There is one aspect of La Carrera Panamericana that I find almost impossible to explain in words but one I desire to share with others. It is trying to tell someone how passionate the people of Mexico are about La Carrera Panamericana or understanding why they love it so. Regardless of age when you look beyond their smiles and into their eyes as they wave and cheer the drivers and cars you see so much more than someone who thinks the cars are cool. They don't see the cars and drivers as cool... they see them as those men and machines they heard their fathers and their fathers before them describe to them from the time they are little boys and girls. Somehow I can close my eyes and see a dark haired man using his two hands to describe how two cars passed on a tight corner as his children sit on the edge of their seat with anticipation and finally says, "And THAT... is what my grandfather told me about the magnificent Juan Fangio."
With that in mind it pleases me to share something with you that a friend Queretaro Mexico was kind enough to send me.
Carrera Panamericana… this is what it means to me.
By Jorge Arellano Vital
The first toys I can recall I had when I was a little kid were small plastic replicas of the formula one cars from the 50s, I was 3 or 4 years old. That started my love for race cars… then the years passed and my family moved to Queretaro. Then, when I was 8, my friend´s father told to us about a race with classic cars that used to drive by the Carretera Panamericana (Panamericana Highway), in Queretaro. That original highway is now Constituyentes Avenue. He described a lot of things about the cars and how his father used to take him to watch the cars when he was little like us. Then this thing grew up in him and his brother and they become amateur car racers.
(Photo by Gary at San Miguel de Allende)
Every time I was in father´s car while he was driving by Constituyentes Avenue and I saw old signs that referred to addresses with the Carretera Panamericana name on them, I dreamed of seeing those cars racing at top speed. When I was starting High School, in 1988, the new age for the Carrera Panamericana started up. Maybe I was too busy with my high school and college years, then with my work, because it wasn't until 2006 while surfing the web I rediscovered my interest for the Carrera Panamericana. That year I planned ahead and marked in the calendar that the race was coming and it was going to be in Queretaro.
From that year I toke the time to go and watch the cars as they arrived in Queretaro, take some pictures and video, then go to the place they arrive, meet the teams and see the cars up close, also I go in the morning to the start of the next stage. But I have noticed a thing that makes the Carrera Panamericana an event that can´t be compared to any other kind of race. The drivers, co-drivers and crews are very accessible with the people, they share their smiles, always willing to give an autograph or pose for a picture. And if you ask them anything they always answer you in a good mood, no matter if they have been on the road for hours.
Gerie Bledsoe with some excited La Carrera Fans. Photo Courtesy Of Coop.
They are common people with a dream and regardless of their activities outside this Carrera, here they are all here with a goal in common, to participate in the hardest car race doing what they like the most. I have met many people and try to be in contact with them, sharing pictures and video or only a salute once in a while. Like Thomas Haana, Geert Boels, The Gregory family: John, Chirslana, Mathew and Jacob, Bill Beilharz, Jorge Ceballos, The Predator Performance Team: Larry, David, Bruno and “English” Mike. They are all regular people that are always a pleasure to meet and talk to.
This race may be about cars running in the greatest race of all, but is also about the people that make an effort to come every year and have the thrill of a lifetime. Here in Queretaro they are always going to be welcomed with open arms and a smile and many others like me will look forward for this Autumn classic event for many years to come. So I can welcome back old friends and make new ones.
Now I know what a phrase that is commonly painted in the cars really means: Saludos Amigos!!