Kurt Richter had already been part of the HK-Engineering service team as a "German" Mexican in 1998, 1999 and 2002, when we participated in the Carrera Panamericana with our own 300 SL, it was an open car of the type SLS.
Our greatest success was in 99, when our boss Hans Kleissl won the classification of all historical cars with a MB 300 SL with a first place and on top of that he drove to the third place of the overall classification. This was the best classification ever achieved by a historic vehicle in the new edition of the Carrera Panamericana. In the Carrera Panamericana there are two classifications: one is the historic cars based on the FIA regulations in Europe, and the other is the so-called "free", which are cars with a historic shell but modern technology. Here traditionally Studebakers are on the road with up to 600 hp, which of course normally cannot be beaten by a historic car with original technology.
On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Mercedes double victory in 1952 on this track, Kurt Richter has set his mind on participating in the Carrera Panamericana with an MB 300 SL race car from HK.
A participation in the Carrera Panamericana is however rather expensive, particularly since the freight prices rose in the past by a multiple, therefore the whole should be financed over sponsors. Only three weeks before the start of the Carrera Kurt Richter had the money for the whole expenses together and could give us the green light to get the car ready and bring it to the airport. This left us only four days of preparation time to get the car ready for this race and to fit it with disc brakes, which are allowed at this event.
The car arrived in Mexico City by air freight only three days before the start, on top of that the customs clearance was delayed by several days and it was more than questionable whether the car could be brought to the start in time. Our race team finally arrived in Veracruz with the vehicle only a good hour before the start. Thus only this one hour remained for the technical acceptance. With united forces and the help of all present Mexicans, who wanted to bring the vehicle absolutely to the start, because of their enthusiasm for the MB 300 SL succeeded the almost impossible.
At 7:30 a.m. Kurt Richter and his co-pilot Ricardo Gallingo started with our Gullwing to the first stage, the "La Carrera Panamericana 2022" has begun! A goosebump moment for all of us!
The "La Carrera Panamericana" is the most exciting classic car rally in the world and was created in 1950 for the inauguration of the Mexican part of the road connection between Alaska and Tierra del Fuego called "Panamericana". In 1952, the two German drivers Karl Kling and Hans Klenk took first place with the original gullwing W 194, and since then the gullwing has become legendary in Mexico. At the same time, this victory was the first major success for Germany after the lost war and was therefore a great ray of hope for the entire country.
After a longer interruption until 1988, the rally celebrates its 35th anniversary this year. In seven intense and challenging days of competition, more than 90 vehicles compete against each other and cover more than 3,200 kilometers. In the process, they tackle more than 500 kilometers of speed stages on Mexico's most spectacular roads.
After the first day of racing, which took us to Oachaca, the technical problems start on day 2: the alternator keeps going crazy because it can't stand the heat in Mexico.
The rally is super demanding for the drivers and the vehicle but also the technical support of HK has to make an effort to keep up with the high speed.
Day three: the many speed tests wear on the nerves of our drivers, no wonder, the alternator is still spinning. But the mood makes up for these difficulties. The gullwing is welcomed in the Mexican cities with open hearts and big hellos, the people here love this car, this unbelievable joy and enthusiasm carries the drivers as well as the entire race team.
On the fourth day we have the problems with the vehicle well under control, the race car gets a new set of tires from the traveling mechanics from HK at the halfway point, and the brakes are also renewed. Other minor technical problems can be fixed promptly. In contrast to some other cars our gullwing arrived well and safely in Morelia, today there have been some serious accidents on the track, unfortunately also with casualties.
Our pilots are experienced and prove their multitasking ability during the speed stages: perfect foresight combined with simultaneous roadbook reading while keeping an eye on the meter counter, here smooth interaction and strong nerves are required from driver and co-driver alike.
With up to 35 degrees it is very hot and dry, partly cloudy, the last stages of the rally are extremely strenuous and require with up to 900 route kilometers per day a really good condition. We don't sleep any night more than 4-5 hours, nevertheless our team keeps the 2nd or 3rd position in the class throughout, without any damage to the vehicle.
On 1500 m up to 2800 m altitude we "experience" original landscapes with breathtaking views on grandiose roads. Driving at high speed, however, hardly allows us to let our attention wander and absorb the impressions.
At the finish in Durango (approx. 1900 m and in the middle of the jungle) we, but especially the in Mexico quite prominent racers of our gullwing, are frenetically welcomed by a large crowd. At the end of the rally, the award ceremony takes place at 9:00 p.m., we celebrate our joint success the whole night. Our driver team mastered the demanding Carrera Panamericana with the MB 300 SL healthy and without any accident and made a great 3rd place in class.
Our team, led by our race mechanic Zoli, returns to Polling proud, satisfied and happy from this beautiful country and its warm inhabitants, the insane experience and great success at the Carrera Panamericana.