The Public Relations day
We got up to a new day in Oaxaca. The race started here last year so I had some idea of the layout of the town.
We/I had a scare as we drove to the zocalo to start the day's leg. We pulled up to a stop light next to a new Chevy Suburban with tinted windows. Just then a pickup loaded with Special Police pulls up behind us and 5/6 guys jump out to point M-16s at the Suburban. Another pickup pulls in front to block both of us and 5/6 more uniformed police jump out to do the same. I was scared that a shootout was going to occur with us trapped right there. As quick as they arrived they determined who was in the Suburban, jumped back in the pickups and sped away - much to my relief. Jorge and I said only a few words about it but I'm pretty sure the only guy more worried than I was, was whoever was in that Suburban. What I am convinced of is that the Mexican government is serious about wiping out the Narco elements in Mexico.
With Jorge's navigation skills and my driving, we started the long climb from 5th place back to the lead. The day's racing ended just after noon with a huge party at the Zacalo de Tehuacan. Each year it seems to get bigger as more companies compete for your attention with dancing girls, loud music and free beer. I can't speak for everyone, but after an hour of this fiesta I was no longer in racing form.
We started the long transit to Mexico City. I wondered how it was going to go, driving into one of the worlds largest cities during rush hour. No worries, we had our own Federal police escort into the center of town and they even diverted traffic off of most of the roads we were on. I had thought the crowd in Tehuacan was big but it was dwarfed by the people of Mexico City. We were parked in the front and when I looked back towards the other cars; the mass of people filled the street for several blocks. GRW Racing Wear had sponsored us with some great looking crew shirts and a bunch of give away team caps. I decided to give some away to the crowd - bad idea with so many people around. I was soon pinned against the trunk as the crowd surged towards me. I had left the car in neutral and it started to roll forward with the weight of the crowd. I got out of this by throwing the hats high in the air away from me and the car. After that, I sat on the curb and let Jorge handle the crowd.
We stayed at the Camino Real that night. Most of the cities in Mexico have a Camino Real hotel and it's usually "the" place to stay. I was one of the late entries so we weren't always in the best hotels. This was great, it was close to the starting arch and had an indoor parking garage that we could use to service the car(s). The only complaint I had about the hotel was that it was huge! It must have been a 200 yard hike from the elevator to our rooms and the hallway still went on farther than I wanted to know.
Tony stayed to service the race car while Kent took a cab in search of parts to fix the front brakes on the Excursion. The front rotors were warped when we started the trip but the guys said that by the time they got to the hotel there were no front brakes at all. I hung around and pretended to be of use until I got too tired and went upstairs. Tony and Kent prepped the car, patched the Excursion, and continued to build good will for the team by offering advice and assistance to the other teams. They both thought it was funny that, because we were in the lead, everyone assumed we knew what we were doing. Even though these guys are still in their early 20's they each have about 15 years racing experience. I told them: "Don't sell yourselves short. The knowledge you take for granted is still a mystery to most of these other guys". I can't say it enough: Jorge and I would not have won this race without Kent and Tony crewing for us.