Some 34 years after the government banned the original Carrera Panamericana, it was one man, Eduardo Leon, who came up with the plan to revive it in the 1980s. To this day, he’s still totally dedicated to the event and follows the entire route. We spent a day with him in the car between Queretaro and Morelia and we had plenty of time for a chat.
Eduardo, take us back to the first time you organised La Carrera Panamericana.
Well, that was in 1988, about 34 years after the final Carrera Panamericana of the original series. Before we organised La Carrera, we’d been organising races in Baja California for a long time already. That race was also called La Carrera. Besides that event, we also had a race called La Carrera Classic and we started to notice that a lot of the cars dated from the era of the original Carrera Panamericana (1950-1954), so we started thinking, why not do the big one… and that’s how it all got started.
What makes the Carrera Panamericana so unique?
It’s the people’s race. It’s a race that has outgrown its status as a simple motorsport event. Can you name any race in the world that has over 250 police officers supporting it? Cops love this race. They help out to secure the roads and a lot of the logistics for the entire event. Some famous race drivers were even allowed to take the wheel of a police patrol car. That doesn’t happen at any other event. The one other thing I think is very important about this race is that it’s a proper race. It’s difficult to do. Most drivers here have some experience in top-level competition. If you have never raced a fast car before, you won’t make it far in this event. So, it’s a genuine challenge for the drivers. It’s not a regularity race where a VIP can show up in an expensive car just to have a good time.
Everyone talks about the spirit of La Carrera. How would you describe that spirit?
It’s the heart and soul of the event. All the teams and drivers are in it together. If something breaks, you go ask some of the other teams if they have a spare part, and if they can help you, they will, because they know that when the time comes, and they break down themselves they might need your help too. That’s the spirit of endurance. It’s the challenge of keep on going. We always have a number of crashes during the event, but the main thing the drivers care about afterwards it is how they can carry on racing. That’s the real spirit of La Carrera Panamericana.
What do you think the future holds for the Carrera Panamericana?
The Carrera moves with the times. If the future turns out to be electric, so be it: we’ll go electric. All of us at La Carrera just want to race. Our course clerk is a race driver, most of our staff are race drivers and even I used to race. Currently we have a lovely collection of classic V8 powered cars and that’s what people love. As long as we can sustain it, we’ll keep doing it this way, but the Carrera is always evolving.