La Carrera Panamericana report

LA CARRERA PANAMERICANA 1995 A JAGUAR ADVENTURE by Doug Bohannon Wed Oct 18 Tampa to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Today we leave for Mexico. Our team consists of John Parker whom will drive our ...

La Carrera Panamericana report
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Wed Oct 18 Tampa to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Today we leave for Mexico. Our team consists of John Parker whom will drive our service vehicle during the race, Allen Black, my co-driver/navigator during the race and me. We have our first trailer flat in Florida.

Thr Oct 19 Baton Rouge to Beeville, Texas.

We have our second trailer flat. The day's ride is uneventful. Shorty's restaurant in Beeville sells the largest steaks I have seen at a restaurant.

Fri Oct 20 Beeville to Laredo, Texas.

I purchase Mexican automobile insurance in Laredo and check in with rally officials. We meet Ramses who is trailering a Olds Rocket 88 for his employer, Doug Mockett. Ramses speaks Spanish fluently and is a big help on the ride to Tuxtula.

Sat Oct 21 Laredo to Matehuala, Mexico.

Today we cross the border into Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. We decided to travel with Ramses who is a service vehicle driver for an Oldsmobile Team and Tommy whom is a service vehicle driver for a Ford Team. Two rally officials help us through the process of taking vehicles into Mexico. It still takes over two hours for paperwork.

Sun Oct 22 Matehuala to Cordoba, south of Mexico City.

Driving through Mexico City is insane. My trailer is wider than the lane of traffic on the highway and people are trying to pass us on both sides. At one part of the highway the trailer fender is brushing a guard rail on one side and a VW van on the other. We finally have to run down the center of two lanes and people are still trying to pass us.

We stop to help another rally driver whom is being detained by a Mexico City traffic cop. The cop wants a bribe which is finally settled on to be $30.00 US. Corruption is still a serious problem in Mexico City.

While descending in the mountains south of Mexico City, Ramses loses the brakes on his van. The Olds he is towing probably weighs close to 3500 lbs.Fortunately, he is able to slow down and pull off the road. After his brakes cool we bleed them and my service vehicle driver, John Parker, drove Ramses' van to Matehula. He follows close behind my trailer in case he needs me to help stop him.

We arrive in Cordoba around 11 PM. A resident of Cordoba, Alexandro, guides us through the city and helps us find a secure hotel. The next morning, Alexandro, directs us out of the city and back to the highway. We appreciate his help.

Mon Oct 23 Cordoba to Tuxtla Gutierrex.

In Cordoba, we put new front brake pads on Ramsus' van and bleed the brakes again. We then head south to Tuxtula. We have to take a longer route because of earthquake damage to the roads in the west.

This afternoon, are stopped by Mexican customs officials. They want T-shirts but agreed to let us go when I give them flyers on Predator cars.

The roads are in very poor condition with recent damage from the earthquake. North of Tuxla, both lanes of the road fell off the mountain side. What is left is a cliff with a several hundred foot drop. A Mexican road repair crew had carved a notch in the cliff a about 12 feet wide to pass the missing road way. We also cross many large topes, Mexican speed bumps. I hope this is not the same route for the rally.

We finally arrived in Tuxtla at 4:30AM.

Tue Oct 24 Tuxtla Gutierrez

We sleep until noon, then we unload the car in the staging area at the fair grounds. We start preparing the car and gathering information about the race. This afternoon we also rest from the trip down. I drove the tow vehicle from Laredo to Tuxtla myself, 2000 miles.

Wed Oct 25 Tuxtla Gutierrez

We get our medical examination, prepare the car and get it through technical inspection by 9:00 PM. We also receive our guide book and rules, time sheet for the first day, jackets and T-shirts, posters and sponsorship decals.

Thr Oct 26 Tuxtla Gutierrez

A Studebaker team rolls their car while testing their brakes. The Studebaker is not seriously damaged and will start tomorrow. We meet some of the other drivers and their team members. The D-Type is running great and everything checks out OK.

This evening, we attend our first drivers meeting where were are given information about the race. One of the sponsors of the race is the head of the Mexican Highway Patrol. What this means to the drivers is that, essentially, any car entered in the rally and properly marked can ignore the speed limits and traffic signals through out the race as long as they do not get involved in an accident with a Mexican citizen. A dream come true.

There are over eighty cars entered including four other Jaguars. They inculde an XK-120 driven by Steve Lawrence and Oliver Haycraft in Open class, and XK-120 driven by Dmitri Martyniuk and Lee Cockerill in Sports Mayor, a MK 10 driven by Charles Pacheco and Nadir Olivet in Touring Mayor and a MK II driven by Julian Masters and Marshal Walker in Turismo Mayor.

The two XK-120s are painted red and carry "Highlander" markings. These cars are being vidio taped by a camera crew for the "Highlander Series" television show. The star of "Highlander", Adrian Paul, will fly into Mexico City to drive one of the XK-120s for a short time to get some video footage of him in the car.

We go to bed early to rest up before the rally. This turned out to be the last relaxed day until we finish the rally.

Fri Oct 27 Tuxtla Gutierrez to Oaxaca

The race begins. Thirty minutes out we pass a car upside down in the road. Five minutes later, we pass a car that skid off the road and over a cliff. We don't here anything about the condition of the drivers and co-drivers.

Unfortunately, the rally course is the same road we came in on, topes and all. We encounter some very rough driving with many pot holes, bumps and topes in the road. We also have to pass the missing section of road on a cliff.

During a velocity run, we hit an extremely rough section of road in the mountains that causes us to slide sideways around a curve with a Bentley on our tail. While I am able to recover without leaving the road or being passed I notice the car listing to the right.

In Tehantepec I find that not only is a shock absorber mounting bracket bent but I have also flattened out the D-Type's skid plate and broken the aluminum oil pan. This damage is probably from topes I hit earlier in the day. We dumped almost all our oil in less than 30 minutes. We wait until our service vehicle picks us up and transports us to Oaxaca for repairs.

We arrive at Oaxaca at midnight and work on the car early into the morning at a local repair shop. We patch the oil pan with epoxy, repair and reinforce the skid plate and straighten and reinforce the shock absorber mounting bracket. We make it to bed by 5:30 AM. We are back in the D-Type by 7:30 AM for the next day of driving. We are now half a day behind in points but the D-Type is ready to race again.

We do our late night repairs at High Tech, Alta Tecnologia Automotriz, owned by Carlos Fernandez. If it wasn't for their resourcefulness and eagerness to help, we would not make the next days run.

Sat Oct 28 Oaxaca to Mexico City

The D-Type is running good. While we are now half a day behind in points, were are making some fast runs in the velocities and are holding to schedule. Today we passed a state police car chasing someone one on the highway. He waves as we go by. We rarely travel slower than 100 mile per hour when on the highways.

We also pass the Jaguar MK 10 team. Their car has broken down the day before and they are trailering it behind their tow vehicle. They have a blow out on the tow vehicle and rolled the tow vehicle, trailer and car on the highway south of Mexico City. Fortunately, their injuries are not life threatening and they are released from the hospital the next day.

We almost get lost in Mexico City but we happen on another team and follow them to Chapultepic Park where the days finish line is located.

I saw, Adrian Paul, the star of the "Highlander" TV series at the hotel tonight. Tomorrow he will drive an XK-120 for a short time in the rally.

Sun Oct 29 Mexico City to Morilia

We are driving at altitudes of over 10,000 feet. The engine is losing power noticeably at these high altitudes. The velocities are run on winding roads in heavily forested areas. Each curve is blind and the guide book is the only thing we have to tell us what the road conditions are like. One of the other cars hit a donkey in the road today. Their car survived, the donkey didn't. It is not uncommon to find live stock and dogs in the road.

The Studebaker that rolled the first day, blew their engine today. They also blew the engine in their tow vehicle and a semi ran into their trailer, damaging it severely.

A Studebaker team member, Rick, rides with us until the end of the rally. He speaks Spanish fluently and helps John drive and repair my service vehicle.

Several trailers and some tow vehicles are hit or have near misses by semi-tractor trailer rigs during the rally. The semi drivers do not seem to care if they hit our equipment and may even be doing the damage on purpose. Of course, the semi drivers never stop after hitting someone.

Mon Oct 30 Morelia to Guadalajara

We have another good day today. We brake a fuel line but are able to finish before I had to do the repairs. I found the top speed of the D-Type to be at least 145 mph. We attained this speed several times today, passing cars on the velocity runs and highway. An Aston Martin team driver later tells us that he was running at 135 mph when we blew pass them.

On the first velocity, we pass an Alfa Romeo stuck in a wall. A medical team is on the way to the scene. The driver sustains a broken leg.

On the second velocity, we round a blind curve to find two horses in the road. I hammer the brakes hard and blow the horn. We are lucky in that the horses freeze allowing me to maneuver around them. I don't think the D-Type would survive an impact with a horse.

John trailers a Mercedes 300 SL that has broken down. The Mercedes is almost 1000 lbs heavier than my D-Type and the added weight combined with a long drive down a mountain causes the brakes to burn out on the van. It takes John almost a mile to stop and he almost looses the van on some curves. We replace the front pads and bleed the brakes this evening.

Tue Oct 31 Guadalajara to Zacatacas

I push the D-Type hard through the first velocity today. I believe I cracked the oil pan in one of the curves where I was starting to drift a little and hit some pot holes. The Left suspension was compressed and the skid plate hit the road hard. When we arrive in the town of Tepatitlan de Morelos, I noticed that we are dumping oil on the road.

The town has a celebration going on and is packed with people. The mayor gives each of the drivers a certificate and a free lunch. As soon as the crowd clears, a local man, Jesus Ramirez Maldorado, guides us to a repair shop, Auto Mecanica "Torres". Rubin Torres Hernandez, the owner, epoxies the new cracks in the oil pan for us and gets us back on track very quickly. We are only about half an hour behind and we catch up to the rest of the rally cars by the next town. Jesus's and Rubin's help contributed greatly in keeping us in the rally today.

The next town we come to, Los Altes De Jalisco, has another reception for us and they give us a bottle of Tequila. Through out the rally, the smaller towns have the largest receptions for us. They treat us like celebrities.

More locals and photographers show up to observe the rally cars. Often they stand on the outside of the curves in the velocities or on the inside near the apex of the curves. Several times I use a photographer's camera and tripod as an apex. I come as close to them as I can.

On the way to Zacatecas, during another velocity, we pass another car upside down in the road. We also see where two other cars have skidded off a cliff.

We brake another fuel line toward the end of the day but are able to finish and make repairs tonight.

Zacatecas is, in my opinion, the most beautiful town we drive through during the rally. It is situated in the mountains with very old buildings, ornate churches and winding cobblestone roads. The entire city throws a huge party for the drivers and crews. While I am busy repairing the D-Type and unable to attend, my co-driver/navigator and van driver have a great time in the city.

Wed Nov 1 Zacatecas to Monterrey

Today I pass three cars on the last velocity. The cars start at 30, 60 and 90 second intervals ahead of me. We are told we have worked our way up to fourth position in our class today. We are hitting our times exactly and are doing very well on the velocities, making up for the time and points lost during repairs in previous days.

We are to stop for a lunch and reception in Salticas but the town is closed because of a gun battle. We are rerouted around Salticas to Monterrey.

The transmission is running hot and I later add oil to it. The car is losing one quart of oil every two hours because of the damage to the oil pan.

Thr Nov 2 Monterrey to Nuevo Laredo

Today is the last day of the rally. Instead of potentially missing time for repairs, I decide not to patch the oil pan again. Instead, I carry several quarts of oil with us and add oil to the engine at every opportunity.

We run three velocities today. We do very well on the first two but the oil is at over 240 degrees and starts breaking down on the last velocity. I back off to allow the oil and engine coolant to cool down. My first priority is to finish the rally. Many cars break down on the side of the road today because their drivers push their car to hard.

We complete the race 5th in class. I think we left an oil slick for the last 600 miles but the engine runs flawlessly and strong throughout the entire event. Not bad for a stock 4.2 Liter Jaguar engine with over 10,000 miles on it.

The trailer came off my van today when John is driving. The trailer broke it's chains and ran through a guard rail, knocking over several concrete posts. Damage to the trailer is minimal but the trailer hitch and ball are worn out. Also, both trailer fenders have been lost due to vibration from rough roads causing metal fatigue. John has to change two more tires on the trailer due to damage from the accident.

Often, we do not hear the fate of drivers of the cars that crashed or disappeared along the route unless one of the drivers or crew knew and told us. We are told that no one was killed this year but out of the approximately 30 cars that did not finish, we never heard the fate of over half of them.

The final banquet is held at a private bull ring and restaurant. The bull fight takes a long time but most people have a good time and the event is declared a success.

Fri Nov 3 We cross the border from Nuevo Laredo to Laredo.

I have lost the Jaguar's paperwork so we are held up for two hours and have to pay $42.00 for a notarized letter stating we lost the paperwork. A Mexican crew member from one of the other teams, Esteban Hidaleo Tamayo, is riding with us and helps us find the right people to obtain the paperwork needed to get my car out of Mexico. He probably saves us several hours of aggrivation.

We drive to Houston and spend the night.

The rest of the ride home is uneventful but, for several days, I awake in the middle of the night wondering what city in Mexico I am in.

I have made many friends during this event. Most drivers and crews are friendly and willing to go out of their way to help a fellow driver. The Mexican people, on the whole, are honest, friendly and try very hard to help the drivers and crews if any problems arise. I would like to go back to Mexico and visit all the places I flew by during the rally.

I also wish to thank my sponsors, Dan and Larry Ligas of Predator Performance (813) 539-0218, Bill and Nikki Terry of Terry's Jaguar Parts (800) 851-9438 and David Callen of H. I. Development/H. I. Resorts (813) 229-6686 for their help and support.

This rally is one of the most intense events I have ever participated in. It is probably as challenging and dangerous as any professional race in the world. Having finished has left me with a great sense of accomplishment and a great respect for the quality of design and strength of my car.

One of my friends asked me if the rally was fun. I had to think about it. When she asked me if I would do it again, my answer was an immediate "Yes".

Doug Bohannon P. O. Box 2843 Winter Haven, FL 33883 USA (941) 293-5335

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