**CHIHUAHUA EXPRESS, April 19-21
**THE EXPRESS – DAY BY DAY
**PAN AM DATES AND ROUTE
**APPROVAL OF CARS AND ROLL CAGES
**PAN AM REGISTRATION
**CARS FOR SALE
**CARS FOR RENT
**CHIHUAHUA EXPRESS, APRIL 19-21
North American and European participation in the Chihuahua Express continues to increase. Drivers from the U.S. have also signed up for the Express Rally Tour, a time/distance event, as a way to experience rally driving in Mexico.
The Express offers a great opportunity to test a new car for stage rallying in Mexico and learn the timing and scoring routine without spending two weeks and untold thousands only to find out that it’s not your cup of tea. Most track cars—modern and vintage--from the US are eligible to participate. They do not have to be “street legal” and registered for the road in the US or any other country to enter.
Worried about the bad media Mexico gets? There is ample evidence that the violence associated with the drug wars in Mexico is on the decline, perhaps because of the installation of the new president of Mexico. This fact has been determined by private intelligence analysts in the US.
In the twenty-five years of the Pan Am and the eight years of the Border Challenge-Chihuahua Express, there has not been one incident of violence toward a competitor, foreign or Mexican. That’s a good trend line! Besides, the state and city of Chihuahua mobilize around 350 police officers to secure our route. It’s awesome!
The entry fee for the Express is now $2500 USD. A registration form will be send upon request, along with a memorandum for rookies about racing the Express.
**THE EXPRESS – DAY BY DAY
The Express is three days long. Each day offers a different set of roads and different terrain.
Friday, Day #1 – leaving at 8:00 AM, the cars run north of Chihuahua City and then turn west toward the city of Madera. The cars begin with a 20 mile speed stage through the mountains that is spectacular. What a way to start to start the event! After that initial stage the cars will run several more stage through smaller mountain ranges. The race will pass through several American Amish communities along the way, too. After the service stop in Madera, the cars will race back to Chihuahua on the same roads, running the same speed stages the opposite way. This is open country, with nothing to slow your progress.
Saturday, Day #2 – the cars leave early for a long transit southwest of Chihuahua on a toll road to the city of Cuauhtemoc. Not long after that city--the only one traversed in the whole race--they line up for a series of speed runs through canyons on the way to the first service stop in San Juanito. After fueling up, the cars run speed stages to the top of the famous Copper Canyon, which is bigger than the Grand Canyon, to admire the view and have lunch. Then they run the same speed stages back down the mountain, stop for gas again, and then finish the day with more stages. It’s the longest day of the event, and it quickly separates the boys (girls) from the men (women).
Sunday, Day #3 – leaving at 9 AM, the competitors head 145 miles due east toward Presidio, Texas -- the shortest day of the event. They run a series of speed stages across the desert and across several smaller mountain ranges. A brief pause at the famous Pequis Canyon in included so crews can admire landscape closely resembling the Moon’s surface. The cars race on to stop in Ojinaga, across the Rio Grande River from Presido, for service, before returning on the same stages toward Chihuahua. Some of the stages include long, flat sections across the desert that are the fastest of the event. Some cars will reach speeds of 160-180 MPH.
The Express is a racer’s race. There is minimum ceremony and maximum driving time and public security. The roads are challenging but in excellent condition. There are only a few villages and one city along the way, and a minimum number of topes (speed bumps). After each day the short drivers’ meeting starts on time and daily awards are handed out. After the last day’s run, the final meeting includes an awards banquet. It’s a weekend event, created for busy people with limited time to race, only 240 miles from El Paso, Texas. A convoy will depart from El Paso on April 17 for the trip across the border, through in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, and on down to Chihuahua.
**PAN AM DATES AND ROUTE
The announced dates for the Pan Am are October 25-31, and the starting city will be Veracruz again.
The route for 2013 includes overnights in Oaxaca, Puebla, San Miguel de Allende, Morelia, Guanajuato, Aguascalientes, and Zacatecas.
**APPROVAL OF CARS AND ROLL CAGES
All rookies or those bringing new race cars to the Express or Pan Am must submit a complete set of photos of their cars for approval, even if the vehicle has not been painted. Good photos of the entire roll cage are essential, and it may be necessary to include photos of the engine bay and the front suspension.
It’s a good idea to send the North American Coordinator or the race organizer’s office a diagram of your new roll cage before you pay some drag-car shop $4500 to weld it into your C-Jag. Send in the diagram or sketch as soon as possible.
Upon request, I can send you some detailed instructions and diagrams about how to design a cage suitable for a stage rally in Mexico.
The big difference in cage designs between Mexico and the US is the former’s requirements, based on FIA rules, that the car must have an “x” brace in the ceiling above the crew’s heads, “x” braces in the doors, and in some cars, especially bigger coupes, a “Toyota bar” (brace) by the “A” pillars. Not many US racing organization, like SCCA, NASA or even NASCAR, requires all of this. The inspectors also like to see additional bracing (gussets) around the halo or rectangle above the crew’s heads.
This extra bracing is deemed necessary in high-speed stage rallies in Mexico where cars can go off into a ravine and crash head first into a big tree or huge boulders. Thus support of the front of the cage is considered imperative. Such protection is not deemed necessary on a track in the US by larger race organizations.
For the Express, however, it is my understanding that since 2012 any cage approved by SCCA or NASA will be accepted, including cages that have support braces connected to the main roll cage by using 8 inch slip joints, grade #5 bolts, and not being welded together, per SCCA or SSCC rules. Cages for either event (Express or LCP) may be properly bolted to the floor/frame of the car, or welded in.
**PAN AM REGISTRATION
There has been no announcement about when registration for the Pan Am will open this year. Expect it to open early next month, however. No announcement has been made about the entry fee as well.
When opened, registration for returning racers and rookies will be via the Internet at www.lacarrerapanamericana.com.mx (please note the .mx at the end). To register, you will need digital photos of the faces of the driver, co-driver, and the car ready to upload. You will also need the blood type and Rh factor of the crew, plus their coat sizes. Some information about the car will be required, and you will select a class or category for your car.
Competitors who are returning to the event from the past two or three years need not pre-register this year with the North American Coordinator or pay a deposit since you are now expected to pony up the whole amount by March 1.
Registration for the Pan Am is pretty much first-come, first-serve, with no limitations on the number of entries from the US-Canada.
Please note that the rules about refunds of registration fees tend to vary somewhat from year-to-year, but one rule is consistent: once you pay for any extra hotel rooms, that money is non-refundable and the rooms cannot be transferred. Some part of the entry fee may be credited toward next year’s event, if you withdraw in time.
**CARS FOR SALE
‘54 Studebaker Commander. A Beautiful New Car.
355 cubic inch Chevrolet, full roller motor, Tremec wide ratio 5 speed. Winters Champ rear end w/ Diamond posi locker. 6 sets of gears. 355 Gears installed. Diff. cooler. Speedway Engineering sway bars, front and rear. Full floater hubs on 4 wheels, 5 on 5. NASCAR front suspension. Extra arms, spindles, bearings, heims. Wilwood Superlight XL brakes, Accubrake system, balance gauges, spare Coleman rotors. H and R radiator. Ohlin coil-overs. Spare springs. Fuel Safe cell, 22 gallon. Appleton Rack, MSD ignition, cockpit timing adjust. 2012 belts, and seats, nets, fire bottle, chrome(!) cockpit bottle. 2 complete sets of tires, 10 Toyo Tires and 10 wheels. Build Pictures on request. New car, never raced. $80,000 USD. Contact Frank@systemsmechanical.com Phone 1-415-720-1482. Richmond, California.
Ed. This is an exceptional opportunity – a solid, safe, fast car, at a rock bottom price. You cannot duplicate this car and the pride of workmanship for the asking price. Besides that, it’s really sexy. The car may be seen at the Chihuahua Express in April. Buy it now and race it at the Express. Special instruction in getting the most out of the car will be provided by the builder who will be in Chihuahua. The car has been tested on the roads and tracks in Northern California and is solid. This is the third Mexican rally car Frank has fabricated. He’s really got it right!
How about a classic from Germany (below).
’58 Mercedes 190 “Pontoon”
This classic rally car first appeared in La Carrera Panamericana in 1999. Despite flipping on its roof one day and losing it clutch near the race’s end, it finished the event. It returned to the “Pana” in 2002 and finished 4th in class, and in 2006, finished first in class and 16th overall. Since then it has only be used a few times for short rallies and hill climbs.
The four cylinder engine has been bored up to 2.5 liters. It sports 2 x 45 Webers, and has 15,000 race-kilometers since the overhaul. Disk-brakes front end, 6cm lowered body, and much more. It drives very neutral and has a really good handling now. 3.7 ratio rear axle. Axles totally renewed. The body (found originally in Portugal) is rust free, and the interior is high tech.
According to the seller, “Nobody would expect that a sedan from 1958 could compete with Alfa Bertones or Volvos P1800, but it can! It´s a rat-look-car with a high-end inside-technique.”
The seller is asking $75,000 USD for the car. Contact Thomas.Hanna@t-online.de
Ed. I raced with Thomas and his co-driver Thomas in the Carrera first in 1999, and later in 2002 and 2006. This little car was very dependable, fast, and funky.
**RACE CAR RENTALS
Why spend a bundle to build a purpose-built race car and pull together a service crew, tow truck, spare parts, etc. for a race in Mexico until you know you like it? Renting a car makes a lot of cents. Some rental cars may also be purchased, if you like them.
Datsun 510 -- $12,000
Taz Harvey, who be racing in the Chihuahua Express, has a 510 available for rent. The car is equipped the same as the 510 Taz drove to first in class and an amazing 8th overall in the 2012 LCP. The car is also available for the Pan Am for $28,000. Mechanical support is included. The rental fee does not include hotels in the Express or the entry fee in either event. Contact Taz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ed. Taz and his shop know how to build fast cars, especially a Datsun 510, that is one of the best cars, maybe the best, to take the 330 curves down Mil Cumbres.
Ford Falcon -- $24,000
Mats Hammarlund Racing has three Ford Falcons—comparable to his Mustangs—for rent at $24,000 each for the Express. The rental fee includes full service. Contact him at email@example.com. Cars from the Hammarlund garage have won three Pan Ams and are now on the tracks in Mexican NASCAR.
Ed. Hammarlund Racing is becoming one of the premier shops in Mexico, as its record shows. Their service for Falcons and Mustangs, as well as Turismo Mayor Studebakers, is carefully prepared and executed. The cars are disassembled to check each night before something breaks. Awesome!
Any form of motor sports is dangerous and stage rally racing in Mexico is no exception. It also may become addictive.
For entry forms for the Chihuahua Express and the Pan Am, plus additional information, please contact the North American Coordinator at one of the addresses below. You may also sign up for CARRERAS NEWS by sending a request, or by using the form on www.PanAmRace.com. The views expressed in these publications are the author’s and may not represent the official views of the organizers of rallies in Mexico.
Gerie Bledsoe, North American Coordinator
La Carrera Panamericana and Chihuahua Express
USPO address: 220 N. Zapata Hwy Ste 11
Laredo, TX 78043
1-650-525-9190 (Home office, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico)
1-650-867-9488 (mobile, only in US)
Number in Mexico +52-415-185-8470
Carrera car: Chevy II, Nova, #395, Historic C (1999-2011)
Competitor, LCP 1999-2012 and Chihuahua Express, 2004-2012
Carrera HQ, Mexico City 1-310-860-6959 (dial as a U.S. number)
©Gerie Bledsoe 2013
San Miguel de Allende