Saturday, March 31, 2007

La Carrera Panamericana Get-Together

On May 5th there will be a "Carrera Corral" at Infineon (Sears Point) where those wishing to make a run for the border can polish up before the big race not to mention shake down their cars if they wish. I will be on hand to help should anyone want instruction or help finding the best line or want some tips.

Gerie Bledso wrote;

Hello, Carreraista!

As you may know, we have scheduled the second annual "Carrera Corral" at Infineon (Sears Point) for May 5. Like last year, it is being scheduled as part of a NASA racing and HPDE (High Performance Driving Event) weekend.

The Corral is a good way to bring Carrera people in the Bay area (and others who might be interested) together to learn more about the race, improve their driving technique, and swap some Carrera stories.

I have been informed by NASA that the slots in HDE are filling up rapidly. So, if you intend to get out onto the track you need to sign up--now. (They also have a Time Trials event, which requires the purchase of a transponder.)

It costs $159 for one day and $279 for two days -- to drive your own car on the track for four sessions each day. You also have to join NASA (National Auto Sports Association) and have your car inspected.

Go to for more information and to register.

If you sign up for Group 1, you will be give a volunteer instructor--like me (?!)--who will help you learn the track and good car control. Speeds start slow and pick up over the day. Passing is limited.

In Group 2, you are on the track with Group 1, but you do NOT have an instructor. Passing is limited.

Group 3 runs alone. You must have sufficient experience to participate in this group, since passing rules are much more liberal, and you have no instructor.

Group 4 also runs alone. This group tends to be skilled and fast. It also includes folks who are qualifying for their racing license. You need lots of wheel to wheel experience to run with this group. Unlimited passing.

HPDE is really not about speed. It is about learning "the line" around the track, excellent car control, and having fun. Racing or being reckless is not tolerated.

Passengers may ride in most groups by signing a waiver and paying a $5 fee.

Just about any car will do. You can even rent a car from Hertz to bring to the track.

The Carrera Corral will occupy a corner in the paddock. Look for the big banner. We'll be there at 7:00 AM on Saturday setting up. The HPDE drivers and instructors must be there at 7:30.

We are also planning a Carrera Orientation session with an optional dinner on Friday evening, if enough folks sign up. Details are being worked out.

If you are coming up to Sonoma for the NASA event and want to spend the night, you may call in Marin Inn (in Novoto) for a room. The offer a discount for NASA.

Please let me know if you are interested in the Corral, HPDE, Carrera Orientation -- or all of the above.

But if you want to get out onto the track with NASA HPDE, please do not wait to sign up.



650-867-9488 (cell)

Thursday, March 29, 2007


I have been following a new on-line magazine called THE SPORTING LIFE and it's one I really enjoy. It has a fresh new look into what many of us consider good old fashion values. The articles are fun, entertaining and well suited for ladies and gentleman alike. Check it out. Hey, and guess who they have an interview with? I knew I was going to like this magazine. LOL.

California's Best hopes they all come home safely

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Alfred Hitchcock has nothing on us...

Racing in Mexico is nothing short of an adventure, one that any race driver get's excited just thinking about let alone actually doing it. It seems there are far more obstacles there than almost anywhere else in the world. They have obstacles coming from the road, the side of the road, the middle of the road, hell even under the road, off-road and yes even from the air.

Remember back when I mentioned something about buzzards going thru windshields? Well, I wasn't kidding. It has happened on more than one occasion during the La Carrera Panamericana and keep in mind, you would have to be going like hell to connect with one of these big boys. If you have never had the privilege of seeing how big a vulture up close trust me, they are huge. In fact if Alfred Hitchcock were alive today he would be jealous as the thought of a Mexican vulture crashing thru a windshield of a high performance race car would send chills up even the bravest of the brave.

Back in 1952 The Carrera Panamericana soon lived up to its burgeoning reputation as a car-breaker, something the teams’ preparatory outings had also indicated. Nobody was more keenly aware of this than Kling and Klenk, who felt the full force of the rally’s destructive potential during the opening stage. Kling, thundering towards a long right-hand bend at 200 kilometres per hour, spotted the vultures lurking by the side of the road too late. One of them promptly took off, smacking into the windscreen of the 300 SL on its ascent. Co-driver Hans Klenk sustained an impact to the face and was briefly knocked unconscious. However, he reacted like a true professional: this was no time for peaceful convalescence – there was a race to be won. Klenk’s first words on coming to confirmed as much: ”Let’s get going, Karl!” And Karl Kling duly put his foot back down. Some 70 kilometres down the road, Klenk then used the opportunity presented by a tyre change to wash down his face, willing helpers picked the fragments of glass and bird from the car, and without further ado the pair were back on the road and heading for the stage finish in Oaxaca.

After completing the stage, Hans Klenk was given a quick once-over, passed fit and sent on his way with an encouraging ”vaya con Dios” [God be with you]. Clearly some form of protection was required in the event of a similar impact, and to this end, Kling and Klenk bolted eight vertical steel bars over the new windscreen. They also discussed the species and size of the dead bird, agreeing that it was a bird with a 115-centimetre wingspan and weighing as much as five fattened geese. If anything, the incident seemed to spur on Kling and Klenk, and with passing years it turned the victory and the Carrera Panamericana itself into the stuff of legend.

A driver can't help being concerned with the knowledge there are vultures already waiting along the path of this race!!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

How in the hell do I stop this thing?

As race car drivers we spend most of our time trying to find ways to go faster but as any great driver will tell you, "If you want to go fast, first you have to learn to go slow." I know it sounds crazy but it's a fact and if you want to be fast you have to learn how to go in at the correct speed and many times that begins with setting up at slower speeds so you can accelerate out faster than you came in.

Having talked to many drivers who have driven the La Carrera Panamericana the three most important things they talk about the most are brakes, brakes and brakes. Phil Hill told me, "If you think you have enough brake, get twice that much and still you will need to prepare by saying your prayers."

This car we are building will without any doubts be a very fast car with the ability to turn on a dime. Now it's time to make it stop on one as well. Unlike most racetracks, there is no safe run-off area or sand traps while racing on the La Carrera Panamericana. There are however plenty of cliffs, narrow roads with few or no guard rails, and just about every reason in the world why this is not a safe place to run a race. Needless to say brakes are now the key issue.

The major problem with getting great brakes is the fact that the rules require us to use 15 X 7 inch wheels. Anyone who races can tell you that with a 17 inch wheel you can install calipers large enough to stop the space shuttle from taking off however finding the ultimate brake setup for 15 inch rims is another story and took lots of research. After speaking with all the major players in the brake world some of which were actually the engineers whom design and build their brakes I finally found what I was looking for with CNC. They are setting us up with an awesome brake caliper set up that works so well that if I hit the brakes hard enough a spatula comes out, removes my navigator from the inside of the windshield and places him back in the seat.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Call me superstitious

Or even false belief, fear, apprehensive, credulous or afraid, I don't care. For years race car drivers have been superstitious. Show me a driver that says he isn't superstitious and I'll show you someone who doesn't really race cars. It can range from all sorts of little idiosyncrasies such as the order in which a driver gets dressed, the gloves he wears, not stepping on a crack or God knows what but we all have them. A few weeks ago my partner in crime and navigator called me to tell me he had just returned from dinner with his beautiful wife. I asked how dinner was but he all he wanted to tell me about was his fortune cookie. Afterwards he emailed me a photo of it I could only smile as I said to myself, "Yep, omens are a good thing."

There is an old saying that says, "A picture is worth a thousand words." In this case I couldn't agree more and this one says volumes.

Plant it here

For some, a place to hang your hat would be enough but for me, a place to put my butt seems more fulfilling and that's just what I found today. The seats arrived and we tried out a fitting. They sure made me feel at ease.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

We'll take two tacos and a diet Coke Por Favor...

Today I was at Maier's Racing and had Bill build me an extra light rear trunk lid to match the hood. I also ordered a new Flaming River steering gear box which is extra fast and an original Shelby "quick steer" pitman arm and idler arm also for a faster handling suspension system.

While all this was going on Jon is taking care of ordering our new navigation/intercom system which will not only allow us to talk to each other but in fact stay in contact with our crew as well as have the capabilities to make phone calls. Ya never know, we may need to order up a few cold ones along the way. I wonder if they have drive thru taco joints down there? Can you imagine the look of their eyes when some race car come screaming up to the take-out window!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Best car chase scene of all time

Anyone who is an aficionado of automobile chase scenes will tell you this is one of the all time greats. But then again we all knew that the minute we saw it was a Mustang fastback. But if you want to have some fun, count how many times they pass the very same VW bug as they fly over the hills in my back yard, the streets of San Francisco.

Monday, March 19, 2007

My ass has memory

Almost from the day I began designing this car I had a good idea what kind of seats I wanted to put in it but the more research I have done and discussions with other teams who have made the trip gave me doubts. Then I began asking myself, why would I build a car designed to go all out for thousands of miles and then strap my butt into a $200 seat? God only knows I have done it before and typically it's me telling my drivers, "Just shut the hell up and drive the damn car." But now it's my butt so I decided there's no time like the present to upgrade. Little did I know just one of these seats cost as much as some guys pay for an entire car and then I need one for Jon the navigator.

The seats I have chosen are FIA rated seats built by RACETECH one of the top rated racing seats in the world. Not only did I chose a great seat but in fact one built with Kevlar/Carbon Fibre and suede patches and well as head restraints which is going to be required in most race cars later this year anyway. Not only will the special padding memorise my beautiful posterior with it's special "memory" foam but it will give great comfort whether we are racing or driving on transit stages for a day at a time. Like I always say... There's nothing better than a well rested butt to stand on the podium.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Good news and good luck on St Patrick's Day

Today, Nitrus the wonder dog and I took a relaxing drive over to the engine builder to check things out and see how things are coming along. Since the block was finally bored and checked out the pistons were now available so I had a chance to pretend I was 12 years old again and it was Christmas Day as I opened all the neat presents that Santa had brought. Damn, it's fun when I'm good. Even better news was when the engine builder told me of some "good things" he was doing that would net me even more horsepower than originally planed bringing the little 289 up from 480 horsepower to an even better 520 horsepower. Isn't Santa great!

Nitrus and I hung out for a while and watched and learned as they dynoed other engines and my engine builder actually took the time to explain how dynos work and compute horsepower. Then he showed me other engines on the dyno computer that he had built for friends of mine. I just loved the part when he said, "Here is another engine with 505 horsepower... Oh yeah, but your engine has more "good stuff" than this one. During this whole process I just had to keep reminding myself, (1) This is only a 289. (2) This is with cast iron heads and a two-barrel carb! Is technology an amazing thing or WHAT!

On the way home I stopped by the shop to look at my car and do some day-dreaming... Er, I mean research. I found the guys at IMPACT ENGINEERING designing a custom built spare tire holder specifically for this race. Having a spare tire is not only nice to have on this specific race but in fact a requirement. With such an awesome built roll-cage having the spare tire located in the rear seat area would have made it a tedious job to get it out and changed. As a result they have decided to locate it in the trunk area just above the fuel cell in such a manner as to help make an unwanted tire change a quick turn around. Remember California's Best motto... It's all about "What if."

Thursday, March 15, 2007

How to keep everything inside

No, this is not a headline on some magazine at the store check out counter to grab your attention on how to keep secrets from your best friend. It is however the next racing accessory in a perfect cage designed to keep your head and arms inside and foreign objects like low flying vultures outside. Don't laugh, it's honestly happened in the La Carrera before. One of our friends who has run the La Carrera before along with his co driver both suffered broken arms after a violent 9 times rollover at high speed and no window nets.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Taking time to enjoy the labor of love

Today I was reading something George from another La Carrera Panamericana Volvo team wrote about us either performing a labor of love or just being plain stupid. I have to agree and tried to remember some old saying about genius is close to insanity. As a matter of fact I read somewhere that when people say that genius is close to insanity, they are wrong; by definition, genius is insanity.

What a coincidence it was that right after I read his reply I received an email from a friend in South Africa whom knew absolutely nothing of the aforementioned conversation. As a matter of fact there may very well be a valuable lesson to be learned here and I thought it so fitting to the whole experience that I decided to post it here...

Slow Down Culture -

It's been 18 years since I joined Volvo, a Swedish company. Working for them has proven to be an interesting experience. Any project here takes 2 years to be finalized, even if the idea is simple and brilliant. It's a rule.

Globalize processes have caused in us (all over the world) a general Sense of searching for immediate results. Therefore, we have come to posses a need to see immediate results. This contrasts greatly with the slow movements of the Swedish. They, on the other hand, debate, debate, debate, hold x quantity of meetings and work with a slowdown scheme. At the end, this always yields better results.

Said in another words:
1. Sweden is about the size of San Pablo, a state in Brazil.
2. Sweden has 2 million inhabitants.
3. Stockholm has 500,000 people.
4. Volvo, Escania, Ericsson, Electrolux, Nokia are some of its renowned companies. Volvo supplies the NASA.

The first time I was in Sweden, one of my colleagues picked me up at the hotel every morning. It was September, bit cold and snowy. We would arrive early at the company and he would park far away from the entrance (2000 employees drive their car to work). The first day, I didn't say anything, either the second or third. One morning I asked, "Do you have a fixed parking space? I've noticed we park far from the entrance even when there are no other cars in the lot." To which he replied, "Since we're here early we'll have time to walk, and whoever gets in late will be late and need
a place closer to the door. Don't you think? Imagine my face.

Nowadays, there's a movement in Europe name Slow Food. This movement establishes that people should eat and drink slowly, with enough time to taste their food, spend time with the family, friends, without rushing. Slow Food is against its counterpart: the spirit of Fast Food and what it stands for as a lifestyle. Slow Food is the basis for a bigger movement called Slow Europe, as mentioned by Business Week.

Basically, the movement questions the sense of "hurry" and "craziness" generated by globalization, fueled by the desire of "having in quantity" (life status) versus "having with quality", "life quality" or the "quality of being". French people, even though they work 35 hours per week, are more productive than Americans or British. Germans have established 28.8 hour
workweeks and have seen their productivity been driven up by 20%. This slow attitude has brought forth the US's attention, pupils of the fast and the "do it now!"

This no-rush attitude doesn't represent doing less or having a lower productivity. It means working and doing things with greater quality, productivity, perfection, with attention to detail and less stress. It means reestablishing family values, friends, free and leisure time. Taking the "now", present and concrete, versus the "global", undefined and anonymous. It means taking humans' essential values, the simplicity of living.

It stands for a less coercive work environment, more happy, lighter and more productive where humans enjoy doing what they know best how to do. It's time to stop and think on how companies need to develop serious quality with no-rush that will increase productivity and the quality of products and services, without losing the essence of spirit.

In the movie, Scent of a Woman, there's a scene where Al Pacino asks a girl to dance and she replies, "I can't, my boyfriend will be here any minute now". To which Al responds, "A life is lived in an instant". Then they dance to a tango.

Many of us live our lives running behind time, but we only reach it when we die of a heart attack or in a car accident rushing to be on time. Others are so anxious of living the future that they forget to live the present, which is the only time that truly exists. We all have equal time throughout the world. No one has more or less. The difference lies in how each one of us does with our time. We need to live each moment. As John Lennon said,
"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans".

Congratulations for reading till the end of this message. There are many who will have stopped in the middle so as not to waste time in this globalized world.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

How to use a racecar while babysitting

As it turns out a 10 point cage has more than one use. Here is my grandson Tyler Gene demonstrating how effective our new roll cage is at keeping him inside the vehicle.

The second photo is the finished firewall that separates the fuel cell from the cockpit.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

It's called "What If" racing

Speaking from experience I can tell you the best way to achieve any goal is to prepare and part of preparing for anything is to have a total understanding of what it is you are up against. Sure it helps to know who your competitors are and what their car is like and all but the truth is all great athletes understand only one thing... "It's not the competition that controls my destiny." Ultimately it is me who will have the steering wheel in my hands not my competitors. It is my skill or lack thereof that will decide our fortune. There are however two other factors of more concern than other cars or drivers and those would be the car preparation and those unseen gremlins we sometimes encounter. Take for example... You come sliding into a corner caring some speed only to see half the friggin road missing or somebody's pet donkey grazing in the apex of my turn!!! It's moments like this that preparation, practice and luck are all called upon. It's also called "What If" racing.

I can assure you I will not be installing a cow-catcher (or donkey-catcher) on the front of my car. However both Jon and I will be in a car that will be as safe as any car taking part in this race. As I read about the history from over the years it is apparent many others took the risk for granted and in doing so many have paid the price with their lives. To make assumptions in this race with regards to safety is to dance with the Devil himself. Like everyone else I have no intention of doing some "agricultural driving" but as any good race car driver knows, it can and does happen. That's just one more reason to be prepared thus the need for a Nascar style fuel cell cage.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Impact Engineering says "Let'er roll!"

During the last week most of the final touches have been made to the roll-cage which is now a full 10 point cage that includes struts that extend thru the firewall to the shock towers for additional safety and structural strengthening. (Big tool man grunt)

Now we are building a Nascar style fuel cage for the fuel cell which is almost complete. I'll tell you what, if you ever need any fabrication work whatsoever you can not find any facility more in tune to the utmost detail and articulate than IMPACT ENGINERRING What a pleasure it has been working with them on this project in every way. It's equally important to remember these guys are racers too and not only do they have a complete understanding of what they are doing but in fact are equally as understanding how much it can hurt the old pocketbook. With that in mind I must tell you their workmanship is way above the best while their prices are amazingly affordable.