28 October 2011

2011 La Carrera Panamericana: The Big Finish

Blogging from my dad's office in Zacatecas.  It was a banner year.  El Jefe and Team TBZ finished 3rd overall in class Turismo Producion! 

The Greenwoods brothers finished 19th overall!  Congratulations to everyone!

El Jefe's triumphant arrival in Zacatecas!
The Gypsy Wind at the finish arch!

Geezer, Uriel y Eloisa celebrate.

Uriel got to ride in El Jefe through the arch and got his own medal!

Greenwood Bros capture 19th overall!
 Ben & John Greenwood.

My brother had to leave the race a day early so he is missing from the team photos above but he contributed greatly to the success of the team.  Sadly his mother-in-law passed away after a long battle with cancer while we were racing.  Rest in Peace, Marlene.

Marlene J. (Cihla) Voracek, RIP 

Geezer and Stewie on the podium in Morelia.

The Stewarts: Vance Jr. Kristin Sr. and Vance III.

26 October 2011

2011 La Carrera Panamericana: Day 6 Begins

We are in Guanajuato and preparing to begin the 6th day.  As usual we have very few official results.  The red squares denote results for that section; you can see there are many blanks.

25 October 2011

2011 La Carrera Panamericana: Day 5 - Mil Cumbres and Into Guanajuato

Today a Mini Cooper rolled and though we didn't hear details, the guys were okay and we saw the car in the parking lot and it is pretty munched.

Good luck on Day 5. I say good luck because the guys were okay. Any day this happens and you are okay is a great day.

We swept the course today and enjoyed a very relaxing (believe it or not!) morning sitting on the mountainside of Mil Cumbres waiting for the race cars to pass by. It is such a beautiful place, neither words nor photos can do it justice.

It was fun to see the Gypsy Wind and El Jefe roar by on the speed stage, as well as all of the others, some going so fast, and some struggling. Later when we swept the course we saw Michel Jordain who had gone off the road, as well as Eric Werner's Studebaker, and a few other cars. Luckily Eric was able to quickly get back on the road, but Jordain looked to be out for the day.

Michel Jordain off the road in Mil Cumbres on Day 5.

Eric Werner (copilot) Studebaker off the road in Mil Cumbres on Day 5. Check out the long skid marks.

2011 La Carrera Panamericana: Day 4 - A Rough Day

I'm way behind; the hotel we stayed at last night was such a historic palace in the centro of Morelia that it did not have internet.  My dad says Morelia is the most beautiful town square in all of Mexico and though he's seen more of Mexico than me, I have driven about 25,000 miles through capitol cities and villages and I agree!

There was a very bad crash today where a Mustang built by Mats Hammerland and driven by two Swedes was on the wrong side of a country road and drove head on into a local's car containing 3 people.  We don't know the whole story and have very few facts, but we did come upon the scene maybe an hour later and saw the carnage and I do not believe the reports that all 5 people involved are okay.  The front end of both cars, on the passenger side, was pushed to the windshield.  What a mess.  The car was newly built and painted to look just like the Gypsy Wind so we hoped no one thought it was our car with the Greenwoods in it.  This accident did not happen in a speed stage which points to it being 100% unnecessary. I am sorry for the locals who were involved and injured, it is a shame.

This is not our Mustang.  It was a Mats Hammalund built Mustang owned and driven by two Swedes.
Unfortunately this racer involved a civilian car with 3 people in it.

Today started out a little nerve-wracking. We caught up to the lineup for the first speed stage and we got a text message from John Greenwood saying the speed stage was cancelled and "something bad happened."

Very shortly after that we got a text from Rene saying, "Call me." Rene was driving the service truck that day and his message really concerned me but we did not have good enough cell service to call them back.

I started to walk up the long line of service trucks and locals, trying not to worry, but thinking a lot about Geezer and Stewie in the car and hoping that they were okay, as well as everyone else. The more I thought in those first few seconds, the more I worried so I started to run up to the start line, asking a few trucks along the way if they knew anything.

To my relief, I spotted El Jefe on the side of the road ahead. Whew! I ran up to them and learned they had broken the throttle cable on the engine compartment side. Geezer handed me the set screw and I ran back to the truck to get an allen wrench from Todd. Todd grabbed it and ran ahead to help Geezer fix El Jefe. I learned some new Spanish...."cinchos plasticos" which means zip ties. I ran to the service truck in front of El Jefe and borrowed two of them and Todd was able to fix the throttle cable.

Todd has a faux-hawk and he's a damned good mechanic/car-builder.

It takes a village sometimes.

Stewie and Geezer got going in a hurry and hoped they wouldn't be too late for the next stage. I walked with Geezer for a while to turn in his timecard and we ended up walking at least a quarter mile uphill. He was quiet and Stewie told me that he was a little bit upset about the car breaking but there was nothing they could do about it now and we were all happy it was something simple. Since the actual start line for the cancelled speed stage was so far up, I hopped on the front of the car to get a ride. Geezer turned in his timecard very close to the scene of the terrible Mustang crash. No one was talking about what happened - the carnage of the two vehicles said it all.

Fashion first - Kristin and John.

Our suite in the historic Morelia hotel, overlooking the zocolo - amazing!

I love the Greenwood bros - shhhh, don't tell anyone.

23 October 2011

2011 La Carrera Panamericana: Day 3 Success and Another Podium for TBZ

Creepy beyond words.  Even the locals stopped in their tracks.  And the baby was fake.
Carina, Rudi and little Sami arrive for our annual visit!

Day 3 was long and grueling but great.  Both El Jefe and the Gypsy Wind had great morning and afternoon speed stages and survived when others went off the road.  The laps at the Autodromo de Queretaro was cancelled - we don't know why.  El Jefe came in 3rd place in class again!  The Greenwoods are suppsedly 37th overall.  Results can be seen at http://lacarrerapanamericana.com.mx/resultados.

Today was a very long day of transits for both the race cars and the service vehicles, about 350 miles in all.  My morning started out with a giant smile as there were two Dr. Simi's dancing around at the starting arch!  I love Dr. Simi and two of them at once is over the top!  There were quite a few stragglers at the arch long past the time they should have left, including Johnny Tipler in a Porsche 914, who to my delight, I saw the first time on this trip.  Johnny is a fantastic character and I hope he does well!  He mentioned some confusion with the morning's direction and I replied, "Always an adventure" and wished him luck.  One of Mats' Falcons was struggling as his team worked on it when we left.

Two Dr. Simis - twice the FUN!

Johnny Tipler in his Porsche 314.

Go Johnny!
A Mats Falcon that missed the start.

We saw Gerie and Fernando pass us just before noon service - we were happy to see them on the road again, though they seemed to be behind.  Later at the zocolo Fernando told me that they ran the morning speed stages but missed the afternoon.

During one of the morning mountain stages outside of Pachuca, we learned from Mockett that the Otten Mustang went off and was on its side.  No injuries reported for the husband and wife team who seem to be having trouble on this trip with the car.  We talked to Jochen Mass at a Pemex who said the morning was good but slippery, but not as bad as last year as the long speed stage was eliminated.

Todd gets the scoop from Mockett - the first car in after the morning speed stage.

Jochen Mass's Fastback.

The Greenwoods arrive.

Undercover rock stars - don't ask; I won't tell you who they really are.  It's hard to figure out when their hair is so short.

Chip Fudge.

Smashed up cars.

We got to the hotel in Queretaro in time to get good parking spots and grab a taxi to the centro, where the finishing arch is.  Just as I stepped out of the taxi, El Jefe arrived.  It was great to hang out with my dad, Stewie, Rene, Tonio and Bimbo and sign autographs on our postcards.  Todd went to check on the Gypsy Wind and congratulate the Greenwoods on another successful finish.

Ralph is famous.

Anders, Geezer and Julio.
Jake and Todd.

Always on the prowl.

Rene highlights his hair now.

Family picture.



Carina shows Sami how the big boys do it.

We heard of some other crashes that were not so good though we didn't hear of any injuries.  The Otten husband and wife team went off in one of the afternoon stages and the roof of the passenger side was completely crushed.  From looking at the carnage of the car, it appears that Ute Otten is very lucky to have not been injured.  The car is severly damaged and the FIA rollcage clearly failed, running itself through the roof and the floor of the car without providing any protection to her.  Very scary.

Albert Otten stands outside his munched Mustang.

The base of the FIA rollcage as it punched through the floor.
In the upper left corner you can see where the rollcage punched through the hood. Not much protection for your noggin.

Albert inspects the damaged roof from the inside.
Ralf Christensen also went off, dampening his chances for a podium, but they were not hurt either.  Mexico's Fastest Taxi also went off in the last speed stage and I talked to one of their crew members, Christine, who was waiting for them to be towed off the hill.  I told her not to wait, as the LCP was not likely sending any tow trucks and sunset was coming soon and she needed to engage someone locally to get them off the hill.  Truth be told, though the LCP will tell you that a tow truck is coming, but in the end you are on your own.

We had a great time in the zocolo.  I got to meet Rene Ortega in person the first time, of RANACHILANGA PHOTOGRAPHY fame.  Check him out on facebook or http://www.ranachilanga.tk/.  He follows the race each year and takes killer photos.  Also bumped into Jorge Arellano Vital, another Queretaro friend who writes a super blog called Wheeled and Rolling and takes some fabulous photos.

Later in the evening my local friends Rudi and Carina arrived with their 14 month old handsome son, Sami.  Rudi is an old coworker turned dear friend and we meet each year in Queretaro when the Carrera rolls through.  It is the highlight of my trip every year.  Sami is extra cute and we all had dinner together at the Crown Plaza - Todd and I, Rudi, Carina, Sami and Brian and Dave.  Sami had a toy car made of balloons and though he is very young, you could see in his blood that he knew he was among La Carrera race car drivers tonight!