Sunday, November 25, 2007

Not the optimal line through the corner....

Many thanks to and for these pictures:

Friday, November 2, 2007

Day 7, Where it all went right

And this is part of what makes the La Carrera so special. We got back to the hotel after the accident with our tale of woe, and met some guys we'd been talking to the night before. We told them what had happened and they turned around and offered us a flight out on their private plane the following morning, They all lived around Orange county and had come down to watch their friends run the race. We'd never met them before the previous evening, but here they were offering us a really easy way out of Mexico.

No bumping over 500 miles in a service truck, just a short drive to Zacatecas Airport and we were on our way home.

Huge thanks to everyone who helped us that evening with spare clothes and an shoulder to cry on, special thanks to Hank, Hook and friends for the lift.

Day 6, Where it all went Wrong.

Day 6 is supposed to be an easy day, we only have a short run to the next city of Zacetecas, and there are only 4 speed sections in the day. Two of them are out and back over La Bufa, another notorious road on the La Carrera, and it was here the Chevy met it's end, and the Driver and Co-driver really counted their blessings.

I don't know whether the dizzying heights of 3rd in class got to our heads or what, but coming down the far side of La Bufa we entered a left hander with just too much speed. The Chevy back end came loose and we slid round the corner. We were almost all the way round it when the back end caught a concrete post at the edge of the road, kicking the car straight and off the edge of the hill. It was 50-60 ft down with a dirt slope. no trees were there to save us this time. I grabbed my straps with my hands to stop my arms flailing about and closed my eyes, this was not going to be a fun ride. We landed sideway to the hill and started to roll. I think we probably went over 5 or 6 times, finishing up a long way off the road. The car came down with a final crash on the wheels. Both Mike and I staggered out of the wreckage and collapsed. It took a couple of minutes to realize that my face was wet and stinging. Another couple of minutes to find a bottle of water and pour it over my face. It turns out that 4 minutes of battery acid on your face is not a recommended defoliant technique. I'm sure I'll get my good looks back in a week or two. In the mean time I'm going to be a bit mottled.

The road we came off is in the background of this picture....

Driver and Co-driver kidding themselves....

Shot from the road where we went off....

Day 5, back through Mil Cumbres

And we were off again, this time the car seemed to have got over it's idle problem and as running well. Mil Cumbres is usually at it's worst on this day, we run it in the morning into the sun, making it difficult to see, and the mist overnight can be bad enough to leave slippery puddles hiding in the shadows.

None of these proved any problem for Mike and the '52 chevy. This time the car ran well for the entire stage with Mike pulling off a pass! it doesn't get more heroic than doing that round the inside of a corner when the wheels can be 2 feet away from the car you are passing, but the body roll is enough that the top is resting on the other car.

The sway bar mount broke again half way through the day, making the car roll even more. No problem, we'll run the rest of the day with more lean than a VW bus and weld it up for the next day again. The car seems to drink oil too. every kind of oil. Heres Mike filling up the diff for another day.

We ran strongly all day and were really happy to make the podium at the end of it. I had hoped that when I came down I would be part of the overall winning team. I'm not sure that standing on the top step of the podium in the fastest class would have felt as good as getting that third in class with that car. What an achievement.

Day 4

It felt good to be back in the race, and right before the best roads, we were driving Mil Cumbres, 1000 corners. We had a stage before that where I could get used to to Mike and the new car. Turns out that things were a little more sedate than the Studebaker with Bill. I started calling corners only to wind up 3 corners ahead of Mike before we got to the first corner.

The car was not fast, but Mike did everything he could with it. There were some corners where with the body roll I thought I could lean out the window and touch the road.

We got to Mil Cumbres with some sort of rhythm sorted out between the Driver and Co-driver. Unfortunately that rhythm didn't seem to involve the car, which really didn't like to idle at the high altitude. It stalled many times at we waited for out chance to run, In one case flooding just as the green flag dropped on us.

There were also a couple of clues that Mike was not taking the event as seriously as Bill,During the Mil Cumbres sections, on a notoriously difficult road, I could hear Mike laughing from the drivers seat. It was all I could to to keep from laughing as well and continue with calling the corners.

Later in the same stage we lost about a minute as the jerry rigged wire for the fuel pump became disconnected and we coasted to a halt wondering what was wrong. Despite all those problems, Mike drove well considering our equipment and we finished in the top half of the day. We were well pleased.

In the evening, Mike sorted out the flooding idle by adjusting the jetting of the carb, and welded up the front sway bar that had broken its bracket during the stage.

Days 2 and 3

For the next couple of days, Bill, Tony and I trailed along behind the race with the car on the trailer. It was a hell of a lot more relaxing than racing, we were waiting the in the Zocolo drinking beers as the cars rolled in with tired and hungry racers. I put the word out that I was looking for a ride, and heard that a guy, Mike Anderson, needed one because his co-driver had flown home. I think the Co-driver was just in over his head.

I met Mike, and got assurances that he was going to behave himself and listen to the co-driver. I checked out the car for safety equipment and agreed to co drive for him. I was back in the race, starting again on the fourth day. Mike had bought the car from a junk yard for $350. He had less than $5000 into it, making it by far the cheapest car there. He also had the most original paint job...

Day 1 Continued

I scrambled out of the window of the car. A crucial part of this race is letting other people know where you are when you have an accident and that you are ok. All cars are given a sheet with OK on one side and SOS on the other. I stood on the side of the road for five or six cars holding the OK sign for other cars to see. Bill was still in the car holding the brake to try and stop the car from sliding further down the hill. I went back down to the car and started wedging rock under the wheels of the car so that Bill could get out. It didn’t do any good, because 20 minutes later the dirt hillside gave way and the car slipped 20 feet further down into a tree.

We had no cell phone coverage so we had to wait on the side of the road for almost 2 hours for all the race cars to go by and one of the race organizer cars to come by and pick me up. Bill stayed with the car as the official race was supposed have recovery vehicles of get the car back onto the road. The stage seemed to have been bad for many people. I passed four more wrecks on the way down, and I found that a car had crashed earlier in the stage also. One person had minor injuries.

I eventually got a lift all the way into the next town to hook up with Tony, who I’d been texting on the way down. We believed that there should be 2 tow trucks on the way to Bill, but because of the distance and the number of cars out on the stage, they would just pull him back on the road. We set off back to Bill with the trailer so we could load the car up and come back to town.

About 7:30PM, just as the sun way going down, we were about ½ way to Bill and I got a call from Bill from a landline he had found. No tow truck had come to him yet, he said he was going to leave it till the following morning, so we carried on to pick him up. About 20 minutes later we passed a massive tow truck and managed to persuade the driver and a Federal Policeman to come with us to rescue Bill. At that time we thought we were the cavalry on the way to rescue Bill. Tony said that he didn’t know how we could make things worse. Famous last words.

About 3 hours later we were go to Bill with the policeman and the tow truck only to find Bill had managed to find another one. The Federale decided that the tow truck that was there already was operating without a permit and it was going to cost us 3,000 USD to put it right. It took over an hour of haggling and some good friends with a Mexican film crew who spoke some English to sort that problem out. Further insult to injury, while Bill went off to call on the landline, Thieves had come along and stripped the car of 2 wheels, the tools, the jack, Bills helmet and HANS device and some other stuff. Unbelievable.

After all that we had the car on the trailer by 1AM, and we were back to the hotel in town by 4AM, 16 hours after the crash. And that is a bad day. Pretty much the worst day you can have racing apart from the one where you get hurt.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A typical day in the La Carrera.

Yesterday was our first day of proper racing. Despite telling the organizers about their Qualifying screwup, we couldn’t change our start time from 12th position, The race is disorganized enough without trying to make changes at the last minute.

Basically the rules are set up so that you have to go through a checkpoint about 300 yards from the start of the speed section in order, but after that checkpoint, cars can switch order for the running of the speed stage. We knew that we were going to be faster than the cars in front so in that 300 yards we tried to juggle position so that we would be not stuck in traffic. The guys directly in front of us let us move up for the first stage, but the next cars, didn’t want to.

The first stage just went to show how wrong the qualifying time was. In the first 21km stage we passed two cars in front of us, starting 30 seconds and a minute before. We weren’t just quick, we were flying.

Again, because of the rules we had to let the cars that we passed in stage back past us for the Z control. The car 2 places in front showed up and went through the check point, but the car directly in front (a ford falcon) did not. We found out later that the car had slid off first stage. They were able to rejoin the race again the next day.

The second speed section was shorter, only 9 kms, but we again caught the Yellow Volvo of Karl Scheible, who came 3nd in the race last year. The signs were good that we were by far the fastest car out there.

The first Stage after lunch Karl let us by before the run, and again we caught and passed 2 cars in 15kms. All of these cars were fast, so it just went to show how fast we were going. For the start of the forth stage I had persuaded 3 more cars to let us past before the run, that meant that we were running around 4th in the pack. The fourth stage was also very long, and around the 8 kms mark we caught and passed a car that was running the race in fourth. To emphasis that, we were going fast enough that that we were 30 seconds faster than the 4th place car for roughly every 8 kms we ran. The car and Driver were more than quick enough to win this event.

That’s when everything went wrong. In a downhill section with a complex of 4 quick corners, I called the left 3 at the end too late. This was totally my fault, in that as soon as I said it I knew that I hadn’t given Bill the time he needed in a downhill fast section to brake for the corner properly. Bill tried to slow the car down and make the corner, but the back right of the car slid out and hit an earth bank on the right, kicking the car straight. We were on loose rocks, and there was no way that we could slow the car in time. The car bounced up onto an earth berm and down over the edge of the hill. We came to rest with the nose about 10 feet down, and the tail of the car still showing above the edge of the berm.

That will do for now, but this is only the beginning of a shit day. I’ll write more later.

Simply put, The first day was about the worst possible day you can have racing apart from the day where you get hurt. We are fine, but on top of the crash, parts got stolen off the car while it was crashed, A federale wanted about 3000 USD to make a tow truck permit problem go away, and it took 13 hours alone to get the car out of the place it finished up, and a further 3.5 hours to get to the hotel from there. we went to bed about 4am. I'll write the story in more detail later, suffice to say the team's a bit irritated.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Race Over

(Amy posting for Steve again)

Car 108 has retired.
Steve and Bill are both just fine, no injuries, but are very disappointed.

More info to come when Steve can find internet again....