Ricardo Cordero and Marco Hernández are the winners of the 2019 Carrera Panamericana. After a tantalising seven days of racing across the country, it was the Mexican duo who proved victorious in their impressive white and black Studebaker Commander. A day after they crossed the finish line, we caught up with them at the grand awards show the next day.
Gentlemen, has your achievement sunk in yet?
It’s starting to. When you wake up the day after you crossed the finish line in first place, and you look at your phone and see five hundred notifications and seven hundred messages - then it starts to sink in that you’ve achieved something really big, that you’ve won La Carrera! I’m incredibly proud of my team because it’s just our third Carrera in the highest class and winning it really is a huge reward for the whole team.
What was the biggest challenge during this Carrera?
Last year, we had a major crash. This year we did the same stage and we knew when we were approaching the location of the accident that it would be a very tough moment to get through. When we drove that same stage just before arriving in Mexico City, our heads were all over the place, but we got through it and managed to overcome our worries.
Tell us more about your Studebaker. It doesn’t look at all like your average classic car.
Oh no, definitely not. The highest class of cars in La Carrera Panamericana has about 30% original parts and the rest is all brand new. I always joke that the only thing in the car is sort stock is the roof and maybe the A-pillar. The rest in essence is almost a full blown Nascar chassis. In the front, we have a big V8 putting down around 540bhp, which we have to handle without any driver aids.
How do you prepare for an event like this, as a driver?
For me, there was no real specific preparation. I’m currently the Mexican national rally champion and I drive a Citroen DS3 WRC2 which is an incredibly fast car already, so I’m used to fast-paced racing through our country back roads. The car itself will live in the shop for a rebuild for about five months and then we will take it out for a series of tests and even take part in a few local rallies with it. Those entries are always fun because you soon realise how fast this car actually is. Last time I did the same event twice. I drove a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo the first time and broke a lot of records, but the second time I participated the Studebaker just swept them all away!
What was the highlight for you besides crossing the finish line in Durango?
One of my favourite stages is Mil Cumbres because it’s a great stage and an amazing piece of road, but more importantly, I used to drive for the local club in Morelia, so I have a lot of support in that region. To compete there with this machine feels really amazing.