Road races don’t get much more legendary than the Carrera Panamericana. Flat out driving across mountain roads, desert plains and rain forest, amateur and professional races meet to take on one of the greatest motorsport challenges on earth. For the past seven years, Motul has been the official lubricant partner of the Carrera Panamericana, and we’re there this week to bring you all the news from this wild event. To start with, here are five things you need to know about this legendary race.
1. Danger at every corner
In 1950, the Mexican government staged a race to celebrate the completion of the new Pan-American Highway through Mexico and drum up new business opportunities for the region. Traversing the country from north to south, over 3,500 kilometres, it was not just the most challenging race of the era, but one of the deadliest. Over the course of five years, 27 people died on the Carrera Panamericana, making this one of the highest motorsport fatality rates per race of any event on the calendar. The 1954 edition would be the last one for more than 30 years because of the tragic events at the 1955 Le Mans 24 Hours.
2. It inspired Porsche and TAG Heuer
In the original Carrera Panamericana, Porsche attained several class victories thanks to its cars’ build quality and reliability. In 1953, the 550 Spyder even won the 1953 Small Sports Car category. The name Carrera would later inspire Porsche when it came to naming its 911 models, while the Panamera (Porsche’s four-door sportscar) is also named after the race. The watchmaker TAG Heuer, the race’s official timekeeper, also took inspiration from the race, launching a chronograph called Carrera that continues to be made to this day. In Spanish the word Carrera means race.
3. Fangio won a Carrera Panamericana
Argentinean Formula One driver Juan Manuel Fangio won the Large Sports Car category in the 1953 Carrera Panamericana in a Lancia D24 Pininfarina. Racing across eight stages, Fangio and his co-driver beat 181 cars to bring the Lancia home in first place in a record-setting 18 hours and 11 minutes at an average speed of 105mph. That was nine hours quicker than the winner of the first event in 1950. In doing so, he remains the only Formula One champion to ever win this race.
4. La resurrection
In 1988, the Carrera Panamericana made a comeback and has been running ever since. The race is now staged over seven days and 3,200 kilometres on closed public roads. Up to 100 cars compete in the race. This year’s race ran from 15 October to 21 October over seven timed special stages spread out across Mexico.
5. Open to all
Nearly all competitive racing in the world is governed by rules and regulations with only licensed racing car drivers eligible to compete. But the Carrera Panamericana is open to everyone, regardless of racing ability. It’s also one of the most diverse races on the planet and over the years has seen many women competing. One of the most famous female competitors is Jacqueline Evans, a British/Mexican actress who competed in all five original Carrera Panamericanas behind the wheel of a Porsche 356.