23 March 2010

2010 Chihuahua Express: The Mustangs To Go Story

It feels less than positive to post stories and photos of the race - events that happened and people we met before, during and after racers were involved in 2 separate fatal crashes. My intent is to tell our story, but certainly not to disrespect the 3 racers we lost, the 3 injured racers or their friends and family.


The journey to the start is always an adventure in itself. I landed in Midland, TX late Tuesday night and joined the Mustangs To Go crew of Todd, Dave and Brian and we rolled 2 trucks, 2 trailers and 2 race cars into Pecos, TX to spend the night. The next day's road trip from Pecos to Chihuahua carried us through the stark, beautiful and rugged mountains and deserts of southern Texas and northern Mexico. We had a quick stop in the quaint town of Marfa, TX to get car and truck titles notarized, and we headed for the border at Presidio, TX/Onijaga.

If you need a notary on your way to the border, I highly recommend Consuelo Nuñez in Marfa - Consuelo's Bookkeeping & Tax Service - right on Main St., professional, fast and affordable service.

Both towns are small and quiet and the Rio Grande runs small here. We passed through the US side without much delay, and though there was not much of a line on the Mexico side, we were delayed for 3 hours due to having Minnesota antique plates on one of the Mustangs. These collector plates don't require the typical month and year stickers and the Mexican border officials were tough to convince they were legitimate. We stood outside in the brilliant sunshine, guzzled water and stayed cheery. It helped to know that once we crossed the border we'd gain two hours on the clock since we were going from Central daylight savings time to Mountain non-daylight savings time. The officials were polite, checked our papers, rechecked them, and checked them again. We were patient and smiled back. Finally they called in their superior and he was quickly convinced that the Mustang could pass into Mexico. When it was all said and done we were 4 hours crossing the border but we were happy to pass without any real trouble.

From the border to Chihuahua is a very long and desolate 150 miles. Most of the time we were in a high desert basin surrounded by rocky peaks. I love the landscape down here. We traveled the fairly new tollroad (cuota) which meant there wasn't much traffic. Once we hit the outskirts of Chihuahua we passed about 10 text messages with our dear friend, Fernando, who was coming to escort us to the hotel. For whatever reason, we could not get a call through to him but we could text. We had no idea where he was but we kept him posted on our progress and suddenly a familiar truck passed by our caravan and Rene and Fernando were hanging out the window with big smiles.

Todd met Fernando years ago during the first Chihuahua Express. Fernando and his buddies from the Chihuahua Mustang Club were drawn to Todd's fastbacks and they became fast and close friends. Since then we have rolled through the LCP and Chihuahua with Fernando, sometimes he is on crew and sometimes he navigates for some of the great drivers like Gerie Bledsoe and Richard Tyzack. Besides his incredible personality and steady calm and happy demeanor, Fernando's expertise about Mexico, routes, cars, auto shops, etc. has been priceless to us.

Fernando and his buddy, Roberto, the smallest drug cartel leader in Mexico (says Fernando in jest, of course).

We got to the hotel, the Soberano, just as the sun was setting, and happily greeted old friends and family. Geezer and Rene had come up from Zacatecas the day before to support Mustangs To Go. We unloaded the two race cars and Todd helped the guys from Christian Dumolin's Mexican race crew unload the new Tesar Engineering motor for his orange Falcon, the "Chico Cliquot" that Todd built and had won 3rd place in the 2008 LCP Historica C. Less than a week ago they blew the motor and called Todd to see if he could help out with a replacement.

Chihuahua city is industrial, dry, about a mile high with mountain peaks all around and about 800,000 inhabitants. The areas I saw were hilly, as opposed to Phoenix or Monterrey that sit in a desert valley with mountains around them.

After a nice group dinner in the hotel and seeing some more old friends, Todd, Fernando and I left the hotel at 10pm to pick up the new owners of the Bag O'Nails, Thierry de Latre du Bosqueau and Eric Werner. The flight was a half hour late and I fell asleep in the pickup waiting for them - tired already and the race hadn't yet started!

A proper and enjoyable dinner Wednesday evening: K, Geezer, Rene, Fernando, Gerie, Dave, Brian.

Thierry and Eric were wicked cheery and alert after traveling 22 straight hours from Belgium and arriving just before midnight, Chihuahua time. Thierry asked questions about Chihuahua city, the race and the car. The best was when he asked very politely if it was possible to see the Bag O'Nails that evening so that he could have happy dreams. Thierry had purchased the pedigreed Bag O'Nails sight unseen from Richard Tyzack late last year - I would want to see it right away too!


Thursday was dedicated to scrutineering/technical inspection of the race cars, final car prep, affixing race stickers, studying the route book, getting our new piloto and copiloto familiar with the Bag O'Nails and making seat adjustments, and taking a practice laps at the local race track. All those things and checking out the other cars, talking with old friends and making new friends. Everyone stays at the same hotel for this race and the 40-some cars participating means the crowd is exciting while still a manageable size.

Thierry presented the entire team - myself, Todd, Dave, Brian, Geezer and Rene - with gorgeous blue polo shirts emblazoned with MUSTANG GT350R, BON (Bag O'Nails), an LCP crest and Todd's company, Mustangs To Go. Wow! And 5 shirts each, which was way over the top and much appreciated. Hey, we are used to wearing the same dirty stuff day after day at La Carrera so this is a luxury! And the guys look fabulous in their team shirts.

Thierry and Eric present their suits, helmets and gloves for inspection.

Dennis DeLaughter and Eugen Viehof were prepping the Team Danger Mustang convertible as well and the Mustangs To Go team was working hard under the brilliant Chihuahua sun and cloudless sky. Cool mornings, warm sunny days, and cool evenings - perfect.

The Chihuahua Express inspector (left) discusses the Team Danger Mustang with Eugen.

Todd checks out the Chico Cliquot as a new Tesar Engineering he brought from Minnesota gets installed. They can hopefully get it sorted out before tomorrow morning!

The view of Chihuahua city from the Soberano parking lot.

Thierry and Eric hover in the shade.

My favorite, Jake Shuttlesworth from Texas, relaxes while applying race stickers.

I looked and looked for Magnum P.I. but no joy. No Tom Selleck either. Turns out it is Higgins' car after all. I thought a picture with Magnum would look really good next to my picture of Bo Duke.

Bruce and John showing love in front of their vintage Porsche, #356 (not the yellow Porsche that crashed).

Out at the hot and dusty racetrack in the afternoon there were a half dozen cars on the track, and most didn't stay long. Todd, Geezer, Rene and I stood on one of the corners spectating with Gerie Bledsoe and he gave pointers on the best line to take on the corner in front of us. A red 80s BMW was having fun and cutting some mean lines. Marc Devis was out there in his multi-colored Studebaker, spinning out on a corner, but he got straightened out when he noticed that the Bag O'Nails was on his tail. Thierry and Eric were having fun, but taking it easy and every half dozen laps they'd come in and talk to Todd about the car. Some cars were having trouble with the proper jetting, likely since Chihuahua city is about a mile high. A gray late model Corvette caught my eye not just because I love Corvettes, but because it was driving like an abuelita - dramatically slower than all the other cars.
Todd helps Thierry with his Hans device before hitting the track for the first time.

The Bag O'Nails ready to leave some rubber on the track in Chihuahua.
The Bag O'Nails drifting (?) around the track!

Chrislana Gregory ready for the track.

John and Chrislana Gregory from Vancouver, BC, painted their Studie with a giant maple leaf and I LOVE IT!!!!!! Such a beautiful couple, inside and out.

Brian with a dirt mustachio - gotta love that!

Dennis and Eugen, passed inspection and ready to roll!

After the race track fun and some wrap-up work on the cars we all met for dinner in the hotel. What a concept - eating a proper dinner every night -something we don't often do at the Carrera!

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