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Rojas to drive in La Carrera Panamericana

Thu, 26 Sep 2013

Three-time Rolex Daytona 24 and four-time (so far) Grand-Am champion Memo Rojas Jr. will return to his native Mexico Oct. 25-31 to race in the historic La Carrera Panamericana.

Rojas will join the event for the first time, driving a Mats Hammarlund Studebaker. (Hammarlund modestly bills itself as the best race-car engineering and manufacturing company in Mexico. With many winning cars in La Carrera, they are probably right.) Entries must be historically accurate. Studebakers are among the fastest entries in the revived race, with powerful engines and streamlined bodies. The car will carry the colors of Rojas' sponsors, Telmex and Office Depot.

La Carrera is an historically accurate re-creation of the famous race across Mexico run between 1950 and 1955. The original race saw entries from the world's great carmakers, with Mercedes, Lancia and Ferrari among the winners. The first race, in 1950, was won by American driver Herschel McGriff in an Oldsmobile 88.

The original was a wild spectacle, with patriotic, screaming Mexicans lining the route from Tuxtla Gutierrez in the south all the way to the U.S. border. It was run with great pride to celebrate completion of the Mexican portion of the Pan-American Highway, which opened Mexico to international trade and tourism. Like most such open-road races, including the Mille Miglia, it was cancelled after the toll of driver and spectator deaths grew too high.

Revived 26 years ago as an historic event, the high-speed racing portion is now run on special closed stages, connected by transit stages run at safer speeds.

Rojas' navigator will be Marco Hernandez, an experienced co-piloto with wins in national rallies, as well as in previous Panamericanas. There is historical pressure on Rojas, as his father, Memo Rojas Sr., won the race 25 years ago.

Things should go well, as the race's Mexican website notes, “Memo and Marco carried as a weapon to conquer the classic road a Studebaker prepared by Hammarlund, in whose workshop in San Miguel de Allende is putting the final details of the fireball.”

Via con Dios, Amigos!

By Mark Vaughn