Wednesday, November 19, 2008

La Carrera - Day Six and Seven As Seen Through The Eyes Of Bill Beilharz

Just get to the finish

After Day 5, I was just trying to finish the rally with no further mistakes. We had, what we thought, was a comfortable lead on Jorge Pedrero. I could slow down to a safe speed and just protect my lead. This is the worst time for me. I would much rather have someone in front of me that I'm going to pressure into a mistake or set up to make that "last lap" pass - that's fun. I hate it when I have a comfortable lead to the next car and the only way I can lose is to make a mistake. When I try to slow down, I make more mistakes (like Day 5).

I was glad this was a short day ending with a party in Zacatecas. I had a few beers and then went back to the room early. I didn't want to drive the last day with a hangover. That night we got our first "official" cumulative results and discovered that the Day 1 timing mistake had not been corrected as promised. This meant we only had about 1 minute lead over Jorge Pedrero. Pedrero was also aware of our small lead and was driving his car hard. Pedrero is a very good driver. His car, with driver/co-driver weighed at least 300 lbs more than our car and had an engine with 60 cubic inches less displacement. Even so, he was driving fast enough that I couldn't make another mistake and expect to make it up in just a day.

We started the last day running "La Bufa" out of town. It was cold and there was even a chance of ice on the road. I drove the first part way too slow and then, to make matters worse, about 2/3rd of the way down the longest straightaway, there were 5 cows meandering across the road. I slowed and started honking my horn. Once the last one cleared a lane I accelerated again. As we finished the stage, I saw Pedrero in my rear view mirror - bad sign. He had made up 22 seconds on just that one stage, I was starting to get (even more) worried.

Fortunately, the day's last stages were high speed. The way my car is geared it will only go 180 MPH but it gets there fast. I was counting on it's power to finish the day still in the lead. Unfortunately, we hadn't been able to service the car properly at the days service stop. We left the service stop low on oil and had only partially re jetted the carburetor.

I drove the next couple of stages pretty hard and regained some time but the oil pressure dropped to 0 at the end of the later stage. It came back when I put it in neutral so I wasn't too worried until I noticed that the oil pressure gauge was now showing about 5 lbs more oil pressure than I was used to seeing. All I could think of was that I had spun a main bearing - we still had two more speed sections to run. I reduced my shift points to 6000 RPM and would drive at full throttle until the oil pressure dropped to 0, push in the clutch and let the engine idle till the oil pressure came back. put it back in gear and give it full throttle again. Looking at the timing results, I don't know why we didn't lose more time. Maybe everyone else had also backed off.

The last 100 mile transit stage into Nuevo Laredo seemed to take forever. I was just hoping the car would make it. When we finally got there it was such a relief. My brother and father were there to meet me (along with 10000 others) and we had a great celebration. Once I crossed the finish arch I did a 5 second burnout with the engine on the rev limiter. It didn't blow up so I guess I was worrying about nothing.

What a race! After last year's failure I had to come back. Just to finish is an accomplishment but to win overall made it perfect. With Jorge's help, we had finished ahead of many very good drivers. In hindsight, I can say that it wasn't the best driver that won, just the fastest, hardest working, luckiest driver.

I don't know how I'll top this, but I'll figure out something....

(EDIT) When I reread this I realized that the following sentences were misleading:

"Unfortunately, we hadn't been able to service the car properly at the days service stop. We left the service stop low on oil and had only partially re jetted the carburetor."

Reading this, you might think that my service crew did something wrong - this is not the case. It was my decision not to finish re jetting the carburetor and the car left the service stop with the oil topped off. A problem with how I had plumbed my catch tank caused it to fill with oil during the long 3500 RPM transit stages that afternoon. At a later fuel stop, I drained the catch tank but chose not take time to add oil.

Kent and Tony did everything correctly. I didn't have to ask them to do much, most things they saw and did themselves.

My Apologies.

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