One year ago in 2005 it was amazing to experience La Carrera as a spectator in Zacatecas, Mexico, as my dad has been doing for the past 15 years, but I’m learning it’s a whole different world to be one of the racers. I knew from witnessing the frenzy last year that drivers and copilots are considered celebrities as La Carrera is immensely popular in Mexico. I saw children and adults alike asking for autographs from the drivers – some who were likely regular folks like us on an extraordinary adventure.
Today about 50 vintage race cars gathered a block from the beach in Veracruz for registration, inspection and other paperwork. According to Geezer, Veracruz is the biggest seaport in Mexico and also houses a Naval Base. It seems to me a sleepy beach town, not too touristy or Americanized, even though our hotel is next to a Bennigan’s and Office Depot.
From our 5th floor beachside hotel room, I awoke to surfers riding the last of the morning waves and a bird’s eye view of our race car, “El Jefe” parked directly below us. After a 45 minute run on the beach in sweltering heat and humidity, I joined Team TBZ at the Costco parking lot for registration. Since I’m now wearing my official La Carrera “Piloto” badge, hitchhiking from the hotel was easy. I simply found the nearest car with La Carrera insignia and asked them if they were going to Costco and they were glad to give me a lift. My Spanish is a bit rusty, but I get along.
The view from the hotel
The parking lot was busy with car inspections, medical examinations, FMAD licensing, etc. Our car passed inspection yesterday with flying colors, and today my brother, Stewie and I needed to get our medical exams and licenses. I drank my usual morning Red Bull while the guys fiddled around with the car, organizing gear and changing a lamp on a headlight. Then I got to drive “El Jefe” across the parking lot with Geezer. I know, it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but when I hear that engine fire up my adrenaline starts pumping, and I feel like I’ve got testosterone flowing through my veins. Is that wrong? ;)
El Jefe ready to roll
El Jefe rocks, inside and out!
The Red Bull plus the adrenaline earned me a blood pressure of 130/ 90 at my medical exam, a personal record for me, and not one to make me proud. I knew I was amped, but I usually run 110/ 60 and I was surprised. We passed our medical and applied for our FMAD licenses. We were supposed to bring two passport size photos and hardly anyone did, so we ran to Costco to make copies of our passports. We got our route book, La Carrera t-shirts and jackets and were ready to race.
My parents had an Austin Healy just like this one in Paris in 1963
This Lincoln ran in the original PanAm in the early 1950s
Most teams spent the day tweaking their cars, some doing more serious work than others and in different states of being jacked up and disassembled. We had nothing more than a quick adjustment of the clutch, and so we packed and unpacked the car….and packed and unpacked again. We checked out the other cars and met other racers and their teams.
Our sag vehicle is a Ford Excursion AKA “The Extinction” and it’s packed to the gills with our tools and gear. Everything looks organized but the problem is that we can’t find anything! We spent half the day looking for Velcro and finally found it at the end of the day in the food bin.
Locals and spectators milled about all day, checking out the cars and talking to the teams. The old cars in this race are so fantastic that we dedicate time during the race to parades and having our cars on display for the locals. Mexico goes nuts for this race and everywhere we go, people honk and wave and want to see and touch the car. Each arrival in a village or town is greeted by mobs of townspeople and parties. Today was festive enough just sitting in a parking lot and I can’t wait to see what it’s going to be like being in the thick of it when the race starts.
El Jefe receives his #11 decal. El Jefe has run as #11 in 6 previous La Carrera races.
A local artist paints names and artwork on helmets and race cars
Quite a few cops had driven through the parking lot on their motorcycles, I assumed out of curiosity and not civic duty. But then we saw flashing lights from a cop car and heard the megaphone. The words were muffled, but the intent was clear and suddenly I felt like a teenager being scolded by the principal, ”….Reports of cars going 150 km/hr on the boulevard…….you don’t want to see the Veracruz jail and we don’t want to show it to you either…..”
I spent a good part of the day checking out the competition and meeting other racers. Testosterone and the sound of roaring engines filled the air. I met mostly Americans, but also French, Mexican, Dutch and German. Everyone was smiling, making new friends and talking about being safe and enjoying the ride. It was a beautiful day but incredibly hot and humid; being only a block off the beach on a blacktop parking lot, and the air wasn’t moving at all. Stewie wore sunscreen, the only smart one, and I turned progressively pinker thinking we were only going to be there a few hours. Geezer worked on his normal deep toned reddish tan, and Rene got so dark in the two days he’s been here that tonight he said he didn’t recognize himself in the mirror!
Geezer gets some tips after dinner from a local bull
It was a long day being in the sun, but also a good transition from leaving the real world behind and getting familiar with the car and gear, the sights and sounds of Mexico, and getting ready to race.
TBZ RACING TEAM: Stewie, Geezer, Kristin, Rene
Tomorrow is “Day 0” and we’ll all attend a navigator’s briefing in the morning and then Geezer will take the wheel with Stewie navigating for our first run, a short lope up the coast. There is also a Best Looking Car award and Geezer says we’ll win the 50/50 class – looks great at 50 feet and 50 mph.
We’re newbies at this, trying to learn how to navigate and follow the route book, learn how to control the Terratrip (odometer/car computer), keep the car running smoothly and make our way through Mexico. Rene has officially been adopted by the Stewarts and with a quick comparison of our ages, he became my “hermanito” and I kissed his cheek, telling him I’ve always wanted a little brother.
A quick blog from VFS III: A special note to the PBADers reading back in the building: I highly recommend our future FIBRON commander examine Veracruz as a future liberty port!