The VRS crew has left no stone unturned, the cars are ready and tested, spares stocked and our two big 5th-wheel trailers head south October 14th, with Diego Ribadeneira Sr. and Jr.’s 356 Porsche aboard to level the load. CDL masters Art Gosselin and Don Snow arrive in Tuxtla Monday evening October 20th. Brian Tim, Traci, Kathy and I depart Tuesday A.M. from Kennedy airport only to find our 2-½ hour Mexico City connection window marginally adequate . . .Wow! We make the connection with almost 5 minutes to spare. Mexicana’s fine Fokker 100 whistles us to Tuxtla Gutierrez, our starting city, in a bit over an hour. Job done! Alajuela! Tech, testing, tuning and getting set up for Friday’s start consumes Wednesday and Thursday with ease. Time for a bit of Tuxtla Gutierrez sightseeing before Thursday’s afternoon qualification session, Bill Shanahan and Murray Smith qualify well in the Pepsi Ford Falcon, as do Dave Gussack and Nat Mundy. Diego 1 and Diego 2 Ribadeneira push their Porsche around powerfully and find themselves relaxed ready for Friday’s start.
It’s a bit damp as the rally flags off Friday morning. Tim Ritchie, Kathy and I are in our 5th wheel rig following Brian, Traci, our Swedish friends Sven and Gund and Julio in the other rig. We run many kilos up he road to the mid day service. After a short wait Bill and Murray are in, all is well but the Falcon is running hotter than we would like. Moments later Richard Clark and Andy Prill hop out of their Porsche to tell us David had an accident in the second speed stage on a dicey then suddenly wet corner. Brian, Sven and Company continue on while we head back.
It’s not long before we pass our Volvo on a trailer heading north. Dave and navigator Nat are fine but the cars whacked at both ends. We know it will be a long day, as we transfer the Volvo and head north making as much speed as we can with a 55’ long rig over hundreds of kilometers of twisty mountain roads. After a spell searching for diesel in the mountains, it’s about 8:30 when we reach Oaxaca and park.
Brian and Sven are just finishing the Falcon’s service, as we unload setup and go to work. 3:00A.M. comes all too soon. The body is now passable, a new front sub frame fitted, a bent rear axle changed, the suspension aligned and the entire standard service complete. A road test, a couple of hours of sleep, (Tim simply in the trailer) then both cars are off to Mexico City on schedule at 8:00 A.M.
Saturday night, Mexico City: our charges are running well with drivers and navigators performing in unison. Both cars are competitive winning medals for their respective classes in several stages. There is jetting and all the usual service to be done but midnight sees all under control.
We follow the cars out Sunday leaving Mexico City, with truck and trailer . . . this is never easy . . . The trick: hire a taxi and follow him. I jump in, we’re off, and at the city line I am back aboard our truck and headed to Queretaro. Moments later a motorcycle with an officer aboard signals us to the side of the road. We comply, fearing a “Mexican system” shake down: we are supposed to stay in the service lanes on the right that are separated buy a small median! Signs??? Maybe . . . but not visible to us or mentioned in the Carrera service vehicle route book. Ah well, we negotiate, pay the big bucks . . . no ticket written curiously enough, but our legally empowered pal is happy and we are on our way in about half an hour.We transverse the right lanes as instructed. 7 kilometers later we pull up to a traffic light. A commandant badged officer asks us to roll down our window, shakes Tim’s hand, asks to see his license, pockets it then advises us to pull over??? This time the offenses are two-fold. Now we should be in the center lanes… not off on the service road side; in short, the reverse of our last incident. Further, we are occupying 2 lanes per our commandant! We were, we had to go around a broken down bus on the right as we approached the intersection. This scam is “muy grande”. This guy wants much more and we wonder if the other guy has called him??? We get our pal Julio on the phone with him, Julio tries, but advises us that if we can wait hours, he’ll likely give up… We can’t wait!! We negotiate and pay way too much to get back on the road with another precious hour wasted.
Sunday night, Queretaro: A few Volvo tweaks with a late night engine change for the Falcon. It is running well, but hot. We have a spare, and better safe then sorry. Sadly, Diego and son Diego’s race is run. Engine morte and no spare so we load this 356 for the ride to CT.It is 4:00am by the time Brian, Sven, Gund, Tracy and Julio get to bed.
It’s 6:30am when we head out, to be ahead of the rally at first service. Tim, Kathy and I wait, following the rally in case problems arise and one of our cars breaks. We are pleased when Brian calls from the mid-day service; both cars running well, though he had to repair the Volvo trans seal and the Falcon is still a bit warmer then we would like. Incredible mountain roads climbing into the clouds mark this day and challenge drivers, navigators and support crews. Snaking through over 100+ kilometers of this stuff is both exciting and demanding for sure.
Monday night finds us all in a beautiful San Luis Potosi. This night only reasonable lists of relatively standard stuff to attend to. Bill and David are doing a good job, running near the front and staying on the tarmac… shiny side up! We wish we could say the same for all as the crashes mount with quite a few entrants’ vehicles on trailers looking bent and mangled. The good news; everyone escaped without serious injury. We understand one Mustang driver has broken a leg, La Carrera is a challenge that each driver takes as they want but a tad less speed tends to preclude this sort of experience. Suffice it to say that those running hard and up front tend to be more incident prone than the “tour and enjoy” minded sorts. Having some good road fun and soaking up the scenery and ambience has its reward. Our guys are pushing the machinery and themselves… each day is truly exciting.On to Aguascalientes and all’s well though one speed section found a wire unhooked that lost Nat and Dave a few precious minutes. Eagle eye Nat found and fixed… getting them underway far faster then waiting for us could have . . . Well done Senior Co-Piloto!
Next up Zacatecas with both cars tuned in and going well. A major once over finds cracks in all of David’s Volvo alloy wheels. This race is hard on things, though this is clearly a quality issue with the product. No more GB wheels we switch to our Panasports wheels that have a few Carreras under their belt. We know they can and will take it. Finishing all our service work on both cars by 9:00 A.M., we get some sleep to be ready for Thursday’s finale.The last day is a long one. Both rigs head out early to be in place for at mid-day service. We must adjust mixture on both cars as we drop from 8,000-2,000 feet with more oxygen rich, thicker air. Around noon both cars are in and running well, they are re-jetted and off for the final leg to Nuevo Laredo.
FINITO at Nuevo Laredo just around 4:00 P.M. The tech people want to check both engines to be sure rules hav been followed. By 7:00pm it is all done, we are legal and all is fit. Bill and Murray have managed an impressive 7th overall and 2nd in class. Dave and Nat a 24th O.A and 4th in class, despite the crash and electrical malfunction.
Nicely done! We are pleased to have been a part of their success and thankful for the camaraderie. The team approach we have enjoyed over these 7 hard and challenging days has been invigorating.Viva La Carrera!