28 October 2010

2010 LCP: FINISH!!!!

All of our cars finished and we got to watch them all race La Bufa, the last speed stage. 

El Jefe lost the clutch right before the stage, but we had an 80 minute service so they changed it out.


Exhausted and looking forward to the party in Zacatecas but not sure where I will find the energy.

Thanks everyone for the good wishes and blessings.

Eric Werner on the podium in the bullring in Zacatecas, receiving 1st place in Historic C for Day 7 in the Bag O'Nails.

2010 LCP: Day 7 Is Here!

This is it - today we roll into Zacatecas for the grand finish in the most beautiful city of the route.  The sun is coming up over the mountains of Aguascalientes, it is still dark and the cars are lining up for an 8am start.  It is a shorter day than most and we are grateful for that. 

All our cars finished safely yesteray.  Thierry ran some amazing speed stages, beating the fast Studebakers.  Might be 1st place in class yesterday, but unlikely the timing would reflect that.

The Greenwoods ran out of gas on the first long transit stage, luckily Todd, Sarah and I were 10km behind them on the tollway and caught up quickly.  Hey - running out of gas is okay - it's the best possible scenario when a client calls and says, "THE CAR IS CRAPPING OUT."  :)

Watched the video of Bill Beilharz's crash and roll with Max, the navigator.  VERY lucky to be alive.  Bill's head hit rocks through the open window (with nets) as they rolled 4 times and landed upside down.  Bill was knocked out for a couple of minutes and you can hear Max yelling, "BILL!  BILL!" to try to wake him up while being unable to get out of his racing harness.  Scary stuff.  I have not seen the damaged car yet but the video will be (or already has been) posted to YouTube and it is pretty eerie to watch.  So glad they are okay.  That was Max's second bad accident of the race - he arrived navigating for his father in the German Opal and that car burned.  Bill's navigator went home so Max took his place.
Spent some time with Rene and the TBZ Team last night while they detailed El Jefe and the Big Mama in preparation for their proud arrival in Zacatecas, their hometown.  Very excited for them!

Linda Robertson and Chrislana Gregory threw an impromptu bridal shower for me last night in the hotel bar, complete with Cliquot champagne (same as our wedding) and beautiful presents!  Beautiful, thoughtful, joyful women.  Funny to see a bridal shower in a bar where all 4 women had dirty, broken fingernails from racing.  Thanks to both of you - it was priceless and I will never forget it.

26 October 2010

2010 LCP: Day ??? I Can't Remember....all I know is we are in Guad (Day 5 - Morelia to Guadalajara!)

The great news is that all our cars finished again and the Bag O'Nails and Gypsy Wind are running well.  The entire Mustangs To Go Team is at the same hotel tonight, a first since the race started. 

There were a handful of crashes today, including our friends Tom and Michael in the green Original PanAm Lincoln - they are fine.  Michael said Tom was going too fast, hit the brakes and spun, heading backwards off the road.  Luckily the rear wheels got caught up in some rocks and they stayed stuck to the edge of the ravine.  A foot further and this would be not such a nice story.  We came upon the scene as they were pulling them back on the road after breaking one tow strap and the Lincoln starting to roll backwards towards the ravine again. 

The morning began with watching the start just a few feet from our hotel.  We don't usually see the start as they are typically all the way across town so this was a special treat. 

Gerie at the start in Morelia.


Eric and another navigator comparing notes.

Pierre and the Gullwing.

Carson and Shields.

El Jefe!

The Gypsy Wind with the Hermanos Greenwood.

We garfed the trailer tire and ripped the trim off the fender coming into Morelia last night.  Not sure how race officials think we can navigate trucks and trailers down tiny streets with high curbs and impossibly tight turns. 

A short time later we were lucky enough to catch the end of the laps at the atuodromo outside of Morelia. It was my first time seeing La Carrera on a track and I was excited. In 2006, our rookie year, my brother was driving and I was navigating and we were transiting to the autodromo in Mexico City. On the 6-lane highway about 15km from the track our muffler fell off. We got it tied back up with wire and got back on the road but it fell off a few minutes later. Stewie tied it back up again and we hurried to get to the track on time but El Jefe wouldn't start! I stood behind the car in heavy highway traffic and tried to get the Geezer on the phone, hoping they were behind us in the truck. Just then Javier in the sag wagon appeared like an angel and quickly gave us a jump and we were on our way. Unfortunately we were two minutes late to our start time at the track and they did not let us race. And ever since that I have never made it to watch at the autodromo.

We were at the back half of the pack but got to see El Jefe run and Rene did a great job! Got some video too which I will post soon. The Falcon from Zacatecas did a pretty good wiggle in the S-turn and nearly went off but he recovered. Jake Shuttlesworth is back running and looked pretty fast out there.

El Jefe ripping around the track outside of Morelia in the morning.

The Zacatecas Falcon

A Porsche spins out in the S-turn.

One of the many reasons I love Mexico - you can still find a sweet Charlie's Angel's car!  I want one!!  Notice the pristine Maverick Grabber behind it.
There's always something funny to see in Mexico - in this case, ostriches frolicking with a fake giraffe.

A speed stage started not too far from here.  Racers were still trying to catch up with the pack so we were hopeful that we would catch up to everyone.  We watched as a Studebaker passed us on a village road and blew through a good-sized tope that they didn't see - ouch.  We started the speed stage and I zeroed the GPS and began navigating Todd through it.  This was our first year sweeping with the actual route book; usually we just feel our way through it with the high level service vehicle maps, which usually gets us lost a few times a day.  I found it was pretty fun to call out the turns for Todd and it was interesting to banter about the consistency of the turn ratings from stage to stage and day to day (fairly inconsistent).  I found about a dozen mistakes for the entire route (for example, the drawing shows a left turn and an L but the text says "RIGHT.") and overall it seemed that the turns were rated low.....like a 1 or 2 could have easily been a 2 or 3.

Anyway, just a few kilometers into this speed stage we were completely stopped in traffic.  This is not a good sign as it typically means they are trying to clear a crash from the course, after everyone has run it.  I jumped out of the truck and ran up the hill and heard from a few guys in trucks that a Studebaker had crashed.  I ran back to tell Todd it was not one of our cars and within about 20 minutes the traffic was released.  We wondered if the crashed Studebaker was the guy who was in such a terrible hurry to catch up and blew the tope.

As we crested the hill and rounded the corner we saw the emergency vehicles.  The crashed vehicle could not be seen but as we got closer Todd saw Bill Beilharz standing on the side of the road and I saw Maximilian Hamblock and we were both puzzled.  Maximilian's Opal had burned two days ago and they were out of the race for good.  We were very relieved to see them both upright and looking rattled but okay.  We then had to wonder if Bill had picked Max up to navigate, and why?  And we did not know Bill was back in the race after suffering mechanical problems on day 1 that knocked him out of the running as the overall champion like he was in 2008.
This is where Beilharz went off - to the left in a line through the Federale.  Below is a gigantic lake - not a good place to land if you are unconscious and hanging upside down.

Damage done - Beilharz's Studebaker.
These mountain stages were beautiful, all overlooking a gigantic lake.  We had never been on this course before as last year when we were crewing for Gerie, we stayed on the tollway during this section as it is so much transit for so few speed stages.

The next oops we came upon was Tom Overbaugh in his PanAm Lincoln.  Luckily my heart didn't stop when I saw the green Lincoln as I almost immediately saw both Tom and Michael Emery and saw that they were okay.  And it didn't look like too bad of an off.  Traffic was stopped again so I hopped out to check on the guys.

The Lincoln was hung up on some good-sized rubble on the edge of the road, with the back tire hanging free.  It wasn't exactly teetering but just a few inches further downhill would have been a real mess for these guys.  The forest was heavy with brush and small trees but not nearly enough to hold that big old beast of a Lincoln from shooting down into the ravine.

As I approached the scene I was having flashbacks to 2007 when Rene and I went off, though we went steeply down about 15 feet and were caught up in some tiny trees, and we were teetering.  Tom was just getting back into the Lincoln, which was running.  I assessed the situation and took a look at the two tow straps which had been hooked up and I said to Tom, "Will you please get out of the car?  If those tow straps break, which they will, you'll go down with the car."  He said the tow truck guys wanted him in there to hit the gas when they got back wheel traction but I argued that it didn't matter - it was much too dangerous for him to be in the car.

In 2007, Rene and I and were blessed with some amazing guys who stopped to help us get the car out, including Juan from Euro-Latino Racing.  But we broke four two straps in a row trying to pull El Jefe out and that was scarier to me than the actual crash.  Because if we lost El Jefe to that ravine, I am not sure if we could ever get it out, it was about 200 feet through steep jungle to the bottom. 

Tom got out of the car without a word and the truck started pulling the Lincoln out and seconds later, "SNAP!" the first tow rope broke.   My heart both sank and leapt at the same time, for almost losing the Lincoln, and relief that Tom was not in the car.  The guys reconfigured the straps and suddenly there were shouts and the Lincoln started to roll backwards and didn't seem to be attached to ANY straps at this point.  I stayed a safe distance back from the operation and hoped they would get it right....and they did, with just a small tug the Lincoln popped back on the road and with the rear tire spinning Tom reached in to cut the engine.  Whew!
Tom Overbaugh and Michael Emery off road in the Lincoln.  No blood, no foul.

Near the end of the day a blue MG #263 from Mexico got in an accident during a transit section on the outskirts of a village and collided with a small pickup. The pickup was bumped in the front end and it didn't have a lot of damage but the MG was hit on the driver's side front wheel, fender, hood and front end. We hope everyone is okay, it looks like they probably were.  In his blog, Gary Faules noted that the MG's windshield was smashed where the navigator's head would go......maybe they were not wearing their seatbelts during this transit?

The MG that collided with a local pickup.

It was another very long day with lots of transit and only a few speed stages, and awful traffic in a big city at the end. We swept the course again and got to the hotel around 630pm after taking an hour to go 8 km in Guadalajara rush hour traffic.  We then spent an hour looking for parking as we are in a congested downtown area and the race organization gives us less than nothing for logistics.

It just doesn't make any sense to me to have a race with ~120 cars, support vehicles and trailers, some of them semis, stay at downtown hotels with no parking. If anyone can explain how this should work, please let me know, I'm open to hearing it. ;)

So Todd parked truck and trailer outside the hotel while I ran inside and asked at the front desk where to park with a truck and trailer.  "You brought a truck and trailer??" they asked, like it was the first time they had heard this even though the lobby was full of Carreristas.  I patiently waited while the clerk asked around and finally he appeared with a street map of the area.  I was so hopeful!!  He showed me a big parking lot about 6 blocks away where we could park.  I ran outside, full of knowledge and answers, and even told another crew truck next to us that they could follow us (at their own risk) to the parking area.  So off we went down one way neighborhood streets back to the traffic-jammed frontage road to the hotel.  As I spotted the parking spot ahead, just as shown on the map, we realized we had to turn before the lot to get to it.  So frustrating! 

So off we went on another 15 minute loop to get back.  We did it right the second time and sure enough there was a good-sized parking lot, perfect for our rig, and with a chain link and barbed wire fence!  But as Todd turned towards the entrance he quickly realized there was no way to get anything bigger than a pickup truck through the entrance - it was way too small.  Frustrated beyond belief by now we found street parking and called it quits. 

And in the end we decided that misinformation is worse than a total lack of information.

My Australian friend, Sarah MacKenzie arrives in a few hours, flying from Denver to tag along with us for the last two days of the race!  I hope to update the blog with pictures tonight - I have some great ones but need my 4 hours of sleep each night and don't have time to upload.

Updating this later now.....Sarah arrived at the hotel and it was so incredible to see my Australian friend halfway across the world.  We first crossed paths in Colorado in 2004, re-met in Australia in 2008 when I was assigned to stay with her family while working a women's leadership weekend, and she's been to Colorado to visit three times now.  

I was hoping to pick her up from the airport tonight but we got to the hotel too late to head across the city in another mess of traffic to pick her up.  She is a good sport and hopped a taxi, beginning her first Mexican adventure.  We ate dinner in the hotel restaurant, met a bunch of other crews and racers and enjoyed catching up.  We briefly met Ian & Val Swan, also from Australia, and I joked about asking her if she knew them (because they are both from Oz).  Later we had a drink in the bar with Thierry, Dave and Michael and got to see the in-car video from Bill Beilharz's rollover crash - it was super spooky and probably not the best visual to have stuck in my head before going to bed.

2010 LCP: Day 4 - Queretaro to Morelia

The lovely bar view of Queretaro from the Crown Plaza.

The German Mustang that had a fire and ruined the fuel cell.

Hand building a cobblestone street.

Just 20 minutes after leaving the hotel and heading south out of Queretaro, we came upon El Jefe on the side of the road.  Bummer!  They had been running flawlessly but were experiencing trouble with the hydraulic clutch.  Todd helped Rene while Geezer pushed the clutch in and out.  The good part about where they were stopped was that I got to watch about half of the other race cars zoom by in a transit section.  The guys determined they would need to get some parts and repair the clutch elsewhere so Todd and I headed out.

Watching a Porsche zoom by in a transit stage.

Kristin working the clutch for a while.  My name is still on El Jefe - maybe someday I will race in it again.  Geezer has told me numerous times that I'm the reason he started racing LCP and he'll never take my name off the car.

We took a shortcut instead of directly following the speed stage as we were pretty far behind.  Our GPS told us to turn up this street - right!  We had learned to ignore her most of the time.

Rolling into a city on our smart shortcut we had to figure out a way to pop out on the other side of town and join up with the speed stage.  We relied upon the GPS and unfortunately she brought us to this very tight intersection downtown.  There was no choice  but to go straight ahead.  The metal arch said, "2.5m" and Todd hoped we'd make it.  I jumped out to survey the situation and yelled, "Stop!" as Todd crept ahead.  We were just barely kissing the metal arch with the top of our trailer.  But there was no going back so he continued ahead, scratching the top of the trailer for several feet.

Unfortunately a few minutes later we were pulled over by a municipal cop on a moped.  I stayed in the truck and worried about Todd getting arrested.  Soon there were as many as 4 cops there, coming and going at different times.  As Todd tells the story, the most senior guy, the commandante, rode back to survey the damage to the arch and reported back that there was no damage. 

The small cops waited for him to leave and then restarted their story to Todd about how he damaged the arch and he'd need to pay for repair and paint.  Paint?  What kind of paint do you see on that metal arch?  Okay, we scratched it, we apologized and we were happy to pay for the actual damage but that's not how it works in Mexico.

All in all we were detained 90 minutes by these highly powerful officials and Todd paid them off when they finally named a number to let us go - $1,500 pesos ($125 USD).  I am positive they took the money and immediately got a crew working on the repair. 

The metal arch we scratched.  Can't wait to see the new paint job next year.

Paying off the municipal moped cops.

Grandma feeding the turkeys near the noon service.

At the noon service one of the presidente's brother's Porsches was getting a new motor.  Unfortunately the Federales did not get the memo and once again we were delayed over an hour waiting for this car to show up at the speed stage (even though the speed stage timers and officials had already packed up and left).

A magical Mexican forest and prelude to the legendary Mil Cumbres.

We saw "Ernie" back on the road a few hours later.

Approaching downtown Morelia - love the architectural waterways.

I was absolutely shocked to come across this Norton with South Dakota plates! Wow!  Later Todd told me that a group of motorcycle guys from the States were following the race with a sag wagon.

The afternoon forest speed stages were beautiful!  Including Mil Cumbres.  Not too much road damage this year, just the typical evidence of old washouts, some gravel on the road, etc.  We saw one car off the road in Mil Cumbres - couldn't actually see the car, it was down a bit, the drivers were on the road so everyone looked okay. Might have been #377 Jorge Silva in a Mustang but we are not sure. Saw another couple of cars on the side of the road who had mishaps. Marc Devis said he mis-shifted in Mil Cumbres from 5th to 2nd, spun but luckily stayed on the road, but lost 2 minutes of time and had trouble getting the car to start afterwards.

We arrived in Morelia at a decent time (still daylight!) which was rare.  We had to do quite a bit of jockeying to find the truck parking lot about 6 blocks from our hotel, maiming a trailer tire and fender trim along the way on a sharp curb, but after all the damage we'd already done to the trailer and the $125 payoff to the cop, we were happiest just to arrive in a parking lot.

Thierry and Eric had a great day and LOVED Mil Cumbres.  Thierry said it was absolutely the BEST speed stage he'd ever run in his life, anywhere in the world (and he's been around).  He explained that the tight turns and the rhythm of the road made it amazing.  We were happy to see him so happy.

We heard from the Greenwoods, who were all the way across town in another hotel, and were glad to hear they finished.  They asked if we could bring them their duffle bags as they had not had a change of clothes in a few days.  Todd explained to them how far away we were and how hard it would be to get the truck out of parking.  He suggested they grab a cab and come over and they said, "That's okay!  We'll keep wearing our dirty clothes!"  They are such great and fun guys; they embody the "Spirit of La Carrera."

Later they told us that at dinner dressed in their race suits someone from the hotel overheard them saying that they were not wearing their suits to be macho, but rather because they had no clean clothes to wear.  The hotel guy graciously did their laundry for free that evening!

It has been a very difficult Carrera in that our team was split between several hotels each night, none of them being close enough to walk.  It made logistics very difficult, even simple things like the Greenwoods having access to their luggage each evening.  The hardest thing was having the cars strewn all over a city and trying to coordinate basic maintenance.

In 2008 we had 3 cars, 6 clients and 5 crew yet we were all at the same hotel each evening so the cars were always in the same parking lot and we could always find anyone from the team in the hotel.  This year was chaotic in comparison.

So tonight was rare as we got to the hotel at a decent hour, showered and had planned on a nice dinner in this beautiful old boutique hotel less than a block from the zocolo that reminded me of a monastery.  It was amazing how quiet and serene it was inside the solid stone walls of this hotel, while on the outside the chaos and noise and traffic continued unabated. 

We saw Thierry and Eric in the restaurant; they were cleaned up and headed to dinner with the Belgians.  Todd and I settled into a corner table in the beautiful courtyard.  I had been dreaming of shrimp with garlic for days, Mexican-style, and they had exactly what I wanted. Todd toasted to our 1 month anniversary, which technically was celebrated under a full moon on the dirty street outside the hotel in Puebla a few nights ago. 

When our food arrived I decided we needed a photo to capture the moment, so I hopped over to the next table and asked the guy there, "Would you mind taking a photo of us?  This is never going to happen again....and it's our honeymoon."  He laughed, not understanding that I meant a quiet, beautiful dinner was not likely to happen again during the Carrera, . 

But then I looked back at Todd, who was staring intently at the guy, and Todd said, "What's your name?"

He replied, "Ian Swan" and we broke out laughing.  Todd and Ian had spoken several times and emailed about La Carrera and had been trying to meet up since it started.  Ian and Val Swan, from Australia, and their German friends, Helmut and Donata, had come over to follow the Carrera.  But we had been unable to connect, what with being in different hotels and cell phones not always working.

After dinner Todd had a little more work to do on the BON so I joined the Swan's table and we downed some tequila and laughed for a couple of hours and the laughing almost completely erased all the damage we did to the trailer, the frustration of the long day with delays, and getting hosed by the cops.  :) 

Todd and Ian laughing and meeting in person for the first time.

Definitely a rare Carrera evening.