Day 1 final control in Puebla.

The first day of stages is now over, and teams are either kicking back at the bar or resting for the early morning call. For us, Buddy took the reigns for day one. We met at the car just before 6am and transited to the start arch, getting delayed as our GPS threw us on and off the route at random (We’re not provided directions from the hotel to the start, just a time to be there).

Cars loosely queue up for the morning loop.

After a quick transit we arrived at our first loop of four stages, the first two of which were the “warm up” and classification stage from Day 0. The sun added a bit of an extra challenge as it was rising low in a clear sky, blinding us in too many corners to be comfortable. We caught the car in front of us in the control, which is a bit easier at Pan Am than other events as cars are started at 30 second intervals versus the more common minute or two minutes found in other series.

\The second stage went much as the first, smooth, quick, blinded at times, and finishing by catching a car in the control again. Buddy was gaining confidence in notes, giving him more ability to push.

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Our next stage was a 27km twisty bastard where we hit our stride, passing both a Studebaker and Fairlane on course and catching an RX-2 in the control. The cars we passed both let us start ahead of them for the final quick stage before mid day service, where we once again caught the car ahead of us in the finish control.

Studebakers and Ford Fairlanes may seem like odd choices for a rally, but the rules here favor the big bodied sedans and coupes. Most entries are essentially NASCAR cup cars from a few years ago re-bodied in sleeker, older models. Massive power, outrageous brakes, and engineering that put them decades ahead of our Historic B class Porsche. Despite the disadvantage we moved up quite a few positions over the more powerful classes by lunch.

Mid day cluster-service.

The mid day service was the traditional cluster expected with Pan Am. The organization is always loose, the controls are ill defined, the traffic is not controlled, and the areas are more suited for a show than for a proper service. As a co-driver it can easily give me an mannerism. But that’s part of the adventure here.

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After fighting our way out of service we made it to our final stage loop of the day consisting of the last two stages before lunch in reverse, plus a quick new charge to finish the competition side of the morning. The first stage after lunch went well, but the second, the 27km beast, was a bit of battle. At 10km in I started to feel the tires loosing grip, and by 20km we were dancing on the road surface as the rubber cooked and lost bite. Buddy didn’t let up, and despite drifting more than driving corners, we managed to take ~34 seconds off the forward run from the morning. The tires luckily scrubbed enough on transit to the final stage to gain back grip for the last blast, a fifteen minute wait for our check in time undoubtedly helped as well.

Staging for the seventh and final stage of Day 1

After the seventh and final stage of the day we got to enjoy the transit to Puebla. With Pan Am visiting a new city each day the transits can get absurd, this one was a particularly mind numbing four hours. We passed the time by talking, looking at the terrain, and listening to Buddy rap west coast hip hop and random intervals while cruising at a steady 150kph through toll roads.

Always photograph your time card in Mexico to prove you earned no penalties as they can sometimes “magically” appear.

We finally arrived at the outskirts of Puebla, finding our way to the regroup where we’d gain a police escort to the Parc Ferme. A Fedarale Charger led us while five Policia Municipal Kawasakis blocked roads as we passed, only to race ahead after we passed to block the next intersection for us. I was reminded of a scene from Clear and Present Danger at that point.

Pulling through the final arch of the day.

Following four mind numbing hours in the car we made the Pueblo Zocolo (final paddock of the day) to the party that meets us at every new city. We collected our daily medal, marking off the first of seven we aim for every year, and parked for the locals to see the cars, snap photos, and get autographs. I always take this time to unwind from the day, usually wandering a few streets away from hubbub, and relax after pushing the envelope for another day.

I’m now typing this tucked away in a back corner of the nightly awards banquet- each day is treated as it’s own event, then combined for a grand Pan Am result. Some teams aren’t hear- several new Minis and Studebakers crashed out. A Stingray Vette ate a wall hard in stage three. Three or four cars had mechanical issues. The worst is a Stude, who was in the top five, rolled on the transit after getting to frisky with local traffic.

Our day, however, has finished well. It looks like we’ve placed second in class, tenth overall.