Carrera Panamericana – Tinged with Tragedy

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The Carrera Panamericana has always been a challenging event requiring commitment and concentration to win.  The 36th edition, illustrated that well, as it covered nearly 4,000kms, including 720kms of special stages distributed in 60 timed sections over seven days, with several changes of lead and nearly half of the field retiring.  This year’s event also experienced grave tragedy when Mexican driver Carlos Alberto Gordoa Álvarez lost his life after leaving the road in a speed section on the penultimate day.  Alvarez was driving a 1934 Studebaker Dictator vehicle, with the competition number 202, accompanied by his navigator Christian Angeles, who is in stable condition.  The accident caused great shock amongst the competitors.

Six-time winners Ricardo Cordero and Marco Hernández struck mechanical problems on day three. The pair bounced back to finish second

Starting on October 13 in Vera Cruz, the route ended in Nuevo León near the Texas border.  Though the revival event was initially for pre-1955 cars, to reflect the period in which the Carrera was originally run, organisers began to slowly allow younger cars under the ‘Grandfather Clause”, until they eventually decided to welcome modern cars in various classes, including Tour and Exhibition classes.  These cannot score in the overall Carrera Panamericana standings, though results are posted with cars listed by absolute times.

Porsche and TAG Heuer brand ambassador Patrick Dempsey drove in the event for the first couple of days. A huge crowd of spectators awaited the American actor and racing driver in the centre of Mexcio City

Winners seem to always come from the silhouette cars – cars that look old but use much modern NASCAR technology – most notably Studebakers from the 1950s with their streamline body shape and powerful engines.  This was the case in October this year when all three of the podium places were taken by Studebaker drivers.  Winners in 2016 and runners-up in 2017, 2018 and 2020, the Franco-Brazilian husband-and-wife team of Hilaire and Laura Damiron were finally back on the top step driving their Studebaker Champion vehicle, known as ‘El Comander’ after a fierce competition with Mexican crew Ricardo Cordero and Marco Hernández, driving the similar Stude ‘El Malditillo’, looking for their fifth consecutive win and the sixth of their career. The latter were thwarted by mechanical problems on the third day but rebounded to make a brilliant comeback to second place in the Carrera class cars and third place on the road behind the 1980 Porsche 911 of Benito Guerra Jr and Dani Cue.  Third place was also taken by a Studebaker, with Emilio Velázquez and Javier Marín coming sixth on the road behind more modern cars.  

Hilaire and Laura Damiron were finally back on the top step of the podium

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