Porsche motorsport in Mexico – inspiring for more than 60 years

FIA World Endurance Championship WEC, LMP1, Round 5, Mexico City

A debut in Central America: In 2016 the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) will be held for the first time in Mexico City. When Porsche enters the 919 Hybrid into the fifth round of the WEC on September 1st to 3rd this also means a return. Back in 1954, a class win at the famous road race “Carrera Panamericana” proved to be groundbreaking for the company. From the late 50ies until the early 70ies, the Mexican brothers, Ricardo and Pedro Rodriguez, celebrated successes with Porsche. Up to the 90ies, the Porsche 962 C raced at the “Autódromo Hermanos Rodriguez”.

Carrera Panamericana

1954, Porsche 550 Spyder, Hans Herrmann (r.), Carrera Panamericana
1954, Porsche 550 Spyder, Hans Herrmann (r.), Carrera Panamericana

Hans Herrmann is exhausted when he brings home the Porsche 550 Spyder to the finish of the Carrera Panamericana in November 1954. The German has crossed Mexico from the South to the North. 3,077 kilometres lie behind him and the agile mid engine car. His class win in the up 1.5 litre capacity category at the sixth round of the then sports car world championship is considered as the breakthrough for the Porsche brand on the American continent. Only 36 seconds behind him Jaroslav Juhan finishes with the sister car. The German and the Prague born Guatemalan had battled for days, and in the overall result they are classified third and fourth. Ferry Porsche’s idea of making the brand’s name and quality famous by successful racing now also works transatlantic.

Competing at the Carrera Panamericana was a very special venture. This road race needed no more than five stagings (1950 to 1954) to become a motorsport legend and was banned because of its high risks.

1952, Porsche 356 1500 S Cabrio, Fürst Metternich and Baron Treffe, Carrera Panamericana
1952, Porsche 356 1500 S Cabrio, Fürst Metternich and Baron Treffe, Carrera Panamericana

Since 1952, Porsche had taken part in that monstrous ride. The inspiration from these events in Mexico still lasts: Ferry Porsche named all sports cars that had the winning four camshaft engines the “Carrera” (Spanish for “race”). The Carrera Panamericana also inspired Porsche for the name of the four-door Gran Turismo Panamera, which has been produced since 2009.

The Rodríguez brothers

The braveness and speed of the brothers Ricardo and Pedro Rodriguez remains unforgotten. When the two young Mexicans enter the racing scene respect quickly changes to awe. From 1957, Ricardo Rodriguez successfully races the Porsche 550 Spyder and 718 RSK in Central, South and North America. In 1961, as one of the youngest drivers ever, he enters the automobile world championship (old name for Formula One). On November 1st in 1962, only 20 years old, he tragically dies in a Lotus during a practice session for the Mexican Grand Prix.

Fate doesn’t leave his brother Pedro much time either. He wins a total of 15 sports car races, including the 24 hours of Daytona in 1970 and 1971 at the wheel of a Porsche 917 KH in the John Wyer team with the famous Gulf livery. In 1970 he becomes sports car world champion for Porsche with the 917.

13.06.1971, Porsche 917 KH Coupé, Pedro Rodríguez and Jackie Oliver, Le Mans 24-Hours
13.06.1971, Porsche 917 KH Coupé, Pedro Rodríguez and Jackie Oliver, Le Mans 24-Hours

In May 1971, on the way to take victory at the 1000-kilometre race of Spa-Francorchamps (BE) with partner Jackie Oliver, he reaches an average speed of over 249 km/h. This is still the fastest sports car race ever. Only one week before he dies on July 11 in 1971, in a Ferrari at the Norisring in Germany, he wins the 1000-kilometre race at Zeltweg (AT), after being at the wheel of the 917 for 960 kilometres of the distance. In their home country the brothers become national heroes.

Porsche 962 C in Mexico

In 1989 the FIA decides to cut the distances of all sports car world championship rounds except for Le Mans. Now Group C has 480 kilometre races, including one in Mexico City. Meanwhile the successful Porsche 962 C is in the hands of customer teams.

07.10.1990, Porsche 962 C, Hans-Joachim Stuck, Jonathan Palmer, 480-kilometre race Mexiko City
07.10.1990, Porsche 962 C, Hans-Joachim Stuck, Jonathan Palmer, 480-kilometre race Mexiko City

In 1989 and 1990 drivers such as Thomas Lopez, Jonathan Palmer, Bernd Schneider, Hans-Joachim Stuck and Bob Wollek race at the “Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez”, which has been named after the famous brothers since 1979. Stuck remembers: “Of course this was the old circuit, but the crowd was enthusiastic about sports cars. It is a super decision to go back to Mexico. A six-hour race with prototypes like the Porsche 919 Hybrid is just the right thing there.”

Porsche Motorsport in Mexico