Of all the mad races that ever were, the Carrera Panamericana ranked amongst the maddest. A nine-stage, five day road race, inaugurated in 1950 to commemorate the opening of the Mexican section of the Pan-American Highway. It ran almost the entire length of Mexico, combining sections of mountain switchback with enormously fast lengths of flat straight road. All with the added colour of precipitous ravines and goat-infested villages.
Somehow it became a fixture of the World Endurance Racing Championship, and in 1952 Mercedes sent a three car team, for to engage their adversaries in glorious battle.
And so it came to pass that the mechanically monikered Kling and Klenk, were rattling through a right-hander at 120mph when the windscreen suddenly exploded in front of co-driver Klenk. According to Kling, his initial shock at the explosion was rapidly overcome by the shock of the appalling smell that began to issue from the direction of the now unconscious Klenk. Kling admitted that his first thought was that the old boy had cacked himself! But incredibly, it was actually even worse than that!
The source of the impact was in fact a very large vulture, whose earthly remains were now randomly distributed about the person of the unfortunate Klenk. Having realised what had happened, and with Klenk showing signs of movement, Kling did exactly what any proper chap would have done. He pressed on with the race.
It was to be another 70 kilometres before the next service stop, and Klenk would finally get to rid himself of the evidence of their unauthorised passenger.
Amazingly after all this, and after having the windscreen reinforced with metal bars, our lads went on to win the race.
The Carrera Panamericana (from which the Porsche Carrera got it’s name) continued to smite devastation upon the World’s racing driver population (including, in 1954, our old favourite Felice Bonetto) until the Le Mans disaster of 1955. When the Mexican authorities saw what could happen at a relatively sanitary and properly prepared European race circuit, their blood ran cold at the prospect of a Mexican village undergoing similar destruction.
And so it came to be, that the Carrera Panamericana was, wisely and firmly, knocked squarely upon the head.