One of my favourite racing stories involves the late Indianapolis 500 champion Bill Vukovich and the time he travelled to Mexico to compete in La Carrera Panamericana road race.
(What is this race? This is the description that I’ve lifted directly from www.panamrace.com
(The modern event is a revival of the famous international Pan Am that was conducted between 1950-1954. Many of the world’s most famous drivers, including world champions like Phil Hill and Juan Manuel Fangio, came to Mexico during these years to test their cars, skill, and stamina. The race was started in 1950 by the Mexican government to inform the world that Mexico had a new system of highways stretching across the country – from north to south – for commerce and tourism. When the race was cancelled in 1955, its purpose had been accomplished.)
Okay, so Vukovich – who didn’t know the definition of the word "slow" – was in the 1954 edition of the race and was reportedly scaring the daylights out of his co-driver who was getting on Vuky’s nerves by constantly imploring him to be careful and not to go so fast and so-on.
As they rounded a particularly dangerous mountain corner, Vukovich lost control and as the car plunged over an embankment, the two-time Indy 500 champion reportedly took his hands off the wheel, looked at his terrified passenger, and said: "Okay, you drive."
The modern version of the Pan-Am was started in 1988 and is more of a rally than a balls-to-the-wall, 2,000-mile top speed run from southern Mexico to the Texas border, as was the case in the old days.
In any event, it’s on this weekend and two of my racing friends, Bob Harrington and Ken Graham, have sent me copies of the entry list and there are some Canadians competing:
Stewart Robertson and Linda Robertson (they’re in the vintage class, driving a Studebaker!), John Nielsen and Emine Nielsen, Anthony Strelzow and Lee-Ann Strelzow, Randy Penner (co-driving with Wilhelm Ostrop of Germany),and John Gregory and Chrislana Gregory.
Ken reports that 77 of 102 entrants completed qualifying, five dropped out because of accidents and two have been admitted to hospital.
I’ll let you know how our folks made out in a follow-up report. They're in against some tough company as one of the competitors is none other than Stig Blomqvist, the 1984 World Rally Champion.