23 October 2010

2010 LCP: End of Day 2

Brief update......the Bag O'Nails and the Falcon have arrived safely in Puebla.  We have not heard from the Greenwood brothers or Geezer so no status on them.  Pretty difficult to provide support when you don't hear from your cars - we have to assume they are in the bar having a good time.

Day 1 was monumentally brutal, but of course, it is La Carrera and we love it.  Todd and I swept the course from the very back, way back, and counted 27 cars off the road, either with mechanical troubles, on trailers, or crashed.  It was a 15 hour day sweeping from the very back - very long and tedious.  We keep exact track of who we see crashed or on the side of the road, with the car number, type and color, km marker and time.  We've found this can be very helpful with the lack of cell coverage when crews are trying to find their disabled vehicles.  We stop if traffic allows to see if people need help.  Most times they just need water.

The worst crash we saw was Brad Kaplan and Derek Dwyer in the yellow Original PanAm Lincoln.  Derek, who was driving, was being taken to the hospital by ambulance right when we arrived in the stopped traffic.  He has a broken leg but otherwise he is okay and Brad said he was flying home today.  It was a downhill speed stage and a photographer who came upon the scene told me that they bounced off the right hand wall, spun, crossed over the two lanes, hit a rock and rolled.  This is all second hand information as the person who told me didn't have perfect English. 

Once traffic was allowed to move past the scene, my heart jumped to see Brad standing there in the car (now a convertible) on the cell phone with some dried blood on his face.  Todd pulled over and I jumped out to check on Brad.  He had cell service plus a sat phone so he was able to notify his crew.  I helped him find his second cell phone in the carnage of the mangled car since it was ringing off the hook.  Brad said, "We weren't even going that fast."  The rescue crew had to cut the top off the Lincoln to get to Derek and Brad, positive as always, said, "We made a convertible!"

Just yesterday, Day 0, when most of the cars were on the track, I chatted with Brad and Derek while they sat in their car trying on their new helmets and Hans devices.  Brad showed Derek how to put them on and when Derek commented about how uncomfortable they are Brad said, "Yep, they're uncomfortable and we're going to wear them."  He also showed me the Spot GPS he rented for $50 for a month.....great idea and I think I will do that next year for our team. 

In the afternoon on Day 1 we were very suprised to see the Bag O'Nails on the side of the road, obviously way behind where they should have been after placing 13th or 14th on Day 0.  The air cleaner stud mysteriously got broken off the carbeurator.  Brian had stopped to help and duct taped the assembly together and once we got there Todd quickly sent them on their way.  They had already missed one speed stage and ended up missing 2 more trying to catch up in the mountainous roads jammed with traffic, and with the unreliable LCP timing they were also given the maximum time on the remaining two speed stages even though they ran them well.  Bummer.

We slugged through the last couple of hundred mountainous miles trailing double semis carrying petrol......flashbacks from two years ago....and were pretty stoked when it looked like we were going to arrive at Hotel Victoria around 8pm.  But then, 4km from the hotel, we hit a traffic jam and quickly learned that 3 days ago the bus drivers went on strike, hijacked buses and parked them across the city blocking traffic. 

It was dark and there were a handful of other support vehicles stuck too and no one knew where to go or what to do.  The streets aren't on a grid and with large trucks and trailers you cannot just try a side street for fear of getting stuck.  But sometimes you have to.  So we followed some other traffic to another artery and sure enough, that was plugged with a sideways bus too.  We were graced with having a very large driveway off the street near us and Todd was able to back into it with the help of nearby cars moving and lots of people guiding him.  The GPS Mexico cars is worthless so far in southern Mexico - lots of times it thinks we are in Texas.  Huh.  So an hour an a half later, after hiring a taxi to get us the last 4km, we made it to the hotel about 930pm.

It was a cluster trying to find parking at the Victoria with its narrow and steep alley-like street....but it always is so I don't know why we get frustrated.  :)

The Greenwood Brothers seemed to be having a great time in the Gypsy Wind and smiling their asses off after Day 1.
We got to work on the BON right away, I got ice and cooked some wicked burritos on the back of the trailer with my car camping stove. 

The drivers' meeting in downtown Oaxaca was to start at 8pm but I heard it had not started as of 10:40pm and many people left.

We worked late, caught up with some friends, traded horror stories from the day and I was very grateful when Brad responded to my text message by calling to tell me Derek was okay.  I had been worried and thinking about them all day.  We got to bed about 2am and started again at 6am, which should feel normal by now.

Lots of carnage, way too much on Day 1.  I guess no amount of warnings will ever help with that.  So add roughly 30 cars with trouble on Day 1 to the 7 who had trouble on Day 0......though some of those cars got back on the road today....and you are still left with carnage. 

Today's route was Oaxaca to Puebla and we saw about 12 cars disabled.  We saw one staff car who crashed maybe 10 feet down a cliff in a downhill speed section.  In my opinion the LCP staff cars are the fastest and most dangerous drivers out there once the speed stage opens to public traffic.  I hope no one got hurt but without rollcages and safety equipment, it worries me.

We also saw a small commuter car on its side during a transit and hope it had nothing to do with the race cars, crew vehicles or spectators.  Looked like the passengers were all okay.

Regarding all the cars that had mishaps, it seems that a lot of the hot shoes are already likely out of the running to win, either overall or their classes.  Miss a couple of speed stages, or even one, and it's difficult or impossible to win.  Mockett had differential problems from the very first speed stage on Day 1 so he missed most of it, Bill Beilharz had rear end problems as well, we saw Ralf Christiansen on the side of the road (I think yesterday - it is all blurring together already), and several other fast guys.

The vibe this year is different; it is VERY big, lots of professional racers, it feels more disorganized than normal, and now after Day 2, with such a high atrition rate, it seems more dangerous.

I am at that point where I say, "I can't believe it is ONLY the end of Day 2" and yet I know I will blink and this race will be over.  Funny, but that is one constant element for me during the race, the one thing that doesn't seem to ever change.

Looks like I have decent internet in the new Holiday Inn here in Puebla so I will try to post more stories and photos later tonight.

!Viva Mexico!

Eric at the 9am service, going over his navigator's notes for the next speed stage outside of Oaxaca.

I don't know why these are coming in sideways.....

Thierry and Eric get ready to roll.

Race faces.

The Lawrences and the Falcon at the noon service.

John Greenwood with some darling locals.

Brothers Ben & John in the Gypsy Wind, trying to figure out where the bar is.....

One of Mats' fleet of Falcons.

A Mercedes Gullwing - one of two racing and supposedly there are only 300 of these left in existence.

The Opal navigator, Maximillian from Germany.

Javier - love this guy - he is an LCP official who sweeps the course and helps everyone.  He saved my rear end several times during the race in 2006, once giving El Jefe a jump when my brother and I were stranded on the highway outside of Mexico City, and once when he handed me a cold beer at the end of a long race day in Queretaro!

I was so ready to take this little girl home.  I don't want to take them all home but this one had my heart.

The rolled commuter car in a transit section - not sure what happened here.

A memorial stop at the place where Stewie did a 180 in El Jefe in 2007 and landed us ass-end on the edge of this cliff. 

And I found another friend at the memorial.

Coming into Puebla, this is the volcano, Pico de Orizaba.  Wow!


annick said...

Once again many thanks for the news
Annick de Latre

mjb said...

Wow! That memorial shot really brings home the story you told me. (Give me shivers everytime I think about it! Now, I've got a pic to go with it! Yikes! =) Thanks so much for all the news! Fabulous folks, amazing road rally race! Finding the rhythm of the road in Mil Cumbres up next! It's a beauty of a place! Best of luck to you guys!

Anonymous said...

God Bless you all and keep you safe.
Your blog is wonderful for all of us not able to be there. Some day I am going to be at the end...I do not think I will do the whole race... Love to you all.L