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Anybody been to La Carrera? "The Running of the Studes"

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  • Anybody been to La Carrera? "The Running of the Studes"

    My wife and I have an opportunity to visit San Miguel de Allende, Mexico in the last week of October. As luck would have it, that is the week of La Carrera Panamericana and it will be making two close passes to San Miguel including nightly stopovers nearby.
    Does anyone have any experience attending this event that they can share?
    For those not familiar, this is a race through Mexico on public roads that features incredibly fast hot rodded but fairly stock looking 1950's era cars. Studebakers have been perrenial winners. On reading the rules, it looks like this year the cars will have electronic rev limiters intended to keep them around 145 mph. In previous years some of the Studes would top out at 190+ helped by their slick Starlight/Starliner bodies. This has got to be incredible to see!
    Any advice from experienced fans will be appreciated!
    Manuel J. Martinez
    Baton Rouge, LA

  • #2
    I've been down to it three times. Once as a spectator and twice as a racer. In 2001 I rode my motorcycle down to Zacatecas from Minnesota to watch the last two stages. That was 3,700 miles in 7 days. In 2003 I went down with some friends and we campaigned a '57 Olds in Historic C. In 2006 we ran a '54 Olds taking 3rd in the Original Pan Am class.

    The official US website for the race is here:

    Are the cars that fast? Some of them. Our Olds would top out around 100 and cruised well at 80, but some of those cars are capable of 160 or more. After the La Bufa stage in Zacatecas the race used to head out the 54D across the desert towards Saltillo with the finish in Nuevo Laredo. In 2001 on a Honda ST-1100 I was going 125 along that road and the lead cars were driving away from me like I was standing still.

    The way the race works you get up every morning at 6am. Drivers move to the start and begin the morning's route with a ceremonial start in the town and drive along an open road to the start of the first speed stage. From there they follow the route to the finish at the end of the day. The chase vehicles follow a different route that will meet up for a service stop at lunchtime then depart from the race route and head to the finish -- hopefully ahead of your racer. As a spectator this presents a challenge. If you watch the start, you get to see each car pull away and head out, but it's not real racing. Once you get behind the pack, you can never catch up because they keep closing the road in front of you to allow the speed stages. If you want to watch a speed stage you have to get out ahead of the start and find a section to watch from. Or you can try to follow the chase vehicles to the service stop. Believe me, I did as much racing driving our truck with a trailer to the service stops as I did driving or navigating in the race car.

    Zacatecas and Aguascalientes are special stops. At Aguascalientes there is a race track. The cars all run several laps there so it is a great place to watch. Zacatecas involves 2 nights at the same hotel and 2 days running La Bufa so that is very easy to spectate at.

    If you can get yourself to the finish line in the town nearest to you you'll have a good time. It's like a carnival. You'll get a good look at all the cars and a chance to talk to the drivers and crews.



    • #3
      Now that's cool. In 3 or 4 years I'll be able to spend more time and I love Mexico. Add another to the bucket list.
      Dave Warren (Perry Mason by day, Perry Como by night)


      • #4
        John Gregory (jngregory here) has won the stock class in a 53 Stude several years in a row. I haven't seen him post here in quite a while, but PM me and I can send you his email addy.
        Dick Steinkamp
        Bellingham, WA


        • #5
          Thanks for the replies, everybody. While it sounds like Zacatecas or Aguascalientes are the best spots to go I'll probably be doing my race watching as they head toward Guanajuato and then go into town to see the cars and meet the drivers. Guanajuato is the closest they come to San Miguel. Any special advice on how to see Guanajuato?
          Manuel J. Martinez
          Baton Rouge, LA