The Pan American Road Race was initiated in 1950 by the Mexican government to promote a new system of highways that had been built across the country to improve commerce and tourism. After accomplishing their goals over a five year period, the government decided to drop the Pan Am Road Race. Some years later, the road race was revived by interested private parties in 1988 and is now in its 22nd consecutive year of open road racing from southern to northern mexico. Almost anyone can take part in this event in one of three separate categories. The first, is the tourist level which requires only a 1965 or older vintage car with the necessary safety features. The second way to participate is at the competitive level which requires a better vehicle and greater driving skill. While the 3rd and highest level of participation is classified as full competition. Needless to say, competing at this level requires a thoroughly prepared vintage hot rod which can cost a small fortune.
This year the Pan AM started on October 19th in Veracruz and continues in stages over a 7 day period, eventually finishing in Zacatecas. The length of each day’s speed stage can vary from 3 to 16 miles through what are mostly winding mountain roads. The cars are started in 30 second intervals with the fastest cars scheduled to run first. At the end of the week the cars with the lowest elapsed time are declared winners overall and by class.
Racing on winding mountain roads can be hazardous and this year has been no exception. There was a fatality on the very first day of this event when a driver lost control of his Studebaker and rolled the vehicle at high speeds. Also, a few days later while racing in the Queretaro area an unusual accident occurred when 5 cars ran into each other around a dangerous curve in the road sending all of them to the bottom of a cliff. Fortunately, the injuries where no more serious than a few broken bones but all the cars had to withdraw from the race due to major damages.