Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Drive It Like You Stole It

Or should I say... Drive it like THEY stole it. As you know by now the 2008 La Carrera Panamericana champion is piloto Bill Beilharz and co-pilioto Jorge Ceballos driving the sleek black #108 Studebaker. But what I am surprised to learn is how many people do not know or remember the history of Bill Beilharz "comeback" overcoming what has to be one of the most amazing comeback challenges imaginable.

In 2007 when Jon and I ran La Carrera Panamericana we met many of the competitors in the ballpark at the staging area in Oaxaca. One of those competitors was none other that Bill Beilharz and his then co-piloto, Steve Warwick whom were pitted right next to us. Bill is an intense competitor with only one mind set... Let's race! In retrospect it's rather apparent that Bill can do just that but sadly in 2007 the #108's race was over almost before it began. On the very first day the she devil that hides amongst the gorges, cliffs and hills of Mexico jumped out of hiding and bit Bill right in the ass. Before he knew what happened they were resting way off the road having slid all the way under some scrub growth.

But the spin turned out to be only a small part of Bill's misfortune and while Bill and his co-piloto were attempting to get a tow and get back on the road again they returned only to find the #108 race car had been stripped! Wheels, gauges, Hans devices, helmets, gloves and with that their race was over. I never did figure out what was worse... seeing the car parked on it's trailer each day in front of the hotel or the visualization of some farmer wearing a set of Momo racing gloves and a Hans device while riding a donkey into the hills to retrieve a load of firewood. But I do know it made racers sick to their stomach.

Now you might say to yourself, "Wow, how bad can it get?" but the story does get worse than that. Since Bill's co-piloto, Steve Warwick, had no ride and when piloto Mike Anderson's co-piloto of the #432 Chevy decided to leave him to fend for himself it seemed like the perfect opportunity for the both of them. The good news was the #432 was back in the race... The bad news was it was just long enough to allow a photographer to shoot one of the most spectacular crash sequences of the 2007 La Carrera Panamericana.

It's not a well known fact but the next time I saw Steve it was just before he was involved in a crash when another La Carerra Panamericana piloto teammate's service truck, trailer and race car were destroyed. I'm not sure about the rest of you but for me the word "Jinx" comes to mind. I am not sure how Bill came to get hooked up with Jorge Ceballos but it appears it just might be one of the best things that could have happened to him.

With Jorge Ceballos sitting in the navigator's seat, Bill having learned a valuable lesson in the 2007 La Carrera Panamericana, was extra careful and drove a safe and calculated.... WHAT IN THE HELL AM SAYING??? Safe and Calculated my ass! He started up the #108 Studebaker, mashed down on the accelerator until it was about 6 inches from the radiator and never let up until he saw the finish arch and winning the race. Talk about overcoming adversity and all this time knowing he was in the toughest class and running against some of the finest racers in the world. I can't help but wonder if Bill ever had any nights during this years race when he had a hard time sleeping as he wondered if the wheels would still be on his car in the morning. This man is a driving fool and one all of us racers and La Carrera fans are all proud to call a champion. He drove it BEFORE anyone could steal it. Congratulations Bill and Jorge.


Control HidrĂ¡ulico y Automatizacion said...

Incredible story Gary, I didn´t knew that happened to Bill last year. I feel ashamed for that robbery to his car in my country. But I´m glad he could leave behind all that this year.

Gary Faules said...

There is no need to feel ashamed. It happens everywhere and besides... Sometimes having to deal with adversity makes the outcome all the more rewarding.

bbeilharz said...

Thanks for the high praise Gary.

Truth be known, I slid off of the road again this year. Only a miraculous set of conditions allowed me to drive back up onto the road 150 meters later with a loss of only 12 seconds.

Racing through Mexico for 7 days you will likely have a couple of situations occur that are beyond your control. Only luck allows you continue. Steve Warwick did a good job of navigating for me last year but we were unlucky. Jorge Ceballos did a great job this year and, with lady luck, we won. They both did a better job of navigating than I could ever do.

Gary Faules said...

Thank you Bill. Any racer worth his salt knows Lady Luck is either with you or against you but the good drivers know not to expect it. It's a pleasure to have run with you and even more so to know you... Brought it home.

I have to tell you a funny story... One of the mothers of a member of your crew was so excited with your victory and naturally with her son's involvement with the #108 team and so we have been witting each other back and forth. In one of my email to her I attached a photo of you in which you are holding a couple plastic cups possibly after having enjoyed a cold one. Her reply had me on the floor when she wrote, "Oh my god... is he panhandling!"

Please do me and all your fans a big favor and when articles about your recent victory come available, and they will, please drop me a line so I can make sure everyone gets to see them.


AdamPolley said...

I've known Bill and his family going on twenty years, I can't think of a more deserving, hard working guy than Bill to snag this Trophy. It doesn't suprise me to see him pull off what he did. I'm not suprised at all frankly, I knew he could do it. Bill's motto; "Win, or put it in the trash bin." We all need to take a lesson from Bill Beilharz, WIN AT ALL COSTS!

Nice job Billy, I'm proud of you and the boys, and I'm proud to to know you are my friend.

"The Procurator"