Thursday, December 27, 2007

Call Of The Wild

It seems some things just never get old. Like some of the great works of Hemingway, Steinbeck and Jack London, they are timeless and one can never tire of the pleasure derived from them or the adventures they take us on. If there is one thing I know for sure it's that the excitement or a man's love of racing never diminishes in the least.

Once again a year has come and gone and once again there are stories to tell and memories to excite this old worn out body. 2007 was an awesome year filled with many moments of adventure, challenges to overcome and dreams to fulfill all of which rewarding in their own way. Now as the year comes to an end Team California's Best Racing is preparing to do what we enjoy doing and doing it so well... race cars. Beginning in January Lucky will get some attention like a new clutch and a few minor suspension changes. Then I will need Jon's great mind for some calculations as to whether or not we should change to a four barrel carb or not. The two barrel worked so well it almost seems like there is no need to have more but as any race car driver will tell you... More is better. On the other hand, during endurance races fuel mileage is always a major concern as well and might be an advantage. Hmmm.

I will also be making some suspension changes to help car handling since track conditions differ considerably to what we experienced in Mexico. Lucky was set up to handle all sorts of adverse conditions many of which will not apply on the beautiful tracks we will be running on. I am also very excited to see Jon behind Lucky's wheel not only for testing and his awesome feedback but to watch him race is a thrill unto it's self. One of the best parts of having Jon as a teammate is knowing he is someone I can trust with my life let alone any good car. Jon and I will have more than our share of adversity cut out for us this coming season simply because Lucky being the awesome Vintage care that he is will fall between the cracks and be forced to race with much faster cars during the entire series. Many teams would look at this as less than fair but Jon and I look at it as one hell of a challenge, one that would earn a hell of a lot of bragging rights. That alone is enough for us. Funny that we used to be mortal enemies on the track and now we are a cut from the same cloth. To tell the truth I can't wait to see the next green flag drop.

If I'm not careful, the first race will be here before we know it and again I will be running around trying to play catch up so after the New Years fireworks have settled down it will be time to get things moving again.

I can't help but believe if Hemingway or London were to be reading this they would both be wearing smiles and thinking about the call of the wild.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Just too good to pass up

A friend sent this to me tonight and frankly it was so good I just couldn't pass on putting here to share with everyone. Enjoy!

Merry Christmas

Team California's Best is very pleased to wish everyone a wonderful Christmas Holiday. Considering all that has happened for Team California's Best this year we truly feel blessed not only with success but more importantly, wonderful families, good health and awesome friends. We hold our glass high as we toast every one's holiday will be spirited and happy for each and every one of you. And a special thank you to my new friend Paul Chenard who created this wonderful holiday drawing for us all to enjoy. Be sure and visit Pauls site and enjoy his creations by clicking HERE.

In the meantime click here to enjoy some Christmas Spirit!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Racing is like a fine bottle of wine

It's difficult to explain the true sensations of racing let alone all else it encompasses when really it should be experienced by one's self. I not at all unlike standing in front of a store window and trying to describe the taste if a great Cabernet Sauvignon to a stranger. In that same realm of thinking it's important to realize the environment or setting in which a race is held. And like any fine wine all race tracks are unique each in their own way. With respect to La Carrera Panamericana, no race track could possibly have more of the same adjectives that are used to describe good wines.... lively, dry, earthy, elegant, hard, at times harmonious and well balanced, obtrusive, often harsh, intense and yes, even leafy at times. Just ask anyone who went off course on Mil Cumbres. Sometimes it's smooth or could be called noble at times but often rough and of course we can't forget robust!

But there is a special place in the hearts of everyone who experiences the fine ambiance of Mexico herself. It becomes so much more than a race track or a highway. It becomes the people, their homes, their way of life and they are more than happy to open it up to share with every one of us. When you take part in the La Carrera you are no longer standing outside that store window trying to imagine any more. So come along with me as we take a look into the doors they left open for each of us to savor and enjoy.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Interview; The Sporting Life

One of my favorite on-line magazines is THE SPORTING LIFE since it offers the kind of reading any active, adventure seeking personality would enjoy. Recently it was my pleasure to be interviewed by THE SPORTING LIFE, The Magazine of the Sporting Life Society and I hope you will enjoy it.

CLICK HERE to be directed to the interview.

Monday, December 17, 2007

La Carrera Humor

Today a friend wrote and asked me if I knew what most Carrera racers said just before going over a bank into a ditch during the La Carrera. I wasn't sure so my friend who seems to be an authority on such matters gave me the answer.

When going over a bank into a ditch 98 percent of Carrera racers simply say "OH SHIT!"

But the other 2 percent say, "Hold my beer and watch this!"

VIVA La Carrea Panamericana!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Display with pride

Today I picked up my La Carrera awards after having them framed so they can be properly displayed in the lobby. I am especially proud of it and it is sure to be a "door opener" with regards to starting some stories.

Tradition and Customs

Funny isn't it how we can go someplace and not have a clue as to what many of their customs and traditions may be that have been handed down over years and centuries. In my many travels I have found it interesting to always attempt to learn something about the local customs where ever I go. Some years ago while in the beautiful village on La Paz in Baja I was lucky to observe one such tradition. As the sun begins to set allowing the light evening breeze to cool things down the amber lanterns are lite around the main plaza that sits by the harbor. It isn't long until the locals come out and begin enjoying the companionship of friends and family in this beautiful and romantic setting.

As I relaxed and enjoyed some fresh caught lobster on an open thatch restaurant I watched young children rushing around playing with old worn out skate boards and doing what all young children seem to do best... laugh and have fun. As the evening continued I saw older families sit on benches placed in the middle of the ornate square. It wasn't much longer until I began to observe young couples that aged anywhere from teenagers to young adults in their 20's as they walked together around the circle. Many of then were being followed by chaperons or parents of whom took turns following. It was funny to notice that at times when they passed a corner where they were not not visible from the chaperons it took longer that it should have for them to reappear. As it turned out I learned this has been a tradition that has been going on for many hundreds of years.

What reminded me of that wonderful tradition was what I read about the beautiful village square in San Miguel de Allende. It seems they have a very similar tradition in San Miguel de Allende as the one found in La Paz. The village square in San Miguel de Allende is called El Jardin Principal and is located across from La Parroquia which is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and ornate churches I have ever seen. There are trees surrounding the outer perimeter of El Jardin.

In the evening, there are wandering mariachis and bands. On Saturday evenings there is a traditional promenade of young people which takes place. The difference I found interesting was unlike La Paz, in San Miguel de Allende the boys walk around the perimeter of the Jardin in one direction, and the girls going the opposite direction. As is the tradition in La Paz the parents in San Miguel de Allende can keep a wary eye from the benches within the square.

It was very much an honor for all of us to park our cars in El Jardin especially in front of La Parroquia since as a rule nobody is allowed to bring cars there. I can't begin to tell you how peaceful it was there and at one time I had forgotten my digital camera on a bench but when I returned an hour later it was still there.

Here you can see some of the beautiful scenes surrounding El Jardin including my sone Will by the arches, some young people and I having fun pretending to down the world's largest shots of tequila and one of the many amazing stained glass windows within La Parroquia.

Lucky's 2008 WERC Endurance Schedule

It's official... Gary and Jon will be running Lucky in the 2008 Western Endurance Racing Championship series. CLICK HERE TO SEE SCHEDULE.

As of this moment we have not even begun to figure out what class Lucky will fall into but at first glance if we are not going to make any major changes to the car we will be forced to run in the Unlimited Class. The Unlimited Class is exactly that, unlimited. At first glance one might think Lucky wouldn't stand a prayer in hell of doing well but it would not be the first time Team California's Best has laughed at such theories. Like the old endurance saying says, "To win, first you have to finish. Since Lucky was purpose built to compete in the La Carrera Panamericana there are several things that will hurt of overall. On the other hand one thing that is in our favor is that this year's series have several races longer than the typical 3 and four hour races as in the past and that is where we seem to shine. Another factor that is going to shake things up a bit this year is there are several "races within a race" that add up to double points. Like Jon says, "Hang on. things are going to get exciting."

Regardless of what class we run in I can tell you three things that are a fact...
(1) We will race hard to win.
(2) We will be prepared.
(3) We will have a blast doing it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Speaking of Fords, La Carrera and 9th place...

If I have only learned one thing about endurance racing it is the fact that it is never boring. With all the strategy, teamwork, car preparation and so on that is involved there is never a guarantee that things will go as planned. That's where the difference between winning and almost winning endurance teams differ. Winning endurance teams develop a plan on how they want things to go and then plan on things not going as planned. For that reason they come more prepared than others and that is key in winning endurance races and then there is Lady Luck....

Luck can work for you or against you and in this case it was the later for Johnny "Madman" Mantz who was a Hall of Famer from California. Mantz was well known and besides winning countless races in the early Nascar days he also raced in the very first La Carrera Panamericana in 1950. I am a big time fan of Mantz but another reason I like this story so much is because this was Ford's first ever involvement in endurance racing. Mantz's car was prepared by another Hall of Famer, Bill Stroppe and his Indy car mechanic and crew chief Clay Smith who was also a Hall of Famer and so Stroppe rode as Mantz's co-driver.

Mantz and Stroppe ran near the front of the pack and just before the final leg of the race with the finish line in sight a couple of tires let go and they were forced to limp across the finish line on bare rims! Mantz had done extremely well during the entire race and held the lead in several stages and very well could have won but when the dust settled they took 9th overall. (Why does this sound so familiar? LOL) Due to his success in the La Carrera and his friendship with Stroppe Mantz went on to play a major role with Ford's racing program and took many Lincoln and Mercury victories.

The man who went on to win that race was Herschel McGriff, a Motorsports Hall of Famer, who like myself was from Oregon and it was McGriff who won the very first La Carrera Panamericana in 1950. As an endurance racer and car builder I found it very interesting to learn that McGriff not only won that race but in fact did it on the original set of brake shoes while other teams had to change their brakes every night. Kiddingly it made me laugh and I couldn't help but wonder... maybe the reason he won was because he never used the brakes. Hmmm. And speaking of finishing in 9th place for the first running of the Southern 500 in Darlington Herschel McGriff drove his 50 Olds from Portland, OR to Darlington, painted the number 52 on the roof and doors and raced it . After starting 44th he finished ninth overall, collected $500 and drove home.

Even when we look all the way back to 1950 history proves that preparation and knowledge and dedication is what wins endurance races and in doing so carried these great men even further into the history books.

On a sad note, Mantz raced right up until he was killed on a public highway traffic accident at the age of 54 in 1972. And like my own father who passed away with Alzheimer's disease at the age of 76 Bill Stroppe also had Alzheimer's disease and passed away at 76. He built and campaigned Indy cars and managed the team of Lincoln's that finished 1-2-3 in the 1952 and 1953 Pan-American Road Races in Mexico and often rode shotgun with Parnelli Jones in Baja California off-road races. Stroppe also built vehicles for many actors but one Hall of Fame Inductee comes to mind which was Steve McQueen another well known Ford driver in his own right.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Now that we have been there done that...

Many of us have seen this video but now that we have actually driven the entire length of Mexico thru each one of these places I really enjoyed watching it again. It's really very exciting as I can recognize many of the exact places in this video where we drove. Watch again and let your senses tingle and your mind remember and don't forget WE did it this time.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Close your eyes and dream

Have you ever been asked a question to which you quickly searched for the correct answer but it didn't come to you until it was too late? That is exactly what happened to me earlier today during an interview. I was asked what goals I had set for myself and while I could think of a few I knew there had to be some that where more pressing than the ones that came to mind at the time. This evening while I was browsing thru some of Bret Haller's awesome photos from his UNLIMITED CLASS BLOG site I remembered a life long dream I have had since I was a young man and a goal I surely aim to keep.

As I looked thru Bret's photos and remembered the day I guided Lucky thru the streets of Zacatecas, an amazing city that began in the 16th century on our way to the finish line arch, it brought back my dreams of running with the bulls in Spain. On the same topic it's important to remember that this is in fact where the oldest bullring in North America is found. Just look at the photos of Lucky as he makes his final charge up the hill towards the beautiful old Church of Santo Domingo and imagine what it would be like to see the majestic Bulls of Pamplona in is place. If I dare say so myself, Lucky looks pretty majestic himself.

Like the bulls that run the streets of Pamplona, Jon and I didn't have a clue what to expect around the next corner up ahead but as soon as we made the turn at the end of that very quite street we were greeted by thousands of racing fans in one of the most breath taking places in the world. Something else very special in these photos is if you look closely at that man with the red basball cap on you may recognize him. It is Gerie Bledso who had walked all the way down this street to be the very first to give each and everyone a big thumbs up. What a class act he is and that's no bull.

And in case you don't read Spanish... the words on the photo that has Lucky and the Porsch translates to, "No matter whether they are European or American, the passion and the participants is always the same."

Does SIZE really matter?

When it comes to size there are those who disagree but they are typically not racers. In the world of racing there are two schools of thought.There are those of us who have been enjoying feather weight frames with skimpy little bodies for many years. Hey now... I am not talking about the trophy gals... I'm talking about formula cars! Honest! One theory is put the biggest baddest engine you can build into something and mash down on the gas and bully your way to the head of the pack. The other school teaches us to take a well engineered, proven little engine and install it into a light, compact small car and then teach all the others drivers what it's like to know how to drive.

Having driven small underpowered cars for years while competing against higher powered classes of cars I can tell you it is one of the most exhilarating facets of racing. There is nothing sweeter than being passed by a high horsepower car in a straight away only to overtake him in the next set of corners and leave them behind. I can't begin to tell you how much Jon, Will and I have laughed as we stood on the center podium while the other teams asked, "What in the #&!! did you say you had under your hood?" Don't let small cars fool you, they can be just as fast as the rest.

Two teams brought small cars to this year's La Carrera but they came with bigger than life personalities. Not only did these two teams have BIG expectations but they brought some of the friendliest personalities to be found in the whole event. In fact to know them was to love them. I am speaking of car number 430 the 1957 Fiat 600Abrath driven by Stacy, Luca and Dario and Car number 264 the 1972 Austin Mini driven by Pedro Vidal and Jose Abrew.

I could tell story's for days about both teams but what I liked best about them was seeing them every day with the same positive desire to do well as everyone else. The Mini came all the way from Florida and with them was fun and laughter and the support of a whole lot of Mini fans all over the world. The Fiat came from Santa Fe New Mexico and also has Fiat fans from all over the world.

For those of you who have never seen what either one of these two cars can do to a race track, let alone Porsche's, you simply haven't lived yet. Check out the Mini video and you'll get a thrill you won't forget.

And here is another quick video of the 1957 Fiat Abrath hauling the mail thru the very dangerous La Buffa stage. Trust me you better not blink when it goes by!

Speaking of friends in Mexico... My very good friend Francisco Ortiz who drove the beautiful Datsun 510 number 299 sent me two awesome shirts sporting the Monterrey Auto Club logos. He also included the latest edition of AUTOMOVIL Panamericano which has a really neat 4 page article about the 2007 La Carrera along with some great photos two which appear above. OK, so Lucky is not a small car but he is just a little pony, right? Besides, Fancisco said Lucky looks very hungry behind that Porsche. I have to agree. And then there is one more photo of my son Will offering Luca an unwanted lift with our own Fiat floor jack.