Sunday, January 27, 2008

Take the good with the bad

Here I sit while looking out my window as I watch the rain pouring down while at the same time I am getting reports from around the world all racing related. It seems everyone is going racing except myself. All self pity aside it's very exciting to hear so much good news all of which is very exciting and deep inside I find myself wishing I was with each and every one of them.

Anna and Pat are about get underway at the Monte Carlo and they take off officially on January 1st. Two chics in a hot little Porsche racing around the Swiss Alps in the Monte Carlo... Is that exciting or what?

Then there is Will who is in the hot pits of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona for a week meeting all kinds of awesome friends and drivers.

And just a few minutes ago I got some awesome news from George and Tom of Dover Brothers Racing saying, "OFFICIAL NOTICE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The Dover Brothers have officially entered La Carrera 2008. WE'RE BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!" Two old dudes in a fast little Volvo racing around The Sierra Madras in Mexico... Wait... What am I saying!

The truth is I have always said I would be happy racing a wheelchair if nothing else but I have to say, Hearing from those who are already signed up for this years La Carrera finds a special place in my heart. As a matter of fact I am down right jealous and broken hearted that we will not be there this year. I will be watching everyone as close as I possibly can via Internet and reports from those who write in an attempt to be as close to all that goes on both before, during and after. Rest most assuredly I will be with each and everyone of them in mind and spirit.

In the mean time one of my favorite blogs to read is Marcia's blog who reports how the car build is proceeding on their little Nova as they get it and themselves prepared for this years La Carrera. It's like deja vu and I just love the passion, excitment, concerns, and all of the above.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Live from Daytona

All things considered Team No Hot Wire who Will crewed for had a pretty good showing. Last year on the very first lap of practice they blew their engine and the entire last year has been an overwhelming test of determination to get them back to Daytona again let alone perform well.

That being said they performed very well in my opinion. Prior to race day they found out all the problems that they thought had been overcome were on fact not as good as believed. There were some issues with the electronic cams so as a last ditch effort they had to set the cams to operate without the advantage of computerized cams. This meant they would have to give up some all important low-end. If that wasn't enough, it began raining during qualifying.

Then there was another set back just prior to the start of today's race as a result of yesterday's qualifying. Ken Dobson who drove during the qualifying session didn't suit up for the start of the race so per the rules officials made them start from the rear of the pack.

In the face of all this adversity I am impressed with Team No Hot Wire's performance. Not only did they hang in there and overcome but in fact the final outcome was a well run race which brought them home in a very respectable 28th place. Team California's Best would like to be the first to congratulate them on a job well done as well as all our other California racing friends back there.

Will was a busy beaver today since not only did he crew for Team No Hot Wire but he was also kept busy as a tire changer for TEAM COBALT CALIFORNIA cars # 98& 48 owned by our very good friend Tom Lepper and also driven by some of our friends as well. What a small world as Team No Hot Wire finished right in front of another very good friend and driver Randy Pobst in car #181. Will got to say hi to Boris Said as he was being hounded by the press. Seems funny that Will is running into more California friends all the way across the U.S. than I am right here at home.

Tomorrow Will is going to be in the pits enjoying himself while the Daytona prototypes go head to head.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Will finds Daytona exciting

After getting settled in at one of the best hotels with an awesome view of Daytona Beach, Will spent the last couple days helping Team No Hot Wire's/Car & Driver get their car dialed in. Like any big race there are some issues that need sorting out and the weather has not been helpful.

Will saw Randy Pobst but both of them were so busy they didn't have long to visit. There was some real excitement when a car hit the pit entrance way too hot and came sliding into the pits hitting another car and sent a crew member flying past Will. This is only testing and things are already exciting.

In the photo you can see Will in the hot pits with his favorite shades getting things done.

Will said it's interesting to point out if you look in the pic of the beach, the locals say that as recent as a couple years ago the sand went all the way to where the first wave breaks way out there. The bad hurricanes and storms in recent years have taken away all the sand.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Destiny... An amazing conception.

Regarding the La Carrera Panamericana which is still the last open, top-speed road race of its kind in the world, I am often amazed how much it seems as if time has stood still. Every single La Carrera has been as exciting and spectacular as the one before. In fact the La Carrera Panamericana ranks up there with many historic automotive races with all the glory, honor, grandeur, and distinction like a fine diamond in the Crown Jewels.

Having read just about every possible thing there is to read with respect to the La Carrera about the only two major things that have changed are those amazing drivers and co drivers who competed in it and the rule changes with regard to that of improvement in safety equipment. The safety equipment changes and strict enforcement have been the single most important transformation within the race and thankfully one of the only ones thus allowing the La Carrera to remain one of the few unchanged races of all time.

Many men have lost their lives in the pursuit of the La Carrera finish line and the satisfaction of knowing they could build and drive a car thru what has remained one of the most grueling races in history. There are many literary descriptions for the La Carrera Panamericana and here are just a few;

The most dangerous torture tests of all time for man and machine.
The premier event of world racing.
World's Longest Road Race.
Battle Of The Giants.
The Mexican Road Race.
The Most Dangerous Race In The World.
The World's Toughest Race
Most Grueling Race In Any Calendar.
More grueling than Le Mans, four times longer than the Indy 500 and more treacherous than the Mille Miglia.

With respect given to no changes in the La Carrera here is an article that was published in TIME the year I was born 1951.

From the sunbaked, palm-dotted town of Tuxtla Gutiérrez near the Guatemalan border, 97 carefully tuned automobiles set off last week on the first northward lap of the second Pan-American stock-car race, a five-day, 1,933-mile scramble sponsored by Mexico's National Automobile Association. Competing with Mexican speed demons for $68,000 in prizes—and the glory of beating some of the world's nerviest racers to Ciudad Juarez—were two-man teams from the U.S., Canada, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, France and Italy. Ahead of them were the hairpin curves, roller-coaster dips and erratic paving of the Pan-American highway, bone-jarring enough at tourist speeds, and highly dangerous for even the most experienced racer.

At the start of the race, Jose Estrada, a prosperous Mexico City auto dealer and a veteran racer, announced: "I will win, or die trying." On the first lap, his 1951 Packard screeched off the road and tumbled 630 feet down into a ravine. Both Estrada and Co-Driver Miguel González died in a Oaxaca hospital that afternoon. Next day Carlos Panini, wealthy Italian-born founder of Mexico's first scheduled airline (Aerovias Panini), was killed when his Alfa Romeo skidded into a field and turned over.

Though the Mexican attitude toward bloodshed and danger is traditionally stoic, the deaths of two well-known Mexican sportsmen in the first two days of the race brought some reactions of horror and indignation. A government official publicly branded the race "an imitation of North American customs not suited to Mexican characteristics." The press went off on a crusade. Mexico City's El Universal declared that permitting such dangerous shenanigans was a "crime."

Meanwhile, the race went on, to heightened public interest. Of the 97 starting cars, only 35—all but two U.S. models—finished out the race. Among the starters who dropped out: Hershel McGriff of Portland, Ore., winner of the 1950 race. The two foreign cars that went the route, both lightweight 1951 Italian Ferraris, came in first and second. Leading the pack was Italy's white-haired Piero Taruffi, who finished fourth last year. Taruffi's Ferrari covered the 1,933 miles at an average speed of 88.2 m.p.h., 9.8 m.p.h. faster than McGriff's 1950 mark. Runnerup was Alberto Ascari, Italy's champion racer. Seven minutes and 50 seconds behind Ascari, according to the official clocking, was William Sterling of El Paso, in a Chrysler. The top Mexican came in ninth.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A look from across the pond

He get's a lot of it wrong but a fun video just the same.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Zacatecas and Mexico's Robin Hood

The city of Zacatecas without a doubt is one of the most beautiful places in all of Mexico and one no La Carrera participant will ever forget. Since I am making plans to take my wife to Zacatecas sometime in July I have been doing some research about it. All La Carrera participants are bigger than life characters and it seems many such characters have been involved in Zacatecas history over the years.

One of them was none other than Pancho Villa himself. Primarily remembered as a bandit today, he was in fact a populist revolutionary fighting for the people of Mexico. It's interesting to note, he was the only military leader to invade the mainland of the United States in the 1900's. In 1916 he crossed the border and attacked Columbus, New Mexico. In response, the United States sent General John Pershing into Mexico to track him down. After two years, he gave up, unable to find the noted revolutionary.

In colonial days, Zacatecas was the largest silver producing city in the world and the source of much of Mexico's wealth thus a supply of funds for whomever held it. One of the single bloodiest battles of the Revolution was on the hilltop overlooking Zacatecas which is the same hill we raced up called La Buffa. To this day there are monuments on the hill commemorating this event as well as a beautiful church overlooking the summit.

Zacatecas was heavily defended by Federal troops trying to take the wealth is silver which would help rule Mexico but Pancho Villa had different thoughts. Attacking up steep slopes, Villa's men won the bloody victory, with combined casualties numbering over 7,000 dead and 5,000 wounded and unknown numbers of civilian casualties. Thanks to Pancho Villa the loss of Zacatecas in June 1914 broke the back of the Huerta regime, and Huerta left for exile.

In retrospect it's simply amazing to realize we raced Lucky's horses up the very same hill that Pancho Villa raced his horse up which sits over looking the city of Zacatecas a city I day dream of often.

Trivia; The Mexican reales were the original dollar and where the first to be called "pieces of eight." It is also why the Mexican Peso and the Dollar both use $ signs and why a quarter is “two bits” (two-eights of a piece of eight = 2/8 = 1/4 = one quarter).

Will goes to the 24 Hours of Daytona!

While a few of us find time to relax for a few weeks before our next race there are others who simply can't stand still... one of those being California's Best Racing team member Will Faules. Yesterday found Will at Button Willow Raceway in Southern California crew cheif'ing for Team No Hot Wire Grand Am Cup car for some last minute testing before loading up and heading off for Daytona.

Team owner and friend, Richard Biscevic had much of the preparation of both of his beautifully prepared 2006 Nissan 350Z's done at the same place Lucky's cage was built at Impact Engineering. Last year they suffered some engine set backs during open practice at the KONI Challenge FRESH FROM FLORIDA 200 but after yesterday's session things are looking very promising for Team No Hot Wire.

Will helped get the car dialed in for both Richard Biscervic and CAR and DRIVER driver Aaron Robinson as they spent the day sorting out the car. When all was said and done they all came away smiling after what was considered a great test day. The Fresh from Florida 200 at Daytona will run at The World Center of Racing on January 25, 2008 prior to the prestigious twice-around-the-clock 46th Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 26-27.

After the Fresh from Florida 200 race Will will be crewing for THE RACERS GROUP Porsches for the 2008 24 Hours of Daytona. California's Best Racing has ran in races with THE RACERS GROUP over the years many times including the prestigious 25 Hours of Thunderhill.

Please join Team California's Best in wishing Team No Hot Wire a very successful run in the KONI Challenge FRESH FROM FLORIDA 200 as they head out for the cross country drive. Team California's Best would also like to wish THE RACERS GROUP a good long run during the 24 Hours of Daytona.

These photos of Will Faules (Crew Chief), Richard and Aaron were taken yesterday at Button Willow Raceway.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Aftermath in Mexico City

At the 2007 La Carrera Panamericana on the day we raced thru downtown Mexico City they had to close the freeway which is the first time it has even happened. Needless to say it was a major undertaking and one that must have really raised some hell with regards to the regular traffic. All of us who were in race cars got the kings treatment while the freeway was entirely closed off allowing us to do out thing with no restrictions whatsoever. Having spoken to several teams whose chase and support crews had to follow it was a major undertaking to make way thru all that traffic. This video is the only one I have seen that actually shows the freeway reopening after all the race cars had taken off. I wonder how long the first commuter in line had to wait let alone those way at the back.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Home, home on the range

If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times, when it comes to racing we run into some of the most interesting characters. One of the teams I really enjoyed being around was car #385 a Ford Falcon driven by C.J. "Chip" Johns and co-piloto Dee Grisamore. Long before I ever met Chip I felt as if I knew him since his reputation seems to easily proceed him. Some of the stories I heard about Chip and his little lady had to do with the weekend he invited everyone down to his "spread" in New Mexico just prior to everyone heading off into the sunset to run the Chihuahua last year. If you like a western atmosphere as much as I do you are going to just love Chip's place.

Chip and his car have ran numerous times in the La Carrera as well as various other races and when it comes to pushing the envelope Chip knows how to get-er done as they say in the south and it showed in the final results when he finished in second place in the Exhibition class. Like the others that ran in 2007, those Falcons are really popular and they are a real pleasure to hear and watch as they tend to squat and plant themselves around a tight corner and then roar off as if they were about to blast off.

The # 385 Falcon is colorful but not as colorful as Chip himself. Chip is a good ole boy who not only wears a beard and white cowboy hat but in fact he looks and sounds the part to boot. One second he will race your tail off and if you don't want to end up in a ditch wearing some cactus then you better damn well learn how to drive or pull over cause he is going to pass you. On the other hand, if he sees you in need of anything whether it be a wrench or a hand fixing something he is the first to offer it up in the true La Carrera Spirit. One day as we pulled into the beautiful square of Puebla there was literally thousands of excited fans as far as you could see. Having had a great day on the various speed sections Jon and I were feeling pretty damn good about things.

Every single team had been signing autographs, handing out hero cards and posing for photographs as fast as we could when all of a sudden I looked over and saw Chip. There stood Chip still in his driving suit, wearing his ten gallon Stetson and having a beer. But what really cracked me up was him standing there not in a pair of driving shoes but rather in a pair of custom made cowboy boots, one firmly on the ground and the other on a young Mexican boy's shoe-shine stand getting polished. I'm telling you, those good ole boys really take their boots seriously. No amount of fans, photos, dinner or driver's meeting was going to get in the way of those boots looking good. Speaking of boots, I have kicked myself in the butt a bunch of times for not taking a picture of that.

One of the reasons I was thinking about Chip today is because I got word from him that he had a run in with some livestock. In Chip's own words, "As you may or may not have heard I got stomped by several of my darling cows a week ago Friday. Broke the damn leg in 4 or 5 places crushed the knee cap etc. Am having some reasonably serious surgery tomorrow morning and expect to be in the hospital until wed or so. Then "only three months" on crutch's. This scratching a living from the belly of the Lord is not all that it`s cracked up to be. Please send my regards to all and I will be in touch once I am out of the hospital and back on my wheelchair."

I remember the morning after it was all over at our hotel as teams began loading up trailers for the final return back across the border. As I was having breakfast in the hotel I ran into Chip's group having a bite to eat. When I walked over to say what I thought would be a quick good-bye I was greeted with a handshake and pulled into a chair to join them by Chip himself. Here we were trying to hit the road and get back to California and yet Chip was insisting we find time to "Come on by the ranch. Besides, it's on yer way home anyway." Chip and company are the type of great people who don't forget who their friends are and they never stop reaching out a hand of true hospitality. Please join California's Best in wishing Chip a speedy recovery God help them cows if they damaged his cowboy boots. If you get a chance and want to send Chip a get well note just post them here or email me at and I'll see he gets it.

Friday, January 11, 2008

La Carrera Spirit Lives On

I have said it many times but everyone I have met that had anything to do with the La Carrera Panamericana is truly special in so many ways. George and Tom, two gentlemen from back east, competed in 2006 the year before we ran in the Dover Brothers Racing Team car # 283 a 1958 Volvo. During the year prior to finishing Lucky I became friends with George and Tom and even had the distinct pleasure of spending a day in San Francisco with Tom while him and his wife were here on holiday. Not only did we become good friends but they were very helpful with preparation of what to expect while in Mexico. CLICK HERE and check out their blog which gives a good play by play of how they became involved, picked up a car and got it ready for La Carrera.

Thru our countless email and blogging George, Tom and I had shared a lot of laughs but as is par for the course for racers our correspondence went much farther. Over the last couple years like any other friends do, we shared stories about friends, family, busted knuckles and more and while all of that has been great none of that is what I would like to share today.

This story is a wonderful tribute to what racers with heart tend to do... they look out for each other and everyone becomes more like family than just a friend. In 2006 George and Tom's long time friend John "Big Dog" Beadle passed away. Having been good friends with him for years including times spent together at chili cook-offs and barbecues they saw their good friend's health fall off and eventually the loss of his legs. It was during those times they learned how bad he and his wife Sue who used to race his 1962 MGA back in the early 60's dreamed of getting it running again after sitting for many years.

After his death and without a word one day George and Tom pulled up to John's house with a trailer, loaded up the MGA and brought it home where they could they fix it up after 30 years. Their intentions were simple... To prepare the car so that they could give a mechanically safe car to their best friend's daughter Terry and without concerns of time or money. The motor had to be disassembled, brake work performed and other countless hours of attention given before they got it running. As a result of their unselfish acts in fact they have already returned it to it's home right where their best friend left it. How I would have loved to have seen the look on Big Dog's wife and daughter's face when they saw and heard it sitting there.

It is exactly this sort of loyalty to friends that I have seen time and time again since getting involved with the La Carrera community. In the La Carrera world it is better known as Spirit of La Carrera. When we hear such respectable stories as this one about George and Tom it's easy to understand why this sort of spirit will live on forever. I am proud to call them my friends.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Remembering a Hemingway quote

Sardar Tenzing Norgay, right, and Edmund Hillary at the British Embassy in Katmandu, capital of Nepal, on June 26, 1953.

Anyone who knows me will tell you how much I enjoy Hemingway and for what should be obvious reasons one of my favorite Hemingway quotes is, “There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.”

How ironic that I just posted the previous article. One interesting fact I learned about Dyana Marlett is that she is much more than just a pretty face. Besides everything else she enjoys she is a very active mountain climber with many major climbs to her credit and I'm not talking about the escalator at the mall on white sale clearance day either. Besides training with Mark Tucker (six time Mt Everest summiter) not only has she climbed Mount Rainer, Hood, Grand Teton, Kilimanjaro in Africa but in fact has gone as high as 21,000 feet on Mount Everest and is soon to return to go as high as 23,000 feet.

The reason I say this is ironic is not entirely because Dyana enjoys racing as much as mountain climbing but rather because I as soon as I was done posting the previous article I took a look at the news only to read the following headlines... Sir Edmund Hillary, a Pioneering Conquerer of Everest, Dies at 88

I couldn't believe what I was reading. One of my all-time idols gone. Having been to Africa on hunting safaris one of my life-long dreams is to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and it was only last week that I asked Dyana for her advice and thoughts of such and adventure. My mother always told me people die in threes and this week I lost two friends and now this. Take my advice and find time to get out and fill your dreams now because it may not happen if you wait too long and there is no going back.

Some history is just more "Special" than others

During this years La Carrera I had the pleasure of meeting so many amazing people. But wouldn't you agree, when you get right down to it, anyone who is crazy enough to say, "Hey... let's build an expensive race car, take it down to the bottom of Mexico and haul ass back toward the United States breaking every law we can as we go during the day and hey, then we can party every night!" has got to be considered amazing.

One of those amazing teams who shared our enthusiasm was car #205 an LT Special driven by Sam Burg and navigated by co-piloto Dyana Marlett both of which are veterans of previous La Carreras. As per Mats Hammarlund's site, the The LT-Special is a very famous racecar with an interesting history.

It was first built by Juan Lerdo deTejada in Mexico City 1954. The purpose was to take on the European sports cars that were dominating the ''La Carrera Panamericana''. It was scheduled to be introduced to the world in the ''La Carrera'' of 1955. Unfortunately, the great Mexican Road race was canceled because of to many accidents and therefore the LT never got to race on the open roads. It did race very successfully on various road courses in Mexico for many years.

In the early nineties, the car was found by the son of the original owner. It was in terrible condition but was carefully rebuilt by Juan Lerdo deTejada Jr. Juan raced it in the modern version of the ''La Carrera Panamericana''. So finally, in -98 some 43 years after it was built, it got to stretch out on the open roads like it was designed for. Unfortunately, a minor accident prohibited the car to show its true potential.

In 2002 Juan contacted Mats Hammarlund Racing to discuss the possibilities of a continuation of the LT-Special. Juan wanted the car to race again but simply did not want to risk, the only car ever built. In December of 2003 started the new production of the LT-Special and the first one is already sold.

The new LT has a modern chassis with a factory GM V8 engine, 5 speed transmission and 4 wheel disc brakes.

Sam did a fine job guiding his car as we made the mad dash back towards the United States Border and his car always drew a big crowd when we reached the city squares. On the other hand Dyana drew a pretty big crowd herself. Some teams have all the luck. Both of them were always a pleasure to be around whether it was on the road or just hanging out.

One of the first things you learn when you run in the La Carrera is always be ready for something because you never know what you are going to run into something around the next corner. One day Sam gave us a bit of a scare as he found out exactly what that something was around the corner. It was a BRIDGE! Jon and I were making good time as Jon was calling out the road turn by turn and then all of a sudden I came hauling around what was a very fast right hand sweeper and instantly all of our senses quickly became much more acute if that's possible. It was clear something was not par for the course as my brain quickly began to compute all that my eyes were seeing. Part of my vision took in chunks of car all over the roadway while my attention was grabbed by waving arms trying to slow us down. Then off to the left side of the road at the end of some very fresh and long black skid marks was Sam's car broken and had slammed into both sides of a bridge embankment narrowly going over what would have been a fatal landing into a very deep canyon. In this case the photos tell quite a story. Just take a look at how close those skid marks were to the end of that bridge and opening to the canyon below!

My first thought was one of hoping everyone is OK and the second is trying hard to see if everyone is accounted for all the while as I attempted to drive thru the scattered pieces of car not knowing what damage it might due to our car. Once everything was computed and everyone was safe and accounted for it was back on the throttle and wide open across the bridge and up the hill.

Regardless of how bad you want to move ahead in the overall standings you can't help but feel a wrench in your gut when you see any competitor waving madly on a blind corner with their car badly broken. At the same time that you try to put them behind you and stay focused on your job you can't help but worry if everyone else will get thru as safe as we did.

As things turned out not only did everything turn out OK but in fact it is those exact types of teams that make us appreciate what it is we are all doing here. That night back in the parking lot Sam and Dyana's support team stayed up late removing, repairing and reassembling the car and by the next morning it was as ready to race again as it was the morning before. Even better yet was the two big smiles on Sam and Dyana's faces as they were none the worse for wear and raring to get under way. It just doesn't get any better than that!

WARNING; Don't take Burmuda shorts & Sandels

Some years ago I was invited by Chile's Olympic shooting team to be their guest as they hosted me to a week of entertainment and shooting and all I had to pay for was the plane ticket. Normally before I go to some foreign land I open up a few books and do a little research. I was so excited about the thought of what at the time was to be my first trip to South America that I skipped any study time. Awwww, South America.... tropics, fruit drinks, dark tans and shooting. What more could a young travel ask for and it was those very same visions that helped me choose what to pack in my duffel bag for the whirlwind adventure. I packed nothing but two pair of sandals, a bunch of Bermuda shorts and several Haywain type shirts. Within a few weeks I found myself on connecting flights from Los Angeles to Miami and on to Santiago Chile in hopes of working on my tan.

It wasn't until we were about to exit the plane in Santiago that I began to wonder why everyone was staring at me but it didn't take long to figure out as soon as they opened the door to exit the plane. Within a few minutes my white legs and arms began to turn purple and riddled with goosebumps which seemed to nicely accent the bright white Bermuda Shorts and white Hawaiian short sleeve shirt I had on. The truth is as I took my first step out onto the loading ramp and saw what looked like ten foot of snow on the ground was, "HOLY CRAP, The damn plane must have been hijacked to the North Pole! Where in the hell are we?"

As it turns out, had I taken time to look up Santiago Chile in my atlas I would have realized by comparison, Santiago, Chile is to the Southern hemisphere what Anchorage Alaska is to the northern! That had to be the coldest week I ever spent anywhere in my life. Luckily enough my friends from Chile each donated a piece of clothing to help out what I considered a very worthy cause but by the time I got back to sunny California I was dressed like something out of God knows what. I had a baggy pair of purple stretch type sweat pants, a very dull burnt orange sweater complete with white spatterd paint and topped off with a pair of yellow loafers that were almost 4 full sizes to large.

Why am I writing about this? Well today over on THE SPORTING LIFE I learned that Chile made an announcement that it was willing to host the 2008 Dakar Rally! How cool is that? It will be interesting to see if something so grand that involves so much planning and logistics could possibly be pulled off. While I agree it would be no different than asking China to hold the La Carrera but in light of what has taken place I for one would truly enjoy seeing the effort become a reality. Click here to be taken to the link. My advice if they do manage to pull it off... Leave the Bermuda shorts and sandals at home.

Some legends never die, they just get faster

In my life time I have been honored to know many incredible men some of whom I idolize and one of them that stands out is none other than Carroll Shelby himself. Tomorrow marks Carroll’s 85th birthday and there is going to be a gala event held at the Las Vegas factory on January 11-13, 2008 that is sure to make even the biggest car enthusiast envious.

It would be easy at this time to do what most other automotive journalist in the world typically do by starting in with all the redundant kudos and accolades about Carroll’s many amazing accomplishments. The truth is, Carroll’s many successes are so well documented that it seems almost impossible to discuss anything new. What can possibly be written about a man who has his resume as if dominating sports car racing in the mid 50s, twice being named Sports Car Illustrated’s “Driver of the Year.” and then winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1959 wasn’t enough? In retrospect he was just getting started. With all due respect and I do mean that in every sense of the word, what I would rather write about is a special memory I shared with Carroll almost 17 years ago.

That year I had the distinct pleasure of meeting and becoming friends with Carroll’s doctor while attending a Shelby Concourse De Elegance held at the Beverly Hills Hotel. We spent most of the weekend enjoying all of the many fine Shelbys in attendance and showing each other’s cars to one another. The doctor noticed an old bumper sticker I had sitting on the consol of my car that said, “CARROLL SHELBY IS ALIVE AND WELL AND LIVING UNDER THE HOOD.” He asked where I had gotten it and I told him, “Believe it of not I bought it in 1970 but never stuck it on anything. One of these days I might ask Carroll to autograph it for me.” As he stood there reading it his eyes began to lit up as if there was a light bulb over his head. Then he said, “Do you have any plans for the next hour or so?” When I asked him what he had in mind he replied, “I have to run over to Cedars-Sinai Hospital and check on Carroll. How would you like to come along and say hello?” The fact of the matter was I hadn’t even known Carroll was just down the way in the hospital having some heart surgery. Well, he didn’t have to ask twice and so he said, “OK then we’ll leave in a few minutes and don’t forget to bring that bumper sticker along.

The next thing I knew we were walking into Carroll’s hospital room and there he was with tubes and IV’s not at all unlike an AC Cobra hooked up to a Sun Analyzer getting a tune-up. One of the most amazing things about Carroll is his amazing ability to remember almost everyone he ever meets. Not only does he seem to remember everyone but he seems to have total recall as well as he says, “Hello guys. Hey Gary, how’s that 68 running?” I waited while the doctor took care of a few things and then he rolled a hospital tray over to Carroll’s bed and said, “Gary has something he wants you to sign.” and then motioned me to hand over the bumper sticker.

While Carroll was signing the bumper sticker the doctor teasingly said, “Just think how much that autograph would be worth if it was your last and only had an “S” followed by the last scribble tapering off the side of the page.” Carroll stopped before signing his last name and looked up at us with a smile in his eyes and said, “It’s so nice to be loved… You Some Bitches.”

I still have that bumper sticker in a safe place and like it I will cherish that memory for years to come. For me it was more than just a few moments with a man I have idolized for so many years but rather an in-depth look into a man who looked adversity squarely in the face and said, “Give it your best shot.” It is that same look that reminded me of a favorite quote from Alexandre Dumas’s, Count of Monte Christo when he said, “Life is a storm my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes. You must look into that storm and shout, as you did in Rome, ‘Do your worst…for I will do mine.’”

That said, it’s easy to realize Carroll is THE man who has done both his worst and his best and now it’s his moment to bask in the sunlight.

Happy Birthday Carroll and may you have many more.

How does this sound for a birthday party? Some of the scheduled event plans for Carroll birthday bash will include:

A birthday party for Carroll

Chili cook off

Exhibit of the 2008 Ford Shelby GT500KR

Autograph session with Carroll

Hertz Shelby reunion and car show

Parts swap meet and vendor area

Open track at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Drag racing at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Gotta love those black cars!

One of my favorite movie quotes was from a Batman movie when Robin said, "I want a car. Chicks dig the car." and them Batman said, "This is why Superman works alone." Keeping that in mind check out this real bad ass Batmobile!

Recently I asked for La Carrera Panamericana stories and I am getting a great response. The following was sent in by Othon Garcia who drove car #115, the beautiful black 1954 Buick Century. Everyone just loved this car and personally I felt as if I knew the car long before I first put my hands on it. While doing research on the La Carrera race several times I would get very excited when I would find videos of Othon's car on the Internet. Anyone who has seen those videos will tell you without a doubt it is one of the best sounding cars you will even hear. Furthermore, having raced with him I can tell you it looks and sounds even better in person. I remember listening to this car and I love watching it perform on La Buffa when it sounds like it's a mad bunch of hornets. Man does this car sound awesome! It pleases me very much to get Othon's story to share with everyone. What a cool ride and having met him I can tell you Othon is just as cool as his car. A special thanks to Bret Haller at THE UNLIMITED CLASS BLOG for the photos. And be sure to check out Othon's awesome in-car video.

One more thing I would like to say with regards to Othon is that he truly represented his country of Mexico with a lot of dignity. Not only was he a good competitor with an awesome car but he was exactly the type of man that was best suited to represent his country. For that matter, all of the Mexican team members I met in Mexico were some of the finest gentleman in racing I have had the pleasure of racing with. Thanks for the story Othon and wqe look forward to racing with you again my friend.

Der Gary,

I am taking your offer of sending you a story about something related to La Carrera. I am the owner of the black Buick Century. And, as you, I am in love with my car. So I want to share with you how this love story has evolved:

How I got in love with this Buick? Well it goes like this:

In 1994 I was working in Marketing at P&G. My boss at that time went to have dinner to an X restaurant and a waiter drop some wine in his lap. The owner of the restaurant came to apologize and somehow they started talking about cars. The owner mentioned that since 1992 he raced La Carrera Panamericana and after a couple of glasses of wine my boss decided to sponsor this guy. A couple of weeks later my boss was moved to an international assignment and I took control of the brand. It was then when I discovered that we were sponsoring a car! So I called the driver (the restaurant guy) and told him that I was now in charge of the brand, etc. etc. He invited me to that year’s presentation of la Carrera since his car was going to be present there. Weeks later, at the presentation, I met the Buick for the 1st time. It was the first time I have seen a Buick Century 54 and I immediately got in love with it! I sponsor the Buick from 94 to 96.

In 97 I left P&G and the Buick also changed hands. It was bought by another Carrera racer (Jorge Silva) and he invested quite a lot of money on it. He finished 2nd that year. But he wanted to win so he decided to make himself a 53 Studebaker (much lighter, more aerodynamic). He took all the racing parts from the Buick to make his new car…

In 98 the Buick (or what was left of it) was pretty much abandoned.
In 99 I called the owner and ask if I could race the Buick. “Well –he said– if you construct it again”. So I managed a sponsor and invested 35K in the car. That year, 99, I race for the first time the Buick (and race for the fist time anything for that matter!). It wasn’t a good race. Out of 7 days, I only raced 4. Mechanically the car was a mess. Very frustrating.
Early on 2000 the owner sold the Buick to a guy from Belgium. They raced it on 2000 and on 2001 they raced it again but crashed big time at la Bufa. This Belgian knew I loved the Buick so he called me and ask me if I wanted to buy the car as it was (very well crashed). Without seeing the car nor asking his price I said YES!!! (10K was the price by the way).

On 2002 and a part of 2003 I spent quite a bit of money to leave the Buick as I wanted. I raced it again (but now as owner!) that year. The raced lasted 5 hours…. a car in front of me blew the engine and I grabbed all his oil in a fast curve. Back to the shop!

In 2004 I was about to race the car but one night prior to start “it was decided” that It was better for me to race another car (the Buick did not felt “safe” they told me) so I ended up racing a Studebaker instead. Loooong, looong, very long story.
In 2005 I invested again more money, change brakes, engine and a new roll cage. It was an ok year but the new engine (done in the US by a guy that does NASCAR engines) was no good. Basically was VERY powerful but at VERY high revs (just like for an oval….

So in 2006 I decided to send the car to the Vega Family with the following instructions: Assume that the car is yours. <>. They pretty much changed everything (again!!!!) but finally, finally, finally!!! I’ve got my racing car just like the one I dreamed for back in 1994.
This year the car was great and I can not wait to race it again in 2008 (by the way, I DO NOT drive the car except for La Carrera. So every year I can get the rush of driving it again!).

My driving record/experience? Only la Carrera as described. Nothing else. Actually I get teased because I really drive slowly on my everyday car (never above 65). So when people ask me where did I learned to drive and how come I can place the Buick on top places, I tell them: “It is not me. It is the Buick! After all it has been running the race since 92, so he knows the roads already!”

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

All those tiny little streets

The day we spent in Zacatecas was really very special to me. It is so beautiful and as close to magical as any place can be. There are many shops in which to browse in and Jon went and enjoyed some of them and got some shopping in for his wife that his no doubt was missing. What I didn't realize was that while I was having the experience of a lifetime my son Will was having a terrible time. Since the streets were very narrow and twisted not to mention the streets were packed for miles around with cars and people trying to meet the teams and see their cars. By the time Will found us in front of our beautiful colonial hotel, The Emporio, he was major stressed out. It truly made me sad that he wasn't having as much fun as I was. What did make me happy was the way he found ability to get himself together after I hired a taxi and went with him to go get our trailer near our hotel. It was obvious that he was feeling a lot better after the trailer was near the front of the hotel as he began talking about the car and reminding me of some things that needed to be done on the car. I can't begin to tell you both as a racer but even more importantly as a father how proud he makes me and that night was no exception. He really outdone himself and when he would say, "Dad... don't worry about it. I have everything under control. Just relax and enjoy yourself."

After Will and I finished changing some tires and getting Lucky locked up in the trailer and with Jon and Steffan having a nice dinner and relaxing I went to the famous Bullring for the awards ceremony and dinner. This was really the first evening we as a team went our own way for the evening. It was nice but in retrospect I would have loved had we all been together on the podium that night when we took the award. When I stood up there holding it up above my head I was smiling but I really missed my best friend and son.

My son and I laugh each time we look at these two photos. As I stand alone on the podium the cameras went off both from in front and behind. If you look you can see Brett Haller taking the photo from behind while the one in front is being taken. That evening when I walked back to my hotel I ran into Will and showed him the award and I was excited to show Jon but when I got to our room Jon was sawing some serious logs. To tell the truth, knowing he was able to unwind and get a great nights rest that he deserved made me smile too.

Lets all cheer for Anna

Last November I reported Anna Sorensson who was Ralph Christensson,s co-piloto in the #389 Monte Carlo Falcon had received word that her and her team mate Pat had received official notice from the Automobile Club de Monaco that they were accepted to participate in the annual running of 11e Rallye Monte-Carlo Historique.

Like so many others we met during the La Carrera, I can't begin to tell you how much we enjoyed both Anna and Ralf's true friendship and their amazing sportsmanship and I am sure I speak for Jon and Will when I share our enthusiasm in hoping theirs will be a friendship that will last for many years to come. Well keep in mind that is only a few weeks away and it will take place from the 1st to 6th of February so the excitement is really building. I am sure that anyone who met Anna will be as excited as we are in wishing her good luck.

Anna sent me these photos taken as her and her team mate checked out some of the awesome road they will be racing on. It's easy to see from the photos that the weather conditions are considerably different than what we experienced in Mexico. I love the photo of the road but what a great shot of Anna amongst the Christmas trees. So let's all wish Anna and Pat lots of good luck from all her La Carrera friends!

When you get a chance be sure to post some good wishes for them on their blog. CLICK HERE.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Can history repeat itself?

In the racing world change is never stopping. Manufactures and builders never stop finding ways to make technological advances and cars get faster and fats er. But even with so many advancements some things simply never change.

When someone ask, "Exactly, what makes The Mexican Road Race so tough?" The response usually goes something like this...

It is a combination of several things. The race begins in a tropical climate, where the temperature is high and humid and continues along a road that goes from sea level to a suffocating 3 thousands meters altitude! Temperature variations go from 34celsius degrees to almost 2 degrees before freezing all in just 72 hours.

Even the most careful motor tuning, carburetion tests and spark plug selection need alterations every 160 km approximately. Motors that ran miraculously at 1000 mts sounded almost dead at 3000, and drivers that refused to change cooler spark plugs, soon realized after Durango the importance of this.

The Mexican Race was very though for the drivers as well as for the equipment. The road is paved with a mixture of volcanic ash and this substance that is highly abrasive will turn a perfectly new passenger car tier to a worn out one in a 1000 km distance.

Having run the La Carrera I can tell you this very accurate description pretty much sums it up in a nutshell. But what makes those exact words so much more interesting is who said them first. They were originally written by James K. Lamona for the AUTO SPORT Review in March of 1953. Even more interesting is what he said Herr Alfred Neubauer had to say. Alfred Neubauer should know what what he was talking about since it was under his leadership as the Competition Director of Mercedes Benz German Teams that they defeated the most formidable English, Italian and French participants in Europe for the last 25 years of his reign. In his own words he said,

"The 3114 km Mexican road that stretches south to north from Tuxla to Juárez is a combination of Tripoli's Grand Prix, The Italian "Mille Miglia", The German "Nurburgring" and the Le-Mans 24 hrs."

All this being said, it appears history really does repeat it's self and I can tell you that most who have taken part in the La Carrera wouldn't want it any other way.

The painting about shows a young Alfred Neubauer (in suit and hat) discussing tactics with Fangio and Moss before the start of the 1955 Grand Prix and organising the Mercedes mechanics.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Share your La Carrera Memories here

Many of our readers and I would enjoy hearing from anyone else who was involved in the La Carrera Panamericana past or present regardless of whether you were a driver, co-driver, crew, spectator or whatever. Simply write me at and fill me in.

Best regards, Gary Faules

What a small world we live in

How many times have we said, "What a small world we live in." For years I have been around and driven race cars and have been an active member with NASA for many years and even serve as a director. During the course of all this excitement it has made it possible for me to travel to lots of great tracks and meet many great personalities in the process.

Something that I found interesting while running in the 2007 La Carrera Panamericana was how many great people that we met that were from California. Not only do many of them live nearby but many of them are even members of NASA. Isn't it funny that we could all drive all the way to the south of Mexico and meet each other for the first time only to find out we are almost neighbors and how our paths have crossed.

One such team was none other than Carson Scheller and Shields Richardson. Carson drove car #433 which is a beautifully prepared 1954 Ford Vic which won the original Pan Am class. Carson also races vintage mustangs so you know he has to be an OK guy.

Something trivial that I found of interest is if you look closely at Carson's car you will notice the "Pegasus" or Flying Horse. The Pegasus Red flying horse was used as the winged mascot for the Exxon Mobil Corporation. The flying red horse, or Pegasus symbol, was used as early as 1911 and adopted as a trademark in the U.S. shortly after the organization of Socony-Vacuum in 1931. The Pegasus logo, a symbol of "speed and power" was first colored red by the Mobil Sekiyu in Japan.

The Pegasus has been involved in the motor racing world for many years. One such event was when it was featured prominently on the gas tank of the famous "Bathing Suit Vincent" motorcycle driven by rider Rollie Free. (See photo below) Thank God Carson and Richardson didn't attempt to dress like Rollie in a attempt to be more streamline. On September 13, 1948, he raised a motorcycle speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah to a speed of 150.313 mph. The motorcycle he rode was the very first Vincent HRD Black Lightning, owned by the California sportsman John Edgar and sponsored by Mobil Oil.

I am proud to present Carson's well written memoir of the 2007 La Carrera Panamericana. Enjoy.

The Adventure of a Lifetime… by Carson Scheller

The Spirit of La Carrera Panamericana

The 20th anniversary of the modern running of La Carrera Panamericana took place this year, 2007, on Oct. 26 through Nov. 1. It is in a competitive vintage race / rally format consisting of a two person team in each car: a piloto (driver) and co-piloto (navigator). It is the only road rally in the world with velocity sections of unlimited speed in which the road is closed until the racers pass through on their way to the border.

A little history about the event: It all started in 1950 by the Mexican government, which invited international race car drivers and car manufacturers to come to race the newly paved Panamerican Highway through
mainland Mexico. It was a tremendous success and attracted lots of attention until the last race in 1954.

The logo of La Carrera Panamericana is a “spirit” relating to, I believe, the history of this unusual adventure. The varied domestic and foreign vintage cars from 1950 – 1954 and 1955 – 1965 and their crews and pilots
show that spirit. In addition, unexpected by me, was the enthusiastic response of the Mexican people who greeted us at every turn out in the country and the thousands that cheered us on in the major cities every
morning at the starting line and every afternoon at the finish in the next city.

The event started in the beautiful southern city of Oaxaca, Mexico. Three thousand kilometers north was the finish line in Nuevo Laredo. During the day we alternated between velocity and transit sections, winding
through the varied landscape and dramatic vistas of central Mexico. The race cars arrived each afternoon in the beautiful cities of Tehuacán, Puebla, Queretaro, Morelia, Aguascalientes and Zacatecas.

To round out my “team” I enlisted an old friend, Shields Richardson, who didn't even hesitate when I asked him if he would be interested in the voyage. So we two “La Carrera Rookies” traveled down to Oaxaca to start
this great adventure, not really knowing what lay ahead. Our “plan” was to start off like the “tortoise and the hare,” feeling our way around with the car and navigation stuff.

Well, the twists and turns in the mountains of Oaxaca proved too much fun for a couple good ol’ boys and we were surprised to win the first day (in our class – Original Panam), racing from Oaxaca to Tehuacán. Fortunately, after racing well for the next six days, we ended up first in our class and 31st overall.

The Mexican Board of Tourism, the organizers of the race, performed a tremendous job of hosting 100 cars, drivers and teams in first class hotels at every city. The nightly drivers’ meetings were held in beautiful
historic buildings in each city with awards, drinks and dinner. The Mexican Highway Patrol gave outstanding support the whole week. With road closures to move us through the country and into each city, the high
speed police escorts led us into the historic city center of each city. There we were greeted by thousands of cheering citizens. It was truly an emotional event for all – as each city had a huge fiesta planned and we
racers were the honored guests!

We had an exciting time in Mexico and came home knowing that the spirit of La Carrera Panamericana lives, just like the good old days.

About the Car:

My car, a 1954 Ford Vic, was bought from builder and racer, Tom Roland, Texas. Tom campaigned the car in 2004 and 2006. He sold it to me in California without the Y Block engine. (He wanted to go drag racing). After the car was shipped to California, the first order of business was to contact John Mummert, El Cajon,
California, to build an endurance 292 Y Block engine. By the time I got the motor into the car and ran three tanks full of fuel through it, it was time to get it on the trailer and head to Oaxaca for the start of the

The car ran well, a tribute to Roland’s build and Mummert’s engine, even in the higher elevations up to 10,000 feet. The handling, suspension, steering and braking was all very predictable from the twists and turns to the high speed sections. Our top speed was 200 kph (120 mph).

Another invaluable part on this car is the Gearvendors overdrive unit which worked overtime and never failed. We couldn't have kept the car in the power band through the mountains and wouldn’t have reached the high
speeds without it.Engine
• 292 cui Y Block
• 113 iron heads
• Crankshaft – standard dia. with damper
• Rods – H beam chrome moly
• Pistons – domed
• Cam 292’/240’ .495
• ARP fasteners
• Rockers 1:45:1 ratio
• Alum timing cover
• Alum water pump
• Alum thermostat housing
• Alum blue thunder intake manifold
• Alum flywheel
• MSD distributor
• OEM valve covers with breather tubes
• Timing on Mexican gas 34-35’ 10-12’ initial
• Dyno 220 rwhp @ 5500 rpm


• 1954 Ford Victoria Crestline
• Full roll cage DOM
• 22 gallon fuel cell
• Electric double fuel pumps and filters
• Recaro high back race seats
• Safety nets
• 5 point Simpson Belts
• Helmet intercom system
• Full set of auto meter gauges
• Monster autometer tach with shift light
• Tilt steering and disconnect wheel
• Rally computer
• Aluminum radiator
• Power steering pump
• Wilwood Brakes and clutch pedal systerm
• 12” front rotors with four piston calipers
• 11” drum rear
• 9” Ford rear end with 3 link system
• Front coil over and rear custom leaf springs
• Gel cell 12 volt battery
• 2 Main electrical shut off switches (inside and outside of car)
• 3 speed top loader with Gearvender overdrive
• Shocks and skid plates
• Hydraulic clutch
• Centerforce II clutch
• Custom coated headers
• Custom exhaust with Flowmaster

Thank you sponsors:
Red Barn Restaurant, Santa Ynez, California
Baja Cantina, Carmel Valley, California
Gear Vendors Under / Overdrive


Friday, January 04, 2008

A very good year for Mustang lovers

The Library of Congress is adding 25 more classic American films to its national registry and Bullitt has raced into those chosen. How cool is that!

While announcing the selection, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said "Even as Americans fill the movie theaters to see the latest releases, few are aware that up to half the films produced in this country before 1950 and as much as 90 percent of those made before 1920 are lost forever. The National Film Registry seeks not only to honor these films, but to ensure that they are preserved for future generations to enjoy."

The 25 chosen this year bring the registry total up to 475.

Both recent and early films are eligible for inclusion, and hundreds are nominated by the public each year. The films are chosen because they are "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant.
And now Bullitt can now be found in very good company. Among those selected this year:

"In a Lonely Place," 1950, a scathing Hollywood satire with Humphrey Bogart playing a screenwriter, brilliant at his craft yet prone to living with his fists.

"Oklahoma!" 1955, brought the fun and famous musical to the screen.

"The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," 1962, director John Ford's last great Western. The film shows that the conquest of the West meant the triumph of civilization, embodied in Jimmy Stewart, over wild innocence John Wayne and the evil Lee Marvin.

Dakar is canceled

After having read about the cancellation of this years running of the Dakar my heart really goes out to all those involved. Of course my heart goes out to those who have been murdered but I also feel sick for anyone who has prepared for years for this particular event. Besides the enormous expense there is so much more involved in the planning and preparation for such an event most of all that will be lost. Click HERE to be taken to the announcement made by the Dakar official organizers.