Once again, this year’s Carrera Panamericana across Mexico in late October was the main battleground for the European sportscar to prove itself against the big American cars. Mexican driver Carlos Anaya took the overall honours for the second year running in his beautifully-prepared Studebaker, but only after a 7-day battle with American-based Englishman Steve Lawrence who was driving a Jaguar XK140. A new class for original, FIA Appendix K cars, known as the Historic Class, was run this year and proved to be very popular both with competitors and spectators alike. Brits Anthony Maclean and Robert Grant brought out the spectacular Lancia D-24 which was driven so successfully in the 1953 Carrera by Juan Manuel Fangio. Carol Spagg and Graham Horder came from England with the stalwart Aston Martin DB2/4, this time also entered in the Historic Class, and showed the drivers of more modified cars that it is possible to be competitive in an original car.
German father and son Wolfgang and Volker Wischnewski fulfilled a 40-year dream by bringing out their showroom-condition Borgward Isabella, just like the ones that competed in the 1954 event. International names like the ever popular Clay Regazzoni, and ex-Monte Carlo Rally driver Heidi Hetzer, who was also entered in Historic Class in a Lincoln Capri, were on hand to impress the locals. Mercedes Benz sent out a group of “observers” from Stuttgart with a view to backing a team of privately-owned Mercedes and Porsches in next year’s event.
This year’s route was longer than in previous years and competitors covered some 3500kms in seven days of hard and adventurous driving. The number of closed-road racing stages has also increased, and although run to a rally format, the event still firmly retains the flavour of a road-race.
The special magic of the Carrera works its spell again and again. The fiestas, the rapturous receptions in towns and villages all over Mexico, the enthusiastic help of the Mexican police, the cameraderie of competitors, all make for an atmosphere that cannot be compared to any other event.