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.