Whether you’re a car fan or a Pink Floyd fan, you’re likely to enjoy La Carrera Panamericana. It’s a documentary following guitarist Dave Gilmour, manager Steve O’Rourke, and well-known car fan and drummer Nick Mason racing in the 1991 Carrera Panamerica.
Music fans will enjoy the instrumentals that never made it onto an official album, but for car lovers, the look at the race is far more interesting.
The South American car race originally ran from 1950 to 1954. The first race was won by Hershel McGriff in an Oldsmobile 88, and also began to earn a reputation for danger with three competitors and one spectator sadly killed. The following year saw the first two places claimed by the works Ferraris of Piero Taruffi and Alberto Ascari, while 1952 saw the Mercedes-Benz 300SLs of Karl Kling and Herman Lang dominate.
Classes were split in 1953. Large Sports Cars was won by Juan Manuel Fangio in a Lancia, Small Sports Cars by José Herrarte in a Porsche. Large Stock Cars was won by Chuck Stevenson of the United States in a Lincoln and Small Stock Cars by C.D. Evans in a Chevrolet. The new classes continued to change in 1954, with Umberto Maglioli winning the sports class in a Ferrari, Ray Crawford taking the stock car class in a Lincoln, a European Stock Car Class win for Sanesi in an Alfa Romeo and the Small U.S Stock Car class won by Tommy Drisdale in a Dodge.
But with 27 deaths of racers and spectators, including Felice Benetto, it was cancelled following the 1955 Le Mans Disaster.
It was revived in 1988 with 10 classes of car. And was still dangerous. In the 1991 event Gilmour crashed but was unhurt – co-driver Steve O’Rourke suffered a broken leg. Meanwhile Nick Mason finished sixth overall with co-driver Valentine Lindsay.
If you want to buy a copy of the documentary, which has since been occasionally rebroadcast by the BBC, you’ll have to settle for a VHS copy, available on Amazon.
Winners of the revived event include Swedish rally legend Stig Blomqvist (2009), Finnish rally star Harri ROvanpera (2010), and former Formula One driver Erik Comas. All were in cars based on the 1953 Studebaker Champion Regal Starliner, but with turned 490+hp V8s and lots of modern chassis and brake improvements under the shell.