizing Committee, your deposit will be refunded promptly. There has been no announcement about the fee schedule. Deposits may also be transferred.

If you am planning to participate in the race this year, keep wrenching on your car, because we will try to enroll as many North Americans as possible, and it is likely that one or two of those who have made a deposit will ultimately decide not to participate this coming year.


The basic criteria are:

1. Interest – what type of car do you like? English sports cars, German sedans, or GM?

2. Ambition – are you out to win or just want to have some fun?

3. Budget – you need one, of course.

Over the past decade, the nature of LCP has changed significantly. Today, there are more professional racers involved, and the cars are better prepared and faster. There are far fewer drivers who are “tourists,” participating “just for fun.” Instead of rumbling down a mountain road racing against the clock, now novices may find themselves speeding around a Mexican NASCAR track with drivers who will push their cars to the limit. More than ever before, racing experience or driver training on a track is imperative

Want a better chance of climb onto the podium? Build a car for these under-represented classes: Original Pan Am or Sports Mayor (+2000 cc) or Sports Menor (-2000 cc). In these classes, replicas are generally accepted. The Sports class cars—1940-1954—may be highly modified. Even in Original Pan Am a lot of modern parts are permitted.


For years I have warned rookies about the effect of the high altitudes in Mexico on their engines and drive trains. My refrain has been: we lose up to 1/3 of our compression in the mountains and high plains of Mexico. This notion was based on some research Mike Goble and I did in the mountains of California preparing for the race in 2001.

Contrary to what you may think about Mexico, most of the country, especially the central part where we race for six days, is a plateau over 5000 feet in altitude, with lots of rugged mountains and mostly dormant volcanoes. In some places, like outside of Zacatecas, we race at 8500 feet or higher. Too many people think of Mexico in terms of the seaside resorts like Cancun, Cabo, and Puerto Vallarta. But most of Mexico is at high altitude, and it is much cooler at 8500 feet, even in the summer months.

Even in the Chihuahua Express, we reach some lofty altitudes, especially the day we race into the famous Copper Canyon.

A recent note in Road and Track (November, 2010, p. 108) finally provided me the scientific formula: for each 1000 feet gain in altitude, the air pressure (thus oxygen) is reduced by 3.5%, so in Oaxaca we are down by 18.55%. In Puebla or in Zacatecas, we drop to 31.5%. Thin air and the reduction in oxygen robs our engines of power.

As air pressure drops, so does the ability of the air to carry gasoline. Less petrol vapor = less power. Ask any drag racer who tunes for Denver or even Atlanta.

In addition, engines like cool, dense air, especially when accelerating. Cold-air or ram-air induction is essential to crisp performance, especially “getting off the line.” It is true that air temperature drops three degrees for each 1000 feet in altitude and this helps, but our engines do run hotter up there in the mountains. Why?

Engines do not cool well at high altitude because the thinner air simply does not absorb and dissipate heat as efficiently the thicker air at lower altitudes. Larger radiators, “Water Wetter,” high flow water pumps, and more powerful fans are necessary. (You may use coolant in Carrera race cars.)

Hot engines also tend to vapor lock, especially those with mechanical fuel pumps. Extra insulation around the gas line and carb helps, but the only proven cure is a re-circulating fuel system, where the gas never stops circulating between the tank, carb, and back to the tank.

Some car builders have used two fuel pumps on the gas line, one pushing and one pulling, with success, but the recirculating system is best. Worried about the dependability of an electric pump? Use two of them – in line or separately wired. Electric pumps should not be located in the trunk with the fuel cell.

Good news? Because our engines are down on power at altitude, there is much less stress on the drive train: transmission, clutch, differential, and rear axles. If you want to save a little un-sprung weight, substitute a Ford 8.8” differential for the traditional Ford 9” or a “built” GM ten bolt, rather than the expensive, heavier 12 bolt.


The rules of the Carrera say that competitors cannot use tires made for competition. The rules also specify a DOT approved tire (or European equivalent), a minimum tread wear rating of 60, and in most classes, an aspect ratio of 50 or higher. The tires should not be “cut” (shaved).

Fortunately, both Yokohama and Toyo make tires that fit these specs. The Yokohama A048 (or the lastest iteration) is an excellent choice, or the Toyo A-888 or RA-1. Some competitors have found success with other, speed-rated (H or higher) summer tires.

You should pay attention to the maximum rim widths specified for each class, such as 6” Historic A and B, and 7” in Historic C. Turismo Mayor may run a 8” rim.

Normally, one set of (unshaved) tires is enough for this race. Maybe having an extra spare tire in your service vehicle is a good idea. All race cars must carry one spare—in the trunk or somewhere in or on the car.

Steel or alloy rims? In the old days, almost everyone ran steel rims. They are stronger and can be repaired by welding at most muffler shops. Now, many more people run alloy rims, again to save weight. If you decide on alloy rims, select strong ones, because few Mexican shops have the equipment to weld aluminum.


North Americans have two ways to sign up for the Pan Am. They may print out the Entry Form from, fill it out, and send it to the N.A. Coordinator with a personal or business check. This form solicits information useful to providing competitors, especially rookies, with the best advice and assistance prior to the event.

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

The race organizers in Mexico, not the N.A. Coordinator, make all decisions about the eligibility of cars. However, rookies or anyone with a new car should let the Coordinator review their roll cage design before lighting up the welding torch. Again, the final decisions about cages and other safety equipment are made by the tech inspectors at the start of the race.

Please note that the final rules of the race are usually not published until the spring, and even then they are subject to change. Stay loose!

Hotels. Registration for the race includes a double hotel room, two beds for two people, for eight nights (Oct. 20-27, 2011). However, the hotel package for 2011 has not been announced. But traditionally, those who enter the race first get the best hotels. Those signing up early, for example, have the best shot at scoring a room at the fabulous Quinta Real Hotel in Zacatecas, which costs $150 extra.

Hotel reservations should be made directly with the Carrera Office in Mexico (310-860-6959). Additional hotel rooms—for your crew or early arrival in the starting city—cost $150.

All participants should understand that all sales of hotel rooms are final. There are no refunds and the rooms cannot be transferred to another person.


Todd Landon (Minnesota) has a Mustangs and Falcons to rent for La Carrera and the Chihuahua Express. Todd has twelve years of Carrera experience as a racer and car builder. One of his cars finished first in class and fifth overall in the Historic C class in the Express in 2009, and in 2008 the same car won the Historic C class in la Carrera. Todd also offers an “arrive and drive” arrangement, with full mechanical support. Todd also regularly attends the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (June 27, 2010) and provides cars for that event. Contact him at or 1-952-250-7948.

Mats Hammarlund Racing, Inc., down in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, has a variety of cars for rent and for sale. Hammarlund’s cars are all booked for the Carrera next year, but he has cars available for the Chihuahua Express. His two successive championships prove that his cars are fast and dependable. Mats will also store and prep cars from Europe and North America for the Carrera and Chihuahua Express. Why ship them back and forth across the ocean? Contact Mats at or 011-52-415-101-0308.

ISO CO-PILOT. Want to ride up Pikes Peak or navigate the Chihuahua Express in a unique style? Call Dean Smith 702-438-3445. Dean has a ’52 Desoto that made it up PP and the Virginia City Hill Climb already, and he needs a funded co-piloto for both events.

Please note that the change in my postal address is effective December 12, 2010:
Gerie Bledsoe or La Carrera USA
220 N Zapata Hwy Ste 11
Pmb 68B
Laredo, Texas 78043

Phone: 1-650-525-9190
Web site:
Web site:
Carrera Office (Mexico City): 1-310-860-6959