Monday, July 04, 2011

From The Desk Of Gerie Bledsoe

Carrera Driver
Third Edition -- July 2011


Special Edition for Carreraistas!


The first annual Pan-Am Pre-Race Tour is scheduled for September 8-12 in San Miguel de Allende. Three couples have signed up for this introduction to central Mexico and stage-rallying Mexican style.

San Miguel was the subject of a recent, extremely favorable article in Vogue magazine. CLICK HERE

Two weeks ago members of the San Miguel Moto Classico Club rode their motorcycles over the mountain to the city of Guanajuato for lunch at the main market. We traveled up the same winding road that will be used for the last speed sage on day #5 of LCP. This is a magnificent road for a speed stage. The Pre-Race Tour will visit this road in September, along with the speed stages known as “Mil Cumbres” outside of Morelia and Los Lobos near the city of Leon.


Not a many details have been published officially about this year’s route. However, it is official: the race will pay a visit to the main square (El Jardin) in San Miguel de Allende and then stop for service in our lovely city on day #5, October 25, during the transit from Mil Cumbres, outside of Morelia, to the last speed stage before entering the city of Guanajuato. Yes, this means we will race up Mil Cumbres around 9:30 AM upon leaving Morelia.

Leaving Huatulco on the first day, we will race south along the coast to Tehuantepec, before turning back north towards the city of Oaxaca on the old Pan Am Highway.

As far as I can tell, we will race on the same track in Queretaro and on the new NASCAR track in Aguascalientes as last year…..yes, the one that had a pile of gravel in the acceleration lane. Perhaps the gravel has been relocated?

With Gael Rodriquez making the route book this year, expect mostly uphill speed stages and conservatively-rated corners. Mr. Rodriquez prefers to keep us safe.


Last month the LCP Organizing Committee released a preliminaryset of rules governing most of the classes of Pan Am cars. This edition of the rules was forwarded to the competitors from the U.S. and Canada in CARRERA DRIVER.

On page 39 of these rules there is a new section stipulating the two options the Organizing Committee intends to use to limit the speed of cars in Turismo Production, Turismo Mayor, Sports Mayor, and Historic C. Speeds will be limited by two combinations of tire diameter, rear gears (differential ratios), and RPM chips. This assumes, of course, a 1:1 top gear in all cars.

After considering these new rules and discussing them with a few competitors, I have recommended the following to the Organizing Committee:

1. That each competitor in these four classes be permitted to select any combination of tire diameter, differential gear, and RPM chip that limits the car’s top speed to that specified in the rules.
2. That all competitors sign a statement that (1) their car is in compliance with the rules and (2) they will not change this set up during the race, and (3) they will accept immediate disqualification from the event if an unauthorized change is made to this set-up before or during the event.
3. That the inspectors will seal the transmission, differential case, and RPM chip into the car, and reserve the right to substitute a replacement chip in the ignition module.
4. That while in competition the cars be subjected to radar checks and random inspections, and
5. That the top four cars in each class be presented for inspection at the end of the event for compliance to these limitations and other rules. (Current practice.)

These changes are intended to allow competitors to use their current differential gear, and to avoid longer lines at the inspection tent in Huatulco by not checking each differential.

I also suggested that the penalties for exceeding the limit on speed for each class be stipulated in the rules.

Also note that the preliminary rules released last month incorrectly extended eligibility to any car in Historic B and C up to 1972. I have been informed by the race director that this was a mistake. These rules also contained several typos and organizational problems that have been highlighted for the race director. One rule which bears watching applies only to Historic C – that cars that weighed less than 2800 pounds upon manufacture must use a 2 barrel carb. This rule is not clearly stated in the written rules.

I also proposed the addition of a rule like found in the SCCA rulebook that says: if a modification is not specifically authorized by the rules, then it cannot be made. In Spanish it goes like this: “Lo no especificado esta prohibido.” The rule is borrowed from the competition rules of the Queretaro Racing Club.


Other than the limit on speed, the partial set of rules circulated three weeks ago did not appear to change much in the way our cars are fabricated and prepared. However, the Pan Am still does not have a clear set of instructions and diagrams for roll cages, seats, and belts.

Here is what the inspectors seem to be looking for:
a. All bars in the cage should be welded together, including all door bars (no Clevis pins). (FIA actually allows some bars to be bolted in.)
b. Each cage must have at least one support bar across the ceiling/roof of the car, if not a full “X” brace.
c. Seat belts (less than five years old) should be attached to the floor and cage properly.
d. There should two door bars; neither can swing open for entry.
e. Racing seats (one piece) are required. No seats on sliders, nor seats that fold or recline.
f. There should be at least one diagonal support bar under or behind the mail roll hoop, in addition to the two rear support legs.
g. The rear support bars for the main roll hoop should go back at a proper angle.
h. Cars that have wide front doors, like big American coupes, should have more bracing for the front of the cage (by the “A” pillar).
There is some understanding that a cage approved by the SCCA or FIA is OK, except perhaps for the bar(s) across the roof.

At least one car was not allowed to compete in the Chihuahua Express because its cage was ruled not acceptable, and other competitors were forced to modify their cages, seats, and/or belts to pass inspection.


Driving Suits --- expect the FIA limit of five years for a suit to be enforced. Check your suit for a tag or FIA label with a date on it. If you buy a new one, make sure you are getting the whole five years.

There is no rule requiring a two- layer suit or any level of SFI protection, but inspectors have been known to insist on them. A one-layer suit with Nomex undies may be acceptable. The wearer’s name, blood type, Rh factor and any allergies must be listed on the front of the suit and on the back of your helmet. I recommend a two-layer suit.

Drivinh Gloves and Shoes – Nomex/fire resistant gloves and shoes were checked and sealed in LCP last year and the Express in April, although there seems to be no written rule requiring them.

Helmets – Snell SA2005 or the European equivalent is required. Make sure the helmet has the proper tag inside. Closed-face helmets should be used in open cars. Absolutely no M/C (DOT) helmets are allowed. (I assumed that Snell1020 helmets are OK.)

HANS Device -- a HANS device or other approved form of head and neck restraint, like a Defender or Leatt Brace, is required. You cannot race without one. You may use 2” belts with the HANS, too.

Fire systems – cars should be equipped with a fire-suppression system (a bottle and two or more nozzles). Although not required by rule, having a couple of hand-held ABC fire extinguishers in the car might come in handy, too.

Power-Off Switch -- each car should have a switch that turns off all power to the car. This switch, by rule, should be mounted on the outside of the car. Some cars also have a switch inside the car within reach of the driver or navigator.

This may not be a complete list. Read the rules, again.


Serious racers know that all safety gear must be worn properly.

Helmets should fit snugly, and the straps should be worn tight. In several recent wrecks, including one fatality, the helmet popped off the navigator’s head upon initial impact. Auto-racing helmets are constructed to take successive impacts and be fire resistant. Obviously, your helmet must stay on to serve its purpose.

Seat belts should also be tightened until they hurt, and then tightened a little more. After the first speed run, the harness should be tightened again. Competitors should NOT use a cushion to move themselves closer to the steering wheel. A specially made foam insert or dense foam padding (like that used by backpackers) is recommended.

Some European racing organizing require that the driver/co-driver have access to a knife or sharp implement (belt buster) to cut the harness in case of an emergency. Sometimes, in a roll-over, when the car lands belly up, the cam lock belts are impossible to open because of the weight of your body on the lock. Latch-type belts usually do not have this problem. Belt busters are recommended, but not yet required.

Practice emergency exits. All competitors, especially those who are not involved in racing on a regular basis, should practice quick escapes from their car several times, including through the window, starting with their helmet and belts tight, window nets up. This exit routine should also be practiced blindfolded--to simulate a cockpit filled with black smoke. Be able to get out in 10-15 seconds! Drivers should also be able to exit through the co-piloto’s window, too, and vice versa. The fire suppressions system and Nomex suit are designed only to give you a few precious second to get your fanny out of the car.

Rookies should also practice getting into their car with their HANS device on, raising the window net, locking their belts, putting on their helmet, connecting the HANS, putting on their glasses inside the helmet, gloves, tightening their belts, and using their toes to turn on switches on the dashboard. (Really, that advice is not always a joke.) Do not wait until Huatulco to learn this one minute routine.

Even if competitors intend to exercise moderation behind the steering wheel, as we all know, “poop happens.” Be prepared when that twenty pound bag of burro dung or felled tree drops on your head outside of Morelia. (Yes, the latter has happened.)


The old, written rules continue to say in several places that 55 series tires or taller must be used in several classes, including the most popular class, Historic C. However, the tabular version of the rules says 50 series or taller. For the last many years competitors in most classes have used 50 series tires, since it is hard (impossible) to find DOT competition tires in taller sizes.

The most popular tires for the Carrera are Toyo RA-1, Toyo A-888, and Yokohama A-048 in the 225-255/--50--/15-16” sizes. It would seem that most competitors inflate them to around 30 pounds, although the RA-1s do not reach their maximum adhesion until they heat up to around 40 pounds, which is not likely in the Pan Am.

Toyo RA-1, A-888, or Yoko? Based on my experience with all three, the RA-1 seems to have a little stronger sidewall than the Yoko, but all are excellent. The A-888 puts more rubber on the road, but at full tread gets really slick on hot pavement when new. Some track racers have complained about the tire’s lack of longevity, but using them in Mexico for two years now, I have no complaint. Being a slow, cautious budget racer, one set of any of these tires lasts me for the whole Pan Am and maybe a Chihuahua, too. Then I have them recapped. ;)

As most serious racers know, these tires are fastest when the tread is just about gone. However, it is illegal to shave tires for this race. Unshaved race tires tend to be greasy and prone to chunking when raced at full tread. They may be OK as rain tires, but on hot pavement, at top speed, exercise a tad of caution until you get used to them.

Thus all DOT competition tires should be scuffed up good before using them in Mexico. “H” rated M+S tires will work fine for some, perhaps less competitive, drivers. Just remember that a well-functioning brake system, solid rims, and proper tires are critically important to your safety.


As announced earlier, once the entry fee or the hotel rooms are paid, the following policies of the Organizing Committee apply:
50% cash refund on the entry fee until July 31st.
50% credit for the entry fee for 2012 event from August 1st until September 1st.
From September 2nd, no credits or refunds on the entry fee
For hotels, once paid, there will be no refunds, and the rooms are not transferable.

Have you made your request for your hotels in Huatulco for October 17-20, or whenever you and your crew will arrive? Ask about the all inclusive deals, too. Contact about your hotel needs.
The Coyote Convoy will arrive in Hautulco on Monday, October 17.

Did I say that auto racing is extremely dangerous and that includes La Carrera Panamericana?
Adelante muchachos y muchachas!

650-525-9190 (a Vonage phone, a free call to me)
Local Mexican phone: +52-415-185-8470

© Gerie Bledsoe 2011

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