The Carrera Panamericana has always been regarded as the toughest car rally in the world. It is the largest spectator sport in Mexico with over 1,000,000 spectators, is followed by hundreds of media and is on national TV channels every night.
Originally run from 1950 -54 and part of the World Sportscar Championship it encompassed hard road racing with extreme heat, tight winding roads as well as long fast straights. It climbs from sea-level up to near 8,000 ft in Mexico City causing severe carboration problems in engines.
It was always the last race of the Championship after the factory teams had visited Sebring, Mille Miglia, Le Mans, Spa and Nurburgring. The mexican race was regarded by most as the most arduous of all the races. It was was twice as long as the Mille Miglia and ran for a full 6 days.
By 1954 the Carrera was stopped due to saftey concerns of both the drivers and the public - 28 spectators had died alongside 27 drivers.
In 1955 a Mercedes killed 77 spectators at LeMans and in '57s Mille Miglia Portago died with 10 spectators. The 1950s cars were becoming too fast for road races and by the 1960s the series evolved into track racing where the spectators and drivers were safer.
Now with modern technology applied, the race has been running since 1987 and is enjoying its 26th anniversary. All the cars have to have fuel cells, full roll cages and fire systems as well as restrictions on tyres and fuel injection. The drivers and co-pilotos have to wear full nomex fireproof clothing and saftey helmets. It is now a very challenging race for 1950s cars and their drivers.
Recent years have seen an increase of professional drivers. WRC World Champion Stig Blomqvist, F1 drivers Jan Lammers, Jocken Mass and the Bleekemolen brothers. In 2010 WRC pro-driver HarrI Rovanpera won by 14 secs after 2,000 miles of racing.
Speeds in the top class were approaching 170-180mph and for 2011 a restriction in rear-gear-ratios and RPMs capped the speeds at 145mph.
2013 will see Memo Rojas Jnr - the four-times Rolex Grand Am Sports Car Series champion and three-times Daytona 24 hours winner challenge to win with a Mats Hammarlund prepared Studebaker 25 years after his father won the event.
interesting link: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/summerofspeed/article3774171.ece
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