Friday, November 02, 2007

The final day is upon us...

First of all let me apologise for the missing photos and post but it was only because there was no Internet available yesterday and the day before as I was posting them only minutes before the race was to begin my son ran in telling me we had to do front brakes before that days 7 high speed stages. Boy was it a good thing he checked it too.

Anyway once again there is so much to tell and I have no Idea where to begin so I will just ramble on. Tonight we are in a motel about 150 miles west of San Antonio Texas after dropping Jon and Steffan off at the airport. Yes, the race is over and we are coming home to be with our loved ones. It's an emotional time for many of us as we made so many friends, ones we will never forget. Some we had either read about and some of us had even emailed each other or contacted each other from this blog. Each day's triumphs and defeats were shared with each other as we tried to help each other make it to the final day. We shared many things and not just bench racing either. We talked about our families we missed, we reminisced our parents, we hugged, shook hands and listened to those who needed consoling when things went wrong. In other words, we became a family of sort. 100 cars, 100 drivers, 100 navigators, hundreds of crew, support, press, thousands of police, La Carrera Panamericana staff, and don't forget hundreds of thousands of fans. I was surprised at how many people we met who came to Mexico just to watch this race. Yesterday we met a couple who came from Australia to watch the finish.

On the final day we ran La Buffa one more time and I must say I had a hard time making myself get up to speed and none of them were a good excuse. One reason is we had been warned by veteran drivers that La Buffa is another place where many lives have been lost. It is also the very same place were many times I had watched video of my friend Gerie Bledso's car flip and roll and amazing 11 times breaking both of his and the drivers arms. Now mix that in with being warned at the driver's meeting about probable ice on the road and I had a real problem on the morning run. Last but not least is this is the official beginning of THE DAY OF THE DEAD celebration. However, it turned out to be one hell of a ride for Jon and I before the day was over. As soon as I saw some of the miles of long straights with a few very high speed curves it was time to trust Jon's voice in my ears telling me, "You can do this. Just feel the car and lets do what we do." Finally I gave Lucky all the reins and let him run and run he did. On the first high speed stage we literally kicked Historic C's butt when we made the run over blind crest and through some curves at speeds over 140 miles per hour. And if that wasn't cool enough The next section was well over 160 miles per hour which was so fast only a hand full of higher class cars could match it.

After that we were asked to race thru the streets into town were there was an unbelievable welcome made up of thousands of fans all cheering and shouting and waving all nationalities of flags and cheering. I can't begin to explain what a life changing experience this is not only for Team California's Best Racing but in fact for anyone that is involved. At one time as were slowing driving thru the streets approaching the final arch a police officer stopped us so a mother could carry her little boy to my car. He was holding a homemade American flag with shinny little gold stars pasted on it and she tried to say in English, "My little boy made for you." I will cherish that for years to come as much as any other memory from this adventure.

It is very important to thank so many who helped make this adventure a reality. First I would to thank our wives who not only trusted and supported us but even wished us best thought the entire process. Then there is Anthony and the crew back at the shop who have worked their tails off and pulled for us as a team. Without Jon none of this would have been a reality either. Jon's voice in my ear telling me "You can do it, GO GO GO" and the "Good Job" really inspired me when he knew I needed it. Like Jon said, "This is how our team operates and it's why we win." Last but not least, I want to thank the great team sponsor at MORF Mobile who without a doubt really stepped up in a huge way and we are honored to have them on board and we look to sharing a lot more adventures in the future as well. Another very important person who had a huge amount to do with our success due to his willingness to advise and help with all sorts of details involved with getting us safely to this event let alone being the great gentleman he is would be non other than Gerie Bledso himself. And to Al, the crazy Canadian, God I love you man... did we have fun or what! There are many more and I wish I could remember them all right now but it is getting late but I will write more as I get some rest. Last but not least thank God for keeping us safe and fast and bringing us safely home to our families.

I will post some photos to make up for the late post. One of the problems we faced with regards to long hours and never having any time for anything other than race car prep and racing was getting our laundry done. Since we never had time to allow the hotels to get it done and since our laundry was begin to stand in the corner, Will took matters into his own hands and began washing his laundry in the hotel sink. Then each day he would have all his laundry hanging on the canopy as we came in for our service stops along the way. Hey, some times a man just has to do what a man has to do.

After a few days rest I will try as hard as I can to share more with you but I will tell you in all fairness, it will never be possible to write words that can justly describe what few will ever experience with any justice. So much adventure, so much beauty, so much.... just no words at this time and sad to leave it all behind. What I would give to share it with the world and speaking of that, I was amazed to learn how many people read this blog and how many fans it has. Every single day people told me they read the blog every day, many of them drivers and many of them fans of this race and some fans of Lucky as well. Just before the start of the very last high speed leg of the day the head Federally himself ran over to my car and shook my hand and told me he really liked our car and asked me to be sure and come back next year because he would be waiting for me. It was one hell of a compliment considering I never saw him to that to anyone else. On a humorous note, just before we raced an exhibition run into town Federaly police car pulled up next to Rusty Ward's Studebaker which is painted to look like a police car where they opened up their door and handed Rusty two ice cold beers. Now there is something you don't see every day. One thing you will be able to see is going to be without a doubt the best ever made HD DVD of the
La Carrera Panamericana when all the video complete with in-car video, still photos combined with interviews and lots more is mad available.

Well it's time to tell you how we did and if you are as happy about the results as we are then there will be god reason for all of us to have a huge smile together. During the awards banquet and dinner Jon and I and our camerman Steffan had the distinguished honor of being the guest at the table of none other than Eduardo Leon and his wife and daughter, the very person who is responsible for the La Carrera Panamericana. You have no idea how proud I am to announce that after 7 long days and 100 cars, California's Best Racing Team finished 3rd in Historic C class which is the second fastest class. If that isn't awesome enough then I am even more pleased to announce we finished NINTH OVERALL!!! To accomplish this on our very first attempt is paramount something we will never forget. Even more rewarding was the respect we received from fellow competitors and what fine ladies and gentleman they all where many who have ran this event many times. There was even a fellow California team in our class who not only built an awesome Chevrolet who came up to me the morning of the final day and said, "Gary, you build one hell of a car and drove one hell of a race. Now go represent and get out there and bring this one home for California!" What a class act and fine gentleman they are. It will be many days before Jon, myself and the rest of the crew will be able to allow ourselves to stop thinking about all we have seen and experienced and accomplished but in the meantime Lucky, Will and I will stop off in Phoenix at Bob Bondurants because he asked us to because he wants to hear how we did. I am sure he will smile too.In the meantime here are a few more photos.


anthony said...

we are extremely PROUD of you all, we look forward to your safe return home..CONRATS~!

michael emery said...


Congratulations on your fantastic finish.

You get first place in the blogging division.

Have a safe drive home and don't go too long between posts, you have an audience now.

Michael Emery
78th place 2006 LCP

pogo said...

Dig the shades

Linda said...

Gary & Jon
Congratulations on your finish and thanks so much for all the pep talks - you got me through some pretty rough mornings! It was terrific meeting and spending time with you both.

Our best,
Linda & Stewart
#120 (the purple '54 Studebaker)