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.

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