Thursday, November 29, 2007

Now that Lucky is officially a historical vehicle...

The top car in the photos above is a 1953 Ferrari 340/375 MM that sold for $5.7 million dollars on May 20, 2007 in Maranello Italy making it the second most exspensive car sold in 2007. According to RM Auctions this Ferrari racer is about as rare as they get. It is one of only two surviving models of its exact type, out of only three ever built. It is restored to look as it did when it was driven in the La Carrera Panamericana road race in Mexico. In May, it fetched $1.5 million OVER and above the highest pre-auction estimated price.

The car on the bottom photo is another La Carrera Panamericana race car 1956 Ferrari 410 Sport which only sold for $3,822,500 in Monterey, California but then again that was back in August 2001.

Ferrari created the 410 Sport to dominate the 1955 Carrera Panamericana. It was the ultimate high-speed machine — the biggest, baddest, meanest sports racer ever built. Only two were ever made, and they were among the most powerful sports racing cars built in the 1950s, with 4.9-liter engines of nearly 400 horsepower. During their heyday, the 410s were virtually unbeatable.

The sister car to this one, sold to the American sportsman John Edgar, was later put in the quick hands of Carroll Shelby. He and the vehicle went on to dominate the 1956SCCA races, winning virtually everywhere.

The 410 Sport was unbeatable, and in Shelby's words, "It was the brute of the brutes." But Shelby also noted at the time, that the 410 Sport was "A car that didn't have any bad vices."

Keeping these two particular cars in mind it's important to remember that neither one won a single stage of the La Carrera Panamericana and Lucky has... I wonder how much Lucky is worth? ;)

Fathers and Sons

One of my favorite parts of racing is being able to enjoy it with my kids but there is something special with respect to the bond found between a father and his boys when it comes to cars and racing. Now I have to admit my daughter is no slouch when it comes to muscle cars and racing. She was the only girl in her large high school class to take her driver's license test in her own 1968 candy-apple red Mustang complete with hi-po 302 and a four speed. I will always regret not getting a photo of the look of the lady's face who went out with her that day for the driven part of the test. But that's all another chapter.

Over the years I have been fortunate to see my own son become involved with a lot of amazing stories and many first in auto racing world one of being at the age of 13 he was the youngest licensed race car driver in the United States. He was driving my Dodge Viper and kicking butt while doing it. I keep putting off writ ting something about Will but he's a lot like many great adventures... just too hard to put it all on paper so that too will have to wait for another day.

Regarding Father and Son racing teams I have met a lot everyone of them very special in their own way. During the La Carrera Panamericana we met yet another Father and Son team of Richard Bailey and Chad McKinney both from Washington where they own an apple ranch. Better known as the Apple Farmer Team (Apple Dumpling Gang) they drove Volvo #290 and this was their first rally as well. Richard flew back east to test drive the car and then purchased it from the owners who then delivered it our hotel in Laredo Texas the night before we crossed over into Mexico. Since they didn't have a trailer we carried some of their spare parts in our truck for them on the way down to the tip of Mexico and back.

Along the way we enjoyed places like the amazing San Miguel de Allende where we walked around the town, had some dinner and even enjoyed a disco one night and there were breakfast and many other memorable places as well. I told Richard when my brother was a young man he picked apples in the very same area his ranch was on. Wouldn't it be something if it was one of the very same places. During the trip down and the few days in Oaxaca before the race they had to get their car set up to pass tech, install their Terratrip and so on. Like I posted in an earlier post they over-revved the engine at the track in Queretaro which did some damage to their engine. Another team had offered them an engine but kept putting them off since they had problems of their own. Richard and Chad where true sportsman in every since of the word as they waited two night for the other team to help them out but as happens sometimes all of a sudden the price for the other team's used engine went sky high and the Apple Farmer's Team's race was over.

Not letting the terrible turn of events get them down they continued on each day hanging out with the service teams and every day as we reached the large crowds of fans awaiting our arrival there would be Richard and Chad standing right in the arch to greet and congratulate us with a huge smile. I must say it was very refreshing to see racers of such caliber since many would have been complaining and crying in their beers. On the other hand these two guys accepted their fate as all part of racing and made the best of things. Now in my book that's a class act.

Yesterday when I came into my office there was a large box sitting next to my desk. It was a case of wonderful Washington apples special delivery from the Apple Farmer Racing Team! Thank you Richard and Chad and the crew thanks you as well. The apples are wonderful and it such a nice thing to do. Like I said... A class act all the way.

None the worse for wear

How funny, the title for this post is one I used since I was a boy having heard it many times however just to be safe I decided to look of the meaning and I couldn't help but think how humorously fitting it was all things considered.

"Not hurt or damaged, still in good condition, okay. (Example) The immigrants were none the worse for wear after their wagon trip across the prairie." LOL!

Other than taking him out of the trailer, today is the first time that I have done anything to Lucky since the trip home. The guys put him up on the rack and other than needing some front brakes and a detail there isn't a thing that needs to be done. After giving it a good going over I am extremely satisfied with the results.
One note about the brakes; One of the single biggest factors in running a car during any long endurance race is having enough brakes to finish the race. Typically speaking, it's almost always required to have to change the brake pads and sometimes the rotors during the race which naturally takes up time that would be better spent on the track. In this case, Lucky's brakes lasted more than long enough without having to change them and very easily could have gone much farther. With two days left in the race Jon and I dialed in some rear brake bias and I could not believe the improvement to what already seemed to be the very best brakes I have ever had on any Mustang or Shelby.

Lucky's brakes are beyond my wildest imagination. I want to thank Jeff over at for his friendship and excellent service and advice over the years. Jeff has been a fountain of information when it comes to dealing with "CORRECT" FACTS regarding racing brake pads. About three years ago Jeff hooked me up with some racing pads from Raybestos Racing Compounds that are designed specifically for endurance racing and were new in the market place. After we agreed to be test them I found out these are without a doubt the hottest thing going and having put them thru their paces the results are nothing short of amazing. After using these Raybestos Racing Compound pads Jeff had made for this race I am pleased to report this is the first set of pads that would have actually finished the entire 25 Hours of Thunderhill. It goes without saying that these will be the pads Jon and I will use in the upcoming endurance series.

In 2500 miles of all-out racing under some of the most demanding conditions any race car could asked to perform under, the car didn't have one single drop of oil, water or anything else anywhere. I am changing the fluids and installing new brake pads and rotors and the crew is detailing everything else. We will be able to place Lucky back into the trailer in the morning so I can head up to Thunderhill Raceway to take part in even some more race history as honorary pace car for the 25 Hours Of Thunderhill.

The only item on the entire car that showed any wear was the custom built skid bar I had made to protect the oil pan primarily that being from the large Mexican speed bumps better known as Topes. If you look closely at the photo you can see how much shaved off the bottom thus doing exactly what it was designed to do. During the transit stages there where hundreds of Topes and there was even one stage alone where there were a several hundred Topes in a hundred miles! Having the comfort of knowing the skid bar was under the car was awesome especially when we saw so many other cars have such a difficult time with the topes. Most of them not only had to come to almost a dead stop but also had to drive across them on a sharp diagonal turn which resulted in a lot of scraping on their undercarriage and exhaust. It's very impressive that there isn't one single scrape on Lucky's undercarriage or exhaust.

You know what the answer is when asked, "How can you tell a happy biker when you see one? By the bugs on his teeth." If that's true then Lucky has got to be one of the happiest Mustangs ever driven. I remember telling Jon during just after we came out of a high speed stage, "It's getting to where I can tell how fast we're going by the size of the splatter on the windshield. At 100 they splatter but at 160 they vaporize!"

By this time tomorrow I should be on my way to the track and I am really looking forward to it. There will be the United States Air Force Color Guard and the low fly-over by the United States Air Force and then Lucky will be followed by a United States Air Force Hummer complete with 50 caliber machine-gun and the best part of all is they say the weather is going to be awesome.

I am happy to report the editing for the upcoming HD DVD is coming along very well and is looking like a very exciting show. As soon as possible I hope to make some sort of teaser available so stayed tuned!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Repeating those famous words of General Macarthur

I WILL RETURN. (God willing)

Ever since I first set eyes on San Miguel de Allende I was destine to return for a visit. Then as if the hook wasn't set deep enough into my jaw we spent the night in other amazing cities as well that set it even deeper and began reeling me in. Even before I made it back to my own doorstep I began considering the possibilities of returning when I could spend more time absorbing much more of taste of colonial flavor of Mexico. Then I began thinking about how much my wife would enjoy it so after talking briefly with Linda Robertson about her and her husband's personal experience having gone and stayed there I made up my mind I was returning.

First I had to clear it with the big boss... my wife. To my surprise she was as excited about is as I am. Considering some of the predicaments I get her in to it's a small miracle. LOL. So the dates are already set. We will be going to Mexico on the first of July! At first I was trying to decide which of the amazing places O wanted to visit so I pulled out the map and began my research. To my surprise there are 5 of the seven cities where we stayed during the race all of which are within a 3 hour drive at their farthest point. WOW! With all the driving back and forth on the twisted, windy roads that I did during the race I never really knew where in the hell I was. That was Jon the navigator's job and I just did like Jon told me, "Just drive the damn car."

So based on my memory and if my further research proves to be accurate we will be spending about a week in San Miguel de Allende, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Queretaro, and Morelia. I have already been invited by a good friend I made during the race to be his guest to show us around and for that I am also very excited.

In the meantime please enjoy the following video which is very nice but as anyone who has been to San Miguel de Allende will tell you, this video does not do the beautiful city any justice whatsoever.

As for the second video, it really does nothing for the beauty of an amazing city but the only reason I posted the second video is because I enjoy the song "Zacatecas" as sung by The Iguanas.

Little did I know

Remember the day I told you about the road block Jon and I had to run when I could not convince the angry protesters to let us pass? Well, this is the same place where we were attempting to go in Oaxaca except this was just months prior and appears to be the same sort of protest. When we saw them begin to kick an officials car and try to break his windows... That's when I told Jon to hang on it was going to get wild and I punched it and drove straight thru a sigh hung with rope and rocks.

What's amazing is that almost nobody saw this side of Oaxaca and the truth is I am looking forward top going back again. The have done an amazing turning all that hostility into a place where we felt safe. Of course, an army can help you do that.

Why we never use stop signs in Mexico

It's simple... It's because people are waiting for us. LOL. Here is an example of what it's like as we arrived into Puebla after racing all day. We needed showers, we're exhausted, hungry and thirsty but the fans have been waiting all day so we made sure they weren't disappointed. As you will see this was not one of the streets that had a lot of fans so we were able to move right along. Everywhere we went there were motorcycle officers to make sure everyone knew we had arrived and to get the heck out of the way! The closer we got to the town square the more crowed it became with fans sometimes totalting over 450,000.

Congratulations to Anna Sorensson!!!

I just received word that Anna has just received official notice from the Automobile Club de Monaco that she has been accepted to participate in the annual running of 11e Rallye Monte-Carlo Historique which will take place from 1st to 6th February 2008.

As soon as I get more information as to whom is competing with Anna I will be sure to post it. Anna was navigator for Ralf Christensson in car #389 in a beautiful Monte Carlo Falcon and they are an awesome team. I hope they will both be running together since they are such a good team. We are very excited for them and wish them all the best and I will keep their ongoing results posted as their adventure continues.

Ralf and Anna had a little bad luck in this years La Carrera but knowing that's just part of racing they took it like the true champions that they are. Had their car not taken a wrong turn thru some trees on a hillside or had a flat in another section they would have had an even better showing. Now that I think about it, all of the Falcons in this years race suffered some bad luck. One team bought a car literally days before the race and managed to show up in time to pass tech inspection only to blow their engine in the beginning of the race. Another was a guy we became good friends with and his name was Joe Harding owner of car #380. Joe was hauling the mail thru Mexico City and afterwards during a transit stage Jon and I saw him smoking a lot so we pulled up next to him and pointed it out. At the time it was smoking so bad we thoyght it was oil. Later he found the water-pump had gone bad and the fan went thru his radiator. Now that I think about it, all three of these cars were red! Hmmm.

Ralf's Monte Carlo Falcon is unique in that many people don't realize they are not just an ordinary Ford Falcon. In 1964 Ford Motor Company fully sponsored eight entries using the restyled 1964 Ford Falcon "Sprint" in the Monte Carlo Rallye. Keep in mind this was going on at the same time that Carroll Shelby was building the now famous GT350. In fact Shelby's engines were installed in the Monte Carlo Falcons and they were topped off with not one but two 4 barrel carburetors. This was the same hi-po motor that was to achieve similar racing glory in early Cobras, GT40s. Ford decided to center their rally efforts on the newly restyled 1964 Falcon "Sprint" through the mid-year of 1964 until the new Mustang model was introduced.

Besides all the usual goodies that Ford had to offer such as the top loader transmission and Ford 9 inch rear end and tricked out suspension that Shelby helped design the '64 Rally Falcon weighed only 2,156 pounds, almost a thousand pounds less than the stock Sprint. The weight savings was mainly gained from the fiberglass pieces that were specially made for the hood, rear deck lid, front fenders and doors. The front windshield was made from safety glass, but the remainder of the windows were made from Lexan which is a lightweight polycarbonate material.
The interior of the Falcon was also furnished in a manner to reduce weight. The front seats and the dash were the main components of the interior. Standard trim such as door panels and carpeting were removed. The dash was outfitted with a tachometer and rally equipment, and the rear seat area was fitted with an array of tools.

So as you can see, the Monte Carlo Falcons were anything but ordinary just like Anna and Ralf, both ready to take on any sort of race venue set in front of them.

One funny story about Ford's success with the Monte Carlo Falcons is about the seven Econoline vans that were used as support vehicles. Arrangements were made with Holman and Moody to outfit the Econolines with 427 engines and NASCAR suspensions.

After the Econolines were delivered to Europe, one Falcon van and its unnamed driver created a huge traffic jam during the London rush hour. The van was hauling a load of tires and a retaining chain broke and spewed a load of tires from the back of the van. Tires went bouncing off the hoods of cars and in all directions on the streets and sidewalks of Trafalgar Square. Fortunately, nobody was injured, but the Falcon rally effort received some unwanted press coverage on the BBC News that night.

Then there was the time a support driver was cruising along an open highway in Europe. The van was towing one of the Rally Falcons on a trailer. The driver of the van did not like the way a Porsche passed him and decided to catch up to him and show the driver a thing or two about the strange American machinery not to mention the middle finger no doubt. Can you imagine the look on the Porsche driver’s face as the van towing the Falcon went sailing by him at an unmentionable rate of speed!

The old and the young

As family men both Jon and I really enjoyed meeting teams that had family ties. Some where husband and wife, some where brothers and sisters, father and son of daughter and so on all of which were a real pleasure to meet. One of the unique things about this event is that there was both the oldest and the youngest pilotos in attendance at this 20th anniversary event.

As a father I know how important it is when it comes to nap time but as you will see the photos may surprise you to as who needed the nap. LOL. All kidding aside I really enjoyed meeting the oldest piloto of the event and he was always so full if life every day and at the late night dinners and awards ceremonies he was out lasting many of the younger guys in the crowd. How nice it is to imagine that any of us should be so fortunate to be having that much fun when we reach his age. In the mean time I am trying to learn more information about him.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The scenic route isn't all it's cracked up to be

The other day I was reading a story that a man wrote about his father and his desire to always take the "scenic route" instead of using the path taken by most everyone else. It was a well written article and it reminded me very much of my father and so many times where I had also chosen the less traveled path. But as this video shows the scenic route isn't always the best way to go.

On the second day of this years La Carrea, car number 107, a beautiful 1954 Mercury driven by Don Heeringa and Ken Harper did what is known in the road racing world as "The Agricultural by-pass" as they skidding off the road then over 30 feet over a sheer cliff down into a river bed. They good news is the drivers were not hurt except for their pride and the bad news is the car will never race again. It may seem a little slow at first but be sure and watch the entire video to see how they managed to get by onto dry ground again.

Luckys GO FAST video debut

Thanks to Tach'O over at GO FAST ENERGY DRINK here is a great short video of Lucky in action. It's time to crank up the volume sit back and enjoy a ride with Jon and gary as Lucky does his thing. There are a few starts where you can hear how difficult it is to perform a burnout at high altitude most of which were 6000 to 10,000 feet high but as soon as Lucky gets out of the hole you better be hanging on for the ride of your life. There are some nice turns and even one memorable bridge with a dip that leaves ones heart pumping with adrenaline. One of my favorite parts is hearing Lucky hit fourth gear as we race through Mexico City doing over 140 miles per hour. Then there is coming thru a final arch after a long day of driving as thousands of fans wait for us even handing us a long awaited ice cold beer.

Thank you again Tach'O.

So much fun we should all be arrested

Try to imagine you have just been doing over 120 miles per hour on a twisty narrow road with a black and white all over your rear bumper with his lights flashing, siren blaring and all the time while both of you are passing cars on the wrong side of the road not to mention around what seems like blind corners then right thru the middle of towns this continues. Then you come around a corner and as you look ahead you can see you are about about to be cut off by some traffic jamb. As you slow to what now seems to be a crawl the black and white pulls sharply along side. When you look over at him and make eye contact you see... WHAT! One hell of a big smile. You point ahead and then you see his smile disappear as he pulls out all the stops by hitting his horn, the siren begins to demand more attention as his voice comes over the P.A. system and in Spanish you hear what must be translated to, "GET THE HELL OUT OF THE WAY. CAN'T YOU SEE THERE IS A RACE CAR COMING!" He pulls in front of you and what was a supposedly an inseparable road block a moment ago now parts as if it were the Red Sea that had just been commanded by Moses to split. The phrase "LET MY PEOPLE GO!" comes to mind as you pull up behind him and he pulls over and waves you by as if to say, "Is that all you got?" And all this is just a transit stage to get you to the next race stage.

Not in your wildest dreams would you ever expect an ending like that one and not only is it not a dream but there is over 2000 miles of this kind of excitement when running the La Carrerra Panamericana. There should be a law and I bet there is in some other 200 countries. LOL. Like Steve Williams and David Thompson, two other gentlemen racers who drove car #315, who wrote on their blog, "They close the roads from the outskirts of town into the town square when we arrive at the end of the day and we zoom into downtown on empty streets, through traffic lights red and green, and past the traffic jams caused by the street closures. Then they give us medals and a party. How great is that?"

If you look closely at the top photo above you can see we are surrounded by Federallys as some of them give Lucky a high speed, door to door escort thru the middle of town. These guys are great drivers in their own right and I can't begin to tell you what a privilege it is to have them as our friends. You can't imagine how safe they make us feel and all that they do for us. If I told you everything they would have to shoot me. Just trust me when I say, It's good to have friends in high places. The next photo with officer in the middle of the three Ferdralys is none other than the highest ranking Fereraly in all of Mexico and he gets the respect of everyone in all of Mexico. I have the distinct honor of calling him my friend.

There are a lot of folks out there that don't believe police officers get to be as good of a driver as many of us but don't kid yourself, many of these guys can really blow your mind given the opportunity. Even though it's California Highway Patrol, below is a great video of how good many of these officers can drive and keep in mind the Fedralys are all driving brand new special police version Dodge Chargers. So the next time you get the urge to attempt outrunning one of them you may want to think twice. Take it from me... DON'T TRY IT.

Moving targets in Mexico?

One of the biggest problems I have with the La Carrera is there is so much that I want to report about that it seems as if it will be time to run it again before the last story is told. Believe me, it's hard to refrain myself from posting a hundred stories a day and the term "Pacing one's self" is not in my vocabulary. But as much as I try to limit myself I still need to make a post... or 2... or 3... Oh hell, just enjoy yourself.

One of my most memorable gold medals was one I won at the Mexico City Bonito Juarez Pan Am Games but before I raced in the La Carrera I always thought moving targets were only to be found in sport of Olympic Skeet Shooting. The big difference is that in skeet shooting you get points for hitting the moving targets... In the La Carrera you do not.

You have surely read by now that seeing a few critters along the way is not unusual but what you don't truly get out of reading these post is how often we see them along the way let alone how close they are to the edge of the road. It's also important to remember that when I use the term "Edge of the road" it really is the EDGE of the road as most of the time there is no "side" of the road to pull off onto with a race car like you would normally expect. If you hit the "edge" you're probably going country in a big way. That reminds me of a TV entertainment show years ago called the Donny & Marie Osmond Show. They had a segment on the show where the two of them sang their preferences and it began with them each singing... "I'm a little bit country"... Then the other sang... "I'm a little bit Rock and Roll." I couldn't get that song out of my mind at times as I looked for a safe escape route that every good race car driver is always looking for.

In Mexico the locals leave their critters whether they be donkeys, goats, sheep, cattle, horses, dogs or whatever, along the edge of the road because there is a lot of green grass growing there and the truth is it keeps the sides of the roadways trimmed nice and neat. The problem is, you just never know when one is going to decide it's time to leisurely take a stroll to the other side of the road. You can';t help but have that thought in the back of your mind every time you are coming around a corner along a cliff at high speed. I think it's safe to say we saw some form of farm critter every 10 miles for the entire 2000 miles of racing. It's also safe to say not all of them were standing far enough off to the side of the road as the tell tale signs of fresh blood made the road extremely slippery on corners. Keep in mind I was originally a country boy (still am at heart) but I never knew there were that many damn donkeys in the world. Thank you to Stacy from car #430 and Bret from The Unlimited Class Blog for the wildlife photos.

Speaking of moving targets... Be sure to check out the video of Emil and Keri Rensing in the #555 Porsche GT3 as they rip thru middle of Mexico City at God knows how fast. I can not wait to see our own HD DVD when it's ready as we abused the same section of freeway at over 140 miles per hour!!! Thanks again to our new buddy Bret over at The Unlimited Blog for the fun video clip. Be sure to look closely at all the spectators waving flags and banners and cheering along the road and on top of the overpasses and while you're at it IF YOU DARE try to count the number of obstacles that a car could hit if something went wrong. It's important to keep in mind this is no race track were there are safety barriers, tire walls and run off areas. And this has got to be the most appropriate version of Hotel California there is to be found under the circumstances. Damn I need a cigarette and I don't even smoke.

Before you watch the video remeber that as you gather with your family this Thanksgiving Season, please join Team California's Best Racing in Prayer for those less fortunate amongst us. Bless those around the world who were afflicted by recent fires, cyclones, floods, earthquakes and other disasters. And finally, be sure to thank God for the opportunities and blessings He has given us.

Have a wonderful Holiday.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What an awesome Thanksgiving


We all have so much to be grateful on this very special Thanksgiving in light of all that has taken place in the last few weeks but we have also had a wonderful year as well. At this exact time last year in my blog I wrote about what I was thankful for (click here) and I also wrote about what we hoped we would be thankful for on this year and as thinks have turned out all our dreams have been fulfilled and we are indeed thankful. Not only did we do well but my son Will was able to share the the entire adventure with us as well and now our grandson Tyler is a year older and what a fun little man he is to be around. My wife and I are able to share the very best things in life that parents and grand parents can. There is so much more to be thankful for but we know that many of you share those same values as we do and we are grateful to have shared so much with so many all of you being special in your own unique way.

If all goes as planned I will be posting a new video sent to me by the cool folks over at GO FAST ENERGY DRINK. In the meantime I hope you enjoy this photo as much as I do. It was taken by our new friend and photographer Tach'O. Thanks Tach'O I love it!

Team California's Best Racing is wishing everyone everyone a special time to enjoy the holidays with family and friends as well as good health and happiness.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pacing the Field at the 25hr

The United States Air Force proudly present NASA's 2007 25 Hours of Thunderhill. Come join top drivers from around the country and the US Air Force in this all-out assault on Thunderhill Raceway Park in Willows, CA. It is with great deal of pride and honor that The United States Air Force and Team California's Best Racing is proud to announce Lucky has been asked to be the official honorary pace car at this years 25 Hours of Thunderhill presented by The United States Air Force. Longer and more challenging than Le Mans or Daytona; 25 Hours of Thunderhill is the king of enduros. Considered by a world-class field of racers to be the most severe endurance race on the planet.

While Lucky will be a first timer at this years event the same can not be said about Team California's Best Racing. Thunderhill is our home course where we are very proud to say even besides the numerous years of sprint car races we have won more endurance races than any other team in the United States all of which have been against many of the best teams from all over the world. Some of those past accomplishments have been the only team to win the 12 hours of TIMEX Endurance series three times running. We are also the first E2 team to win the 25 Hours of Thunderhill while running against must faster classes of race cars under the most severe conditions ever held on a road course. Driving Lucky at Thunderhill will be like coming home and very familiar to Team California's Best Racing not to mention seeing the respect that Lucky has earned as he leads this years field into what will surely prove to be an awesome event.

I can't begin to tell you what a proud moment it is during the morning ceremonies prior to the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. With all of the drivers and team crews standing in formation next to their cars which are parked on the track there is the national anthem played on the bag pipes by the United States Color Guard as they march the full length of the hot pits at the same time while hundreds of teams along with their friends and families and spectators are allowed to stand near the paddock wall. As soon as the national anthem is finished and we all try to hold back the tears or pride the hair that is already standing on end begins to stand even taller as you look us to see the extremely low pass sneak attack of the United Air Force as they come straight over the full length of the raceway and then pull straight up in what has got to the best E-ticket ride known to man. As they disappear out of sight you will hear the announcement. "Drivers, return to your cars and start your engines." It's hard to think anything could be equally as exciting as the La Carrera Panamericana but having done both I have to say both get my heart pounding as if there is no tomorrow.

Enjoy the following video as Gary takes you for a lap around Thunderhill Raceway. This is just one of the awesome race tracks that Team California's Best Racing will compete on in 2008 Endurance Series.

PS: There will still be plenty of post with respect to this year's La Carrera and memories of events and friends that need to be shared so stay tuned.

Monday, November 19, 2007

It's true... Lucky used steroids

OK, so that's not entirely true but if they can make a chihuahua look like this then just imagine what I could do to a car if I could pour steroids in the tank. WOW. I just realized that with all the excitement around here as a result of how things went in Mexico I never really talked about what an awesome little car Lucky turned out to be. In reality he really is a Mustang on steroids when you get right down to it. If I close my eyes and remember what a 1965 Mustang looked like the day it came off the assembly line with plush carpet, cute little leather bucket seats, an 8 track, a nice set of hubcaps and sporting the optional luggage rack. Now I open my eyes and when I take a look at Lucky the words plush, leather and luggage rack don't seem to work. Now let me tell you after having given Lucky the two-week workout that most race cars will not seen in a lifetime I can honestly tell you this is one bad-assed ride! This car will wind out like there is no tomorrow and it rips thru the gears with no mercy. The brakes stop so fast that we may have to install a putty-knife so we can take turns scraping each other off the inside of the windshield and the car corners like no slot-car you have ever seen. I must say, this is what it was supposed to do and that is exactly what I had in mind when I researched and built it but in reality everyone who builds a car gets their hopes up only to find it may be good but it usually isn't everything they hoped it to be. Lucky is not only what I hoped he would be but way beyond my even my wildest imagination. If there was ever a car on steroids... this would be it.

On the twisty roads of Mexico there were time when for various reasons such as temp, water on the road, gravel or simply going into a corner too hot, that the front end would begin to push a little but it didn't take long to learn that as soon as Lucky began to push all I had to do was pour on the gas and he came right back around as if he thought he was some sort of a fighter jet. There are just two word to describe Lucky... Un Real!

On the days when we hit the high speed sections not only would that car hit 160 miles per hour so fast that your imagination was left in the back seat but when we hit high speed dips or crest in the road the car just moved like a piece of silk sliding over a babies bare butt. Again... Un Real! When we headed off thru esses doing 140 miles per hour whether they were in a transit stage or in a high speed stage I could have just as easily been resting one elbow on the door while holding the wheel with the other hand holding a soda because the car handled so awesome!

Other than one loose bolt during the entire race we did not have one single repair and the only thing we did to the car with respect to service on the entire race was re-jet the carb (one time) and then check the brakes. This car was so well prepared and built that all I had to do was listen to Jon tell me, "Just drive the damn car." My experiences as a Olympian, a race car builder and driver has shown me time and time again that there are two major keys to success regardless of whether it's a personal or team endeavor. Those two keys to success are preparation and consistency.
This is exactly why we as a team have done so well for so many years but I am still in awe every time we ask so much of a car and it comes thru with flying colors. And in retrospect it's very rewarding to remember that even though we took Lucky to Infineon and Bob Bondurant's tracks to get in some minimal testing I am extremely happy to say, there was not a single item that had to be changed, modified or even one single adjustment that was made.

Knowing that Lucky has performed so well and because it's easy to tell he is begging for more we have made the decision to run the upcoming 2008 NASA Endurance Series. As soon as the season schedule is available I will post it where everyone can read it. In reality, I guess we can honestly say that we used the La Carrera Panamericana to test Lucky for the upcoming endurance series. If that's any indication as to what we can expect we're already off to a great start!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Looking back thru the clouds

There is so much that anyone who has competed or taken place in the La Carrera Panamericana finds themselves wanting to share with others when they have returned and like all others I too have been wanting share so many amazing stories that happened on this adventure. Anyone who knows me will tell you I get excited about whatever race we run and while every one of them somehow stands out or seems special in it's own way I honestly believe in my heart this adventure will be hard to top.

Last night while attending the NASA awards ceremony in San Francisco Jon and I were greeted by many of our friends and peers with congratulations for our recent endeavor. What a great feeling it was to receive hugs and handshakes of respect and admiration from those we love and respect. There was something else I noticed and that was that everyone we spoke to with regards to the La Carrera or had spoken to others who took place found them sharing the same difficulties as us. The difficulties we share are realizing it truly is impossible to translate the true spirit of La Carrera. There is just too much to share. Too much to remember and so much excitement that even one of Hollywood's finest directors would have a difficult preparing a screen play that would make others feel what we do.

Back on September 28, 2006 I wrote "Everyone who has prepared for a major world class race knows the sleepless nights that accompany the dreams. What can I do to better prepare? What can I expect? What can I not expect? What I do know is to not expect luck. Luck is only a bonus for winners and winners never count on luck, they orchestrate it." Little did I realize back then that what I wouldn't expect was that it would ever be so exciting and rewarding.

After re-reading what I wrote in that post I am humbled that I can now look back with great satisfaction and say "We did it. We accomplished every single thing we sat out to accomplish. Not only was our plan a good one but due to the fact that everything we laid out was dealt with in a professional and passionate fashion we are able to know a great satisfaction. But there was something else I failed to expect. I have always thanked those who have helped in any shape of fashion with respect to those who helped our team regardless of how. It may have been our wives and children for their undying support or it could be a sponsor, a crew member, a teammate or whoever but what I didn't expect was so much support from even the fellow competitors and perspective crews. So many of us came away feeling like our families had just grown in leaps and bounds and the respect, friendship and even love are all very real. Yes, God has really smiled on so many of us and in fact it was Him that looked after each of us and kept us safe and happy and guided us thru many obstacles and then took each of us safely home again.

I remember so well just a couple days before leaving for Mexico when we gathered in front of the computer to check out the weather forecast for Mexico and it looked bad. The 10 day forecast was that of thunderstorms and lighting for the entire trip. And as we arrived in Puebla that forecast was looking as if it was going to be correct. I can't speak for anyone else but the thought of running Mil Cumbre or La Buffa let alone any other part of the race under those conditions wasn't what I had planned on some 15 months prior. Even though I grew up driving wet roads on the coast of Oregon as well as lots of racing expedience under those same conditions it was not what I hoped for. The Coyote Convoy became spread out as we all hit the five mile per hour stop and go traffic under what could be called horrific at best and this is where many of us gassed up and found time to get a bite to eat. (Thank you Anna for buying us a great lunch.)

As we finally made our way thru a terrible thunderstorm and South out of Puebla the black clouds and lightning began to stay behind us and only blue skies were to be found ahead. It was those same blue skies that were to be found on our horizon for the entirety of the adventure. How blessed was that?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I Had to laugh

This morning at my office I noticed one of the guys was late. When I asked him about it he apologized and said, "Sorry Boss, it won't happen again." As I walked back to my office I could hear the rest of the crew giving him a bad time and as usual they seemed relentless in their attack as they rubbed it in and it seemed to go on all morning.

One guy said, "What do you think it would be like if we worked on the bosse's race car while he was in Mexico and you where late? "Hey Boss, sorry I was late but my donkey was dead and I couldn't get it started." Then another one chimed in and said, "Yeah, I hate it when that happens. It makes me feel like such an ass." Before long they were telling him if he kept this up they would be forced to take his siesta privelages away and so on. What a bunch of clowns. It's good to be surounded by guys who know how to work hard and play even harder.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Long lasting impressions

Funny isn't it how often we make judgments often after only a few seconds of meeting someone or even by seeing their car without even meeting the person. On the drive from the San Francisco Bay Area we were to meet up with Gerie Bledso in what would be the beginning of the Coyote Convoy. Will and I had gone a day ahead to spend some time with friends in Phoenix and it was that evening that we finally hooked up with him and his good friend Al Cox. I remember how excited I was when we first saw them and I said, "Hey, I saw three La Carrera on the freeway today!" That was the first time I had the privilege of meeting Al Cox and right then and there a friendship was formed. Not only was my first impression a good one but in fact it turned out to be far more than I ever expected as we turned what was a good friendship into some sort of Two wild and crazy guys routine from Saturday Night Live.

Along the way we stopped at various places to eat and other hotels and it was then that Al would tell me about the team he was crewing for. The truth is with all that was going on and being talked about, without actually seeing the car car I had never realy had any impression about the team or the car. But after we had reached the hotel in Laredo Texas and had time to settle in as I was walking around the hotel parking lot it was then that I first saw one of the most beautiful cars I would see during the entire race. As I walked over to it I saw my new buddy Al stand up as he was going over some things with the owner of the car. "Al, is THIS the car you are crewing for!" I asked. It was an amazingly beautiful and well built purple Studebaker and it belonged to Stewart and Linda Robertson and to make things even better was the fact that it once belonged to Gerie Bledso it it even had more interest for me for a historical reason. Funny how that first impression of the car made such a statement about the owner/driver and I hadn't so much as said one word to them yet.

Well as things turned out they were so busy going over some issues with the car that I knew from experience now was not a good time to chat so I let them alone. Over the next few days I would bump into Linda and Stewart but as was the case with so many others we just never had time to chat. It wasn't until one day in the parking lot of the hotel at San Miguel de Allende that I had an opportunity to begin visiting with Stewart. I never asked why but on the long drive to San Miguel de Allende Stewart had chosen to drive his car and by the time we reached the hotel the once beautiful car was now dirty and Stewart seemed somewhat stressed out. But that evening some arrangements had been made, a deal struck and the car was cleaned and placed on a tractor/trailer where it would accompany other La Carrea cars to Oaxaca. I will never forget what a look of "relief" Stewart had on his face that afternoon as he saw his baby at rest for what we all knew was going to be one hell of a long ride.

Over the following days the friendship grew and it was at the baseball field at Oaxaca where it truly blossomed as we where pitted together and it was then that everything began to come together. Al helped Stewart and Linda with their car, we all got thru our tech inspections and things began to happen but more importantly new found friendships found their Genesis.

During the many different stages of the races we all had on our game faces and there was very little time to chat about anything however once we found our way thru the waiting finish line arch and to the beautiful squares with large crowds of fans that all changed. It was then that we seemed to find our favorites and begin downloading with each other as to what an amazing adventure we had had. What I enjoyed most about Linda and Stewart was their ability to have an upbeat outlook no matter what events had happened prior. Another part of what I enjoyed about them is based on prior experiences having been around racers for so many years... Many times when a team is having some tough luck they tend to take it out on anyone that approaches them as if it's everyone else's fault or something. But that as not to be the care with Linda and Stewart as they chose to take the high road and where always in high spirits. I found that amazing and considering they are a husband and wife team all the more inspiring. How many married couples will ever be able to tell stories about the time they took part in one of the most famous road races in the world and lived to talk about it? LOL.

In retrospect as I look back little did I ever know from my first impression that such a wonderful bond would be found. Linda and Stewart are without a doubt two of my favorite people from the race and ones I wish nothing but the best too in whatever they choose to do in the future. There are so many awesome photos of them and their car but here are a few that stand out to me. The last two are unique in that Stewart wrote; "I've attached a photo set we received from "Gael" Rodriguez of the famed corner on La Bufa, where he managed to crash twice, in two different years. Once going up and once going down. It's amazing how similar our "parking jobs" were. Especially given that I crashed just outside Oaxaca."

All things considerd, Linda and Stewrat's first Carrera (race for that matter) found them in good company with an awesome finish of 27th overall. Congratulations and job well done!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Rubbing elbows with all the right people

I saw on another blog that someone wrote, "There are no great drivers in the La Carrera like there used to be." Nothing could be further from the truth and if the jealous idiot who wrote that knew anything about racing he just may have recognized some of the names of some of the finest drivers in the world which competed this year alone. If I were him I would also ask myself, how many of the drivers from the years past were well known before they ran their first La Carrera Panamericana? The real truth is, it really doesn't matter what some uninformed individual thinks. What really matters is the self satisfaction every team and driver obtained while being honored with actually taking part of all that took place. I told a friend the other day about one of my favorite quotes... one that seems all too fitting under the circumstances. "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out where the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood. At best, he knows the triumph of high achievement; if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat." Theodore Roosevelt

That being said I would enjoy sharing something about one of those great drivers we competed against and were very fortunate to become good friends with. His name is Jo Ramirez and his co-pilot is Alberto Cruz who drove the number 257 Volvo with a time of 4:26:09. Had he not been in the Exhibition class Jo would have finished in 16th place overall. One day Jon, said, "How cool is that? Wearing those shoes." Not knowing what Jon was talking about I had to ask but before I explain for those who don't know Jo please take a look at JO RAMIREZ HERE before reading on.

Anyway, one day Jo and Jon were leaning onto Lucky's hood looking over the route book for that days stages. When I asked about the red shoes Jon said, "Hey Jo, I have to be honest with you... I heard who's racing shoes those are that you're wearing and I have to tell you, I think that's simply awesome." Judging by the look on Jo's face he was surprised and it seems Jon really hit a good note with him as they began talking about that surprisingly amazing pair of shoes but more importantly was who they had belonged too and how he had acquired them. It seems that while most "collectible" items in this world somehow end up on some collectors mantle piece there are some that end up doing what they were truly meant to be used for. In this case they were the driving shoes of non other then THE Ayrton Senna. Jo Rameriz worked on the Maclaren team during the reign of Senna and acquired them at that time. What an amazing tribute to one of the greatest drivers in the world but to what must have been an equally amazing friendship as well. How poetic is that?

Having spent several weeks racing in the La Carrera Panamericana with the likes of great drivers like Jo Ramirez and others we have come away with a much more significant sense of achievement and accomplishment and it is men like these that help make it so.

Some good reading


This morning a friend from Mexico sent me a forum which has many nice things to say about the La Carrera Panamericana and expresses much of the excitment that is shared by many which I thought all of the teams might enjoy reading.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Gramdpa tell us about the time you....

Can you imagine how great it will be to someday say to my grandkids, "Did I ever tell you about the time a bunch of my friends and Jon and I were driving thru Mexico City and the police closed down the freeways so we could do 140 miles per hour right thru the middle of town?"

And then again I can tell them about the last day when many drivers where taking it easy to make sure could reach the finish line while we were doing 160 as we headed back into Nuevo Laredo on worn Toyos following a car belching oil. Yep, it was a day my good friend Jon and I will long remember.

Of course Gramps will want to tell them how we did so well and won during the day we ran Mil Cumbres the most dangerous stage of the entire race. It's a well known fact the locals enjoy falling trees across the road and shove large rocks onto blind corners which is their idea of excitment as it often results in cars going over a cliff. Once again thanks to Bret Haller of THE UNLIMITED CLASS . COM

I just can't wait until the DVD is finished!

Team California's Best Racing is extremely proud that we have documented not only the entire build of Lucky our car but in fact the entire 2007 La Carrera Panamericana race as well including in-car footage, footage from excellent locations along the route, fiestas, awards ceremonies, car shows exiting and entering the daily arches, footage from the Queretaro Race Track, beautiful cities and villages, scenery and much, much more. Even better is the fact that it is all shot in HD DVD by professional documentary expert Steffan Shultz. I have already received some feedback on the awesome shots Steffan has created and believe me when I say, THIS NOT JUST ANOTHER video of the La Carrera Panamericana.

With all that is required of the drivers and service crews it is near impossible to find time to take photos so most are taken on the spur of the moment. It seems such a shame to spend all that time in such an amazingly beautiful place and not have time to really see it but then again it is not intended to be a site-seeing trip. There are many photos sent to me and I honestly never saw any of them let alone recognise them. All I really saw was the road and I am sure the in-car will pick up a lot of what I missed.

In the mean time please enjoy these NON-RACE photos of a few of the places we were blessed with.