Carlos Panini was of Italian origin, most probably from the province of Como in Lombardia region. He was a pioneer of Mexican aviation, and founded an airline, Servicio Aéreo Panini, in 1934. He is credited with being the first pilot to fly a light plane around the world. In 1927 he had established Mexico's first scheduled airline, which he sold in 1951 with plans for his retirement.
He died when his car crashed during the second stage from Oaxaca to Puebla, of the second Carrera Panamericana. Although the registered driver for the race was Carlos' daughter Teresa (Teresita) it seems that he was at the wheel of car, despite he not having a valid license and being in ill health. The accident happened while a young Bobby Unser was trying to overtake Panini. Panini was travelling slower and had blocked Unser for quite a long time. After several attempts Unser forced his was past but the two cars touched. Unser was managed to control his Jaguar, while Panini's 1949 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS went straight into a wall.
Ricardo Ramirez of Mexico City abandoned the race to rush the Paninis to a hospital in Puebla, but he was dead on arrival. Teresa Panini survived the accident with minor injuries. Newspapers gave his age as 54. Carlos Panini was the third of three drivers killed in the 1951 running of the Carrera Panamericana. Jose Estrada Menocal and co-driver Miguel Gonzalez died the day before, on 20 November 1951.