It’s around the 100th time I’ve gone through the same motions; packing race suits, toiletries, clothes, and timing equipment. This event is outside of the U.S., so the extra burden of my passport and foreign currency adds a little to my check list. This used to be easy, for several years I ran fifteen plus events a season, but my life has shifted over the last four years and with a growing business at home I can’t step away as often. Instead of hitting every event I could, from small regional rallies to national level events, I try to run bigger rallies, more challenging races, something to hold me over while balancing other aspects of life.
La Carrera Panamericana. One of the most storied events in history, and one of the last chances to run a true cross country tarmac event.
As a classic event Pan Am was restricted to pre-1970’s cars until this year. Entries have been dwindling as competition cars get harder to find. Studebaker Champions and 1960’s Mustangs are not able to be replaced. Porsche 356’s and 911’s are priced too high to risk. In an effort to stem the drought classes have been added for new Mini Coopers and motorcycles. Normally I’d be jealous of a modern machine for a 3000 km run across mexico, but not with our car.
This will be the third year I’ve run the Carrera. Each time in the same vehicle- a 1968 Porsche 911 prepared by Ray Stephens. It’s a phenomenal machine, but it wouldn’t appeal to purists. It started life as a 912 and has been converted to the higher cylinder count and cult status of its bigger brother. Ray is meticulous when it comes to car prep, even going so far as to machine bolt heads so they have the same clearance to the rally odo pickups. After two previous Pan Ams and three runs at the Chihuahua Express we’ve done over 10,000 kilometers at speed and the car has never let us down.
While the car and crew chief will be familiar, my drivers are new to both the event and myself. This year I’ll be running with two drivers swapping out throughout the seven days- Don Yount with a background in Prototypes, and Buddy Rice, winner of the 2004 Indianapolis 500.
Pan Am has grown in mystique courting former WRC drivers like Stig Blomqvist, Harri Rovanperä, and Ricardo Triviño. Drivers from Formula One are also common with Erik Comas having won the 2014 edition. Even Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour and Nick Mason couldn’t resist the temptation of a rally described as one of the last adventures at speed.
As I finish packing and use online check in for my flights I do the last of my at home prep for two weeks away. My girlfriend is staying behind to watch over my dog who broke her back leg last week in a way the vet described as “exploded.” I’ve got my laptop with me so I can run payroll and check on expansion plans for my brewery at night after competing all day. There’s never a good time to leave, but these complications add to the stress of being gone.
I’m on the road for ten days, seven of those at speed. I’ll do my best to post updates as the event progresses, trying to give a view into La Carrera Panamericana.