I cant begin to tell you how many times I have heard someone say one of two statements... "How dangerous could the original La Carrera Panamericana have been if they were driving those old factory stock cars?" Then I have read and heard statements like, "The modern day La Carrera Panameicana is only ran by CEO types that pay a large fee just to say they have been there done that and they pretty much just putt along and then socialize all night."
Fatality during 1953 La Carrera Panamericana.
I only have one response to these comments and the most elegant way I have of summing it up in two words is "Bull Shit". The next time you hear anyone make that sort comment ask them to take a look at this list of great race car drivers many of whom lost their lives between 1950 and 1955 while competing in La Carrera Panamericana. Also note some were policemen and spectators.
CLICK HERE for list.
CLICK HERE for another list of famous drivers many of whom died while competing in La Carerra Panamericana but all of whom competed in La Carrera Panamericana.
With regard to the modern day La Carrera Panamericana, trust me, many others like myself did anything but drive slow and then socialize all night. We drove as fast as we could on roads you wouldn't ask even your own mother-in-law to drive on let alone your worst enemy and if you doubt for a second that any of us didn't hang it over the edge then think again. La Carrera Panamericana is the last place in the world anyone with a timid soul needs to be. And to put it all in even an even more mind blowing perspective, just take a look at all the safety equipment we have in our cars today including fuel cells, 10 point full body roll cages, the best seat belts and helmets, Hans devices and more not to mention safety crews all along the way. That's when any great racer today bows down on his hands and knees and pays homage to remember those awesome giants like Hershel McGriff who did all without all of the above.
It's those giants who are gone that we will read about and remember... The rest and the few who are still with us we live in awe of.
In Johnny Tiplers book titled, "La Carrera Panamericana: The World’s Greatest Road Race!” Johnny Tipler wrote, "American racing icon Phil Hill said it best:
“Quite simply, Mexico’s Carrera Panamericana was the most outrageous road race ever run on the North American continent. I loved a challenge like the Nurburgring, the Targa Florio or Spa, because even on those long, fast, meandering circuits it was possible to learn the track and calculate the risks. But how do you factor in a burro in the middle of the road in a corner just over the brow of a hill? That was the Carrera. If ever there was a racing event in which I felt I had countless times been close to wiping myself out, it was the Carrera. After three years’ worth of those 5-day experiences, each day with numerous lurid happenings-and in the shadow of the Le Mans disaster-they did away with the race. I recall thinking to myself, well, I won’t have to do that again…”
When I read those words my eyes welled with tears, not because of sadness but because of my good fortune of having heard those very words from Phil Hill himself one day while Phil, my son and I were together at Infineon. Will asked Phil, "If you could only name one race what race was the most memorable you ever raced in?" Phil responded all most word for word what I read in Tipler's book.