It's been 5 days since we've been driving in Mexico. I have not stopped at a traffic light since we've been here. Like, not one. Every intersection has a very helpful police officer whose job it is to ensure that I'm not delayed. Well, not just me, but all of us La Carrera "correadors". Today, though, it just got silly. When we rolled in to Puebla (we hit nearly 300kph on the Autopista) we got pulled over and got a Police escort to the finishe line, thanks to my main man, General Julio.
Check it: (The cop giving the escort is having more fun than us. Watch as he gets airborne on the railroad tracks and almost plows in to a car 4:00 in...)
Sadly, the Chase Cam seems to have given up the ghost. But, I've got something up my sleeve for tomorrow if I cannot get it fixed.
In other news, do you know what a "tope" is? It's a Mexican speed bump and they are all up in this piece! Most of the small towns we roll through use them to control traffic because cops are not really around much, and who obeys traffic lights in the boonies?
Well, unfortunately for us, 1 of the 57 topes we traversed today snuck up on us so we hit it at about 20 mph. It knocked a small protective piece of plastic loose that we dragged with us for many, many, many, miles. It sounded much worse than it was. Thankfully "other Tom" was around to help us pull that piece out and put another piece back in place. We also did a full inspection of the suspension linkages and brakes.
Everything checked out A-ok.
Jacking up the GT3
That's a stiff chassis!
Left Side: Proper Cover
Right Side: Missing Cover
This Piece Fell Out
So We Put It Back In And by "We", I mean "Other Tom"
You know how sometimes you'll be driving down the road in your street and you'll see the neighbor's dog whipping up the street and you think, "Gee, I hope he does not run out in front of me" and sure enough the little s.o.b. does and you work like hell to avoid hitting it? That happened to us today, except replace "Street" with "Mexico", "Neighbor" with "Farmer" and "Dog" with "Donkey".
Shortly before that, of course, we had a bit of an "Off Roading" experience. Which is to say that, I dropped the left 2 wheels of the GT3 off the road into a drainage ditch next to a mountain. So, it wasn't really off roading as much as it was scraping the entire underbody of the car along a concrete ridge for about 50'.
Nope, I did not stop driving. We just kept going. We slowed down a little bit, but oil pressure remained constant, no temperature issues, no warning lights and most importantly no loss of driving feel.
Those 2 episodes forced some slowing down... we still finished 3rd in the class and 18th overall.
Here's the clip of the "off roading". I cannot find the donkey video right now (I hope I got it on tape!):
Oh, and memo to Chase Cam: The "Up" marker on your camera is in the wrong position. Your built in audio SUCKS. And your OSCommerce is setup so poorly that I did not see 3 critical accessories that I would have LOVED to get...
The arrival in Tehuacan was UNREAL. We rolled in to this beautiful little town called Tehuacan right into the town square. It's like something right out of Barcelona. Just amazing. The place was FILLED with people. Like, completely, totally, and utterly packed to the gills with people. We were interviewed for the local TV news. Interviewed live on the air on 2 radio stations. Had our car's picture in the paper.
the party wend from about 4:00pm until midnight. While we were in the driver's meeting, they setup a mechanical bull outside and had some pretty amazing fireworks...
Today, we met Julio. Julio is a very important man here in Oaxaca. You can tell by his green jacket and the stars on his shoulder. He came by to take a look at the GT3. When he asked how I liked Mexico, I said, "Muy bien. La policia, te gustan cuando conduciamos mas rapide."
"Yes. During La Carrera, we get to race, too!", he responded.
He reminded me that if we get in to trouble, that we should just call him. You got to love a country where the Generals pose for photos in front of your cars and offer their personal assistance...
Today was qualifying. I'll cut right to the end. Here's how we placed:
With an official time of 5:06, and a start penalty of :09 seconds (that means we got to the starting line a "tad" early) we qualified 2nd in the Unlimited Class and 13th overall.
Congrats to Piloto Kevin Jones and Copiloto Mark Williams in the Subaru for having the fastest overall time of the day with their 4:33! The fastest historic was Roger Habich and Daryl Habich with their 4:36! Congrats to all!
Yes, we have more in car footage today. I tweaked the brightness of the camera a bit. I also left the start in place so you could see how much of a head-start the Mini had. Yes, we passed him. Safely. Note the crowds formed all along the route. I hear it gets worse tomorrow!
Of course the best part of the day was FLYING back to Oaxaca at 140 mph on the freeway and blowing through town. every traffic light between the freeway and the staging area had cops stationed at all 4 corners. When a La Carrera car would pull up, the sea would part and the light would change in your favor. As traffic got worse, we had our own personal police escort.
At the driver's meeting when they announced the class winners, I nearly fell out of my seat. I was expecting to be 3rd in the class, but 2nd was a great surprise.
Tomorrow we meet at 7:00am in the town square. It's a long day of transit and speed sections en route to Tehuacan. I'm sure the heat will be turned up... I'm laying low until day 4. No need to lose it all on the second day.
Today, Keri and I did our first driving for La Carrera. We pre-ran the qualifying stage, It took about 9 minutes to get out there, cruising at about 250 kph, 5 minutes to find the start of the qualifying stage, and about 8 minutes to drive the qualifying route.
Of course, this was not during officially sanctioned driving time, so we were dealing with traffic on the toll road (a few cars and trucks, a couple of goats and a pedestrian or two) some fans at the toll booth, and other La Carrera drivers on the qualifying zone.
People in Mexico LOVE this event. We got to the toll booth and found the right lane blocked. A bunch of at the tool booth waved us forward into the coned off area. They started taking pictures by the car, asking questions, and for post cards. (See the post from a few days ago). We've been handing out post cards like mad. Yesterday we had an autograph session at the baseball stadium -- it was weird. Right now, there's some MExican kid with a picture of my GT3 on his wall.
ANYWAY, the qualifying route is highly technical. It's on the side of a mountain. Without a guard rail. At very high speeds. The road is smooth. Like, freshly paved Watkin's Glen smooth. And banked. Like, seriously banked. Like, if these roads were in the US people would be scared to drive on them banked. We passed a few La Carrera cars on the side of the road... slowing to make sure they were ok, of course.
Needless to say, it was a ridiculous amount of fun.
No photos today, but I did make this in-car video for your amusement. We're still working out the audio in the car, but I doubt it'll improve much in the speed sections.
Thursday is qualifying. And if you have not heard, there's a live GPS in the car that you can watch on the Internet. Tune in tomorrow around 5:30 PM New York time and you can see some dots move on a map. I think. As soon as I get my qualifying time, I'll post it up... (Or, hopefully JF will be available to!)
The hardest part is over. The GT3 has been cleared to participate in the Unlimited Class at the 2007 La Carrera Panamericana.
Yes, I was VERY worried. The rules of this event are quite strict. And the organizers are kind of, shall we say, "chill" about the whole thing. But the guys took one look at the car, tested the cage for size, poked through the inspection hole and slapped the decal on the car.
Not too much happened today, other than tech. Met a bunch of the guys. Got sorted out on procedure. We've got a few more things to do tomorrow including setting back braces, calibrating the Terra Trip -- nothing major. I've got 2 cops that are gonna give me a strip of road about 2km long to help calibrate the TerraTrip, so that should be fun!
Here's a few photos for you to peruse
Here's a shot of our view from the hotel. The hotel used to be a convent. It's spectacularly beautiful.
With all the FUBAR travel from yesterday, I was worried that we'd have a hard time finding Tom with the GT3. Thankfully, the crowd on the otherside of the Police barricade found the car for us.
One of the Unlimited Class Subarus going through Tech Inspection. The crowd LOVES them Subies!
Don't park there! The Policia will move the car for you so you!
The TerraTrip and TerraPhone all wired in, receiving data and ready to go!
The GPS in the PCM is essentially useless. Like, totally useless. But hey, it knows I'm in Mexico!
Always pray for redemption. Never protection.
Prepped and ready to race, the GT3 can take anything. Except that storm!
Be sure to tune in tomorrow when I post the link to the live GPS tracking system for the entire grid of cars!
Lots of time has been spent on this blog talking about preparation. Prep time is over and now work time begins. So, with 3 hours remaining before we head south to Mexico, also known as the Land of the Rising Sun (Mexico's Official Slogan), I'd like to talk about strategy.
We've got a simple three point strategy for winning. Steve Case used to refer to the "6 C's" that made AOL successful. They were Connectivity, Communication, Content, Context, Commerce, and Crossdressing. Our strategy pays homage to Steve's simple mission:
1) Comfort: During long distance runs, comfort is key. In my first enduro race, I went in too pumped to pay attention to comfort. About 3 minutes in to my 6-hour shift behind the wheel I realized that an extra few seconds during the driver change would have made the difference between maintaining position and losing 4 places. I did not make that mistake the second time and I won't at La Carrera.
2) Cruising: Slow and steady will work well here. Fast and steady will be better. But for us, we're gonna take it easy. Drive fast. And focus on a safe cruising pace. This is not a technical event, although, I'm sure that technique will be important at times. Hopefully not on the bad side of the control threshold.
3) Concentration: Key to safely traversing the route will be concentration. Concentration of the "Piloto" and "Copiloto" will result in efficient driving, proper identification of hazards and dangers, as well as notification of routing for optimal speed through the course. Things happen fast north of the triple-digit mark and with 2 brains racing, it's important to be concentrating on your work.
Plus, we have AC and a killer sound track, so we're clearly already in the lead!
It is important that as we mature, we don't loose sight of what we are meant to achieve in our relatively short lifespan on this planet. Deep inside all of us, there is a little kid that is fighting to get out, to explore and conquer as much ground as possible. Emil and Keri have taken such an idea and run with it, or should I say driven with it?
The two are off in Mexico for the next 10 or so days, taking part in the most extreme road event the Americas have to offer: The 2007 Unlimited Class at La Carrera Panamericana . Targa Newfoundland... extreme - Yes, but come on... it IS in Canada. I kid...
I started off my "career" in rally blogging two years ago, covering events such as the Bullrun and Gumball Rallies. Those times were fun and I learned quite a lot from them, but the reality is that such events will never be the same. So that leads me here.
In the coming days I will be providing any information which Emil and Keri are unable to post directly to the blog. I will be happy to relay any questions you may have for the two whenever they are out of contact. I want to keep this blog as active as possible; that requires an interaction between the bloggers and readers, so make sure you comment. I wish Emil, Keri and the GT3 the best of luck. My only problem as far as I'm aware is that the GT3 has yet to be named... Let’s hope that problem is resolved shortly.
I've learned much from Alex Roy in the last few months. Both as a friend and hero. I'll admit it, the guy has done something that I look up to in terms of adventure, freedom, and sheer determination.
Because of Alex, I've met JF. JF has been key in getting Team Polizei through some very hairy situations and since JF has nothing to do when he's not in school, working, still helping Team Polizei, and driving somewhere for no real reason, I figured I'd recruit his assistance, too.
Yep, helped with some of the prep work including the nuances of FMAD, but more importantly he's got blog access. In the event that I can't get to the Internets while here in the City of Lights (Mexico's Official Slogan) JF will be providing blog updates...
Thanks, JF. For everything. And I hope not to accidentally call you too often. Oh! And you can whip donuts in the RS4 whenever you want. :-)
Well...Emil came home today after being in NY for 2 weeks. He brought a ton of equipment that we need to pack. Even so, we've managed to get that big pile from yesterday down to this:
The box on the right (more stuff) contains stuff we will be carrying on the plane because if any of that gets lost, we are screwed.
The box on the left is stuff that we need to fit into our suitcases, which are getting more and more full by the minute. Good thing we are wearing race suits every day so I don't have to bring a lot of clothes.
Tomorrow, I will be getting the last few items we need:
Calamine lotion and A&D ointment (as recommended by someone from the town where the race starts.)
Baby Wipes (as recommended by everyone)
Cheap Men's Tank tops (for me for under the suit)
Extra electric wire for the terraphone.
Pick up postcards from Kinkos.
Of course, all of this will have to wait until after the F1 race at 9am tomorrow. It's the last one of the season and it's going to be very dramatic!
A few people have asked me why the GT3 for La Carrera?
Well, the answer is simple: I already had 2 GT3s, so prepping 1 for the race was easy.
Yeah, you heard me. The reason I seem to always be transporting the car back and forth between LA and NY is not because I have a magic transporter to move cars. I got two of them. So, the decision to "gently modify" one was easy.
The Unlimited Class is for modern road cars. It's also for cars that are registered, you know, with license plates and the whole deal. Other than the cage that we put in the car, the car is completely qualified to run the event stock. There's nothing that would need to be changed to run.
Sure we did a few other things to give us a bit of an edge, but truth be told... The GT3 is ready to go from Stuttgart.
I hope that the guys at Porsche (yes, I see you reading this blog) aren't too offended by what we're doing with their once beautiful, flawless machine in the greatest road race in the Americas.
In accordance with the rules of La Carrera Panamericana, I have embroidered my name, blood type, and allergies on my suit. They also require us to put our blood type and allergies on our helmets and on the car above our doors. Those decals will be ready for me to pick up tomorrow.
Luckily for us, the words "O negative" and "Sulfa Allergy" are close enough to "O negativo" and "Sulfa Alergia".
I am also in the home stretch of gathering all of the necessary supplies. Here is "the pile".
(The cat carrier will not be going with us.)
Tomorrow, I will pick up our postcards and decals, get Emil at the airport, bring his suit to get embroidered, finish the shopping, get a pedicure, and start packing!
Today is October 19th. The day after my cousin Ian's birthday. 6 months before I turn 34.
I just returned from my last meeting before heading to La Carrera. At 9:00pm on a rainy Friday in New York City. It's been a very hectic 3 weeks. Between projects that don't seem to end, strategic initiatives that can't seem to move forward, and some serious questions about what I want to do when I grow up... I've not had much time to focus. Frankly, the race has been nothing but a distraction for the last few weeks. As bills come in and chores pile up I keep asking myself if this is all worth it... aren't there better things to spend my time and money on?
I'm rushing home to pack, send off a few last-minute emails to friends and coworkers, review a few things that have not gotten the time they deserve, order something to eat and get to sleep. (Of course, I'm taking a 7:00am flight out of JFK on Saturday. Of course.)
So, the first thing I do is turn on the TV (Star Wars Episode 1 on TiVo), the radio (BBC Radio1 on Sirius) and hit FaceBook. I see that Bret has been busy posting photos to Facebook. And I'm glad he did.
Seeing that picture has refocused me on the excitement of the next few days. Racing. In Mexico. In one of the finest cars I've ever had the pleasure of driving. With the most important person in my life.
Ok I know I haven't been posting every day - it's because I've been so busy with preparations that I don't have time to post about them! I'm in the home stretch though.
Today we received this:
Terraphone Pro Helmet Intercom system. Yay. It will have to be hardwired to the car battery once we get to Mexico.
In other news...I got my suit yesterday, but it was HUGE. The kind people at Sparco allowed me to go right to the warehouse to try on other sizes and exchange the suit. (the public never gets to go to the warehouse!) I wore my new race shoes today to break them in and get a feel for them while I'm driving. They are very comfortable! I also got gloves.
Right now, the suit is getting embroidered with my name, blood type, and allergies. Emil's will get done on Saturday, when he's back in town to try on the suit I bought him today. You might think it would be unsettling to have to include your blood type on your suit, helmet, and car - but I think it's pretty badass.
We also got our decals. They look awesome!
I have several more last minute details to arrange over the next two days, including a fun surprise for Emil. I hope I don't forget anything.
That's me going "How the hell am I getting in this thing?" The cage is HUGE.
The GT3 was delivered to 7s Only Racing at Buttonwillow Racetrack. I went up to say hi to it. (and load it with a bunch of crap.)
Of course, I drove it around a bit to see how it is with the cage, seats, etc...I giggled the whole time. That car is so freaking fun. There is a long driveway into the racetrack with brand-new pavement - A great place to test out 0-60 times (or in my case, 0-110, but who's counting) and the brakes. Here is what happens when you floor the car...you start out by smiling and saying "this is awesome!" then you hit 6000 rpms and the thing launches. That's when I started to giggle.
After some last minute additions (hood pins to be precise), it left this morning with 3 other La Carrera cars (no other Unlimited Class).
We get to Mexico a week from today. !!!! I am beyond excited at this point.
Matt from Manhattan Motor Cars was nice enough to let us crash the Rolls Royce Drop Head party last night. The party, thrown by Panache Magazine, was an eclectic group of actual customers and "poseurs", as was overheard.
We shot today's Fast Lane Daily at Manhattan Motor Cars this morning just to get that stunning drop head.
Tomorrow, the GT3 will start its journey to Mexico. Dealer 2 Dealer will be picking the car up in New York and bringing it to California. There, it will be put on the race transporter and taken to Mexico.
Unless something like this happens, by Wednesday, Mexico should have our applications for Sport Licenses and Temporary Importation. And hopefully, they will use the self-addressed pre-paid fedex envelope I provided to return our temporary importation sticker. We will get our licenses in Oaxaca during registration for the event.
I was finally able to speak to someone at the Federacion Mexicana de Automovilismo Deportivo who spoke English well enough to tell me the name of an actual person to email my questions to, rather than their "contact us" email, which got no response. The next day, my new Mexican BFF emailed back exactly what I wanted: concise information about what forms and documents I need, how much to write the check for, and where to send it.
This morning, I couldn't see the top of my desk - multiple sets of forms, photos, scanned documents, fedex airbills, emails, checks, and 2 cups of coffee were strewn about. Now...a beautiful sight.
A single neat folder containing all things La Carrera. I even have a fedex envelope ready to send to our transporter, once Mexico sends my sticker and permit.
Later, I am going to celebrate this accomplishment with a few margaritas.
Well, the car is almost done. We're about 1 day behind schedule. Not a huge problem, but it will make transporting West a challenge. Hopefully, someone can go get the car later this week and I won't have to invoke the Doomsday Route.
You may be asking yourself, "Self, what's holding things up?" Well, a last minute integration of the Terra Trip system. What's a Terra Trip? This.