Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I have heard through the grapevine that next years LCP prize will be a little more unique than a simple trophy or plaque. Instead the first team to catch the prized LCP turkey get's to call themselves the winner. Most turkeys would be pretty easy to catch but there is something you may want to know about this particular turkey. It's not your everyday turkey...

I honestly believe that anyone who has taken part in La Carrera Panamericana completely appreciates how fortunate they are that among so many more important faccets of life we have been so fortunate to have been part of it all. La Carrera Panamericana is such a small roll in our lives and yet one that stands out so much for many of us and anyone lucky enough to be part of the La Carrera Panamericana family can indeed consider themselves thankful.

Here is wishing everyone of you a wonderful Thanksgiving. May you live to enjoy a hundred more and just as many race days.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The 3 F's... Fast... Friendly... Fun

Anyone who has been involved with the fine art of endurance racing will tell you that the only thing you can be certain of is uncertainty. The old saying of, anything that can happen will, still rings true especially in La Carrera Panamericana. As seen in this video sent to me by Jonny Olofsson the co-piloto for Lars Stugemo in the #114 Studebaker, you can never assume it's in the bag until the fat lady sings. I am proud to call both of these Swedes my friend and both are fine gentleman and racers who know how to get it done.

This first of two videos was taken on the very same stretch of road that Jon and I ran Lucky on last year. It is a very high speed section with faster cars often reaching speeds of 200 miles per hour and like so many other sections of La Carrera Panamericana, it's not a place you want anything to go wrong. After 7 days of hard racing and the final finish line in Nuevo Laredo in sight all of a sudden the windshield is covered with oil and seconds later the engine grenades. Being the true racers they are, they did what any self respecting guys would do and that was push the car across the finish line and into the history books of 5th overall and 4th in class.

This next video just shows some of the excitement, color and flavor that is nothing more than a passion, a love and a mistress of anyone of us who love La Carrera Panamericana. One observation I have noticed reminds me of an old saying, "Birds of a feather flock together." It seems Mats Hammarlund and Eva Hellsrom have the ability to attract only quality men and women team members and drivers who know not only how to drive but to show the appreciation they have for what we do. Any sucessful businessman will tell you that in order to be successful you must know how to surround yourself with the right people. Mats and Eva have done exactly that.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Humor Sent From South Of The Border

Having just finished racing in La Carerra Panamericana a piloto in Mexico realized lo and behold, he lost his wallet and all identification. While he attempting to make his way home he was stopped by a Mexican Customs Agent at the Nuevo Laredo border.

"May I see your identification, por favor, senor?" asked the agent.

"I'm sorry, but I lost my wallet," replied the piloto.

"Si, amigo, I hear that every day. No ID, no crossing the border," said the agent.

"But I can prove that I'm an American!" he exclaimed. "I have a picture of Bill Clinton tattooed on one butt cheek and a picture of Hillary Clinton tattooed on the other."

"This I must see," replied the agent. With that, the piloto dropped his pants and bent over in front of the agent.

"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, you're right!" exclaimed the agent. "Have a safe trip back to Chicago."

"Thanks!" he said. "But why do you think I'm from Chicago?"

The agent replied, "I recognized Barack Obama in the middle!"

A Lesson To Be Learned From David & Goliteh

Here is an awesome video from Autodromo De Queretaro of Marc Davis's #370 Falcon doing an awesome job standing up to the onslaught of Othon Garcia Silva's #115 Buick.

Really Cool Special Edition LCP Magazine

My good friend Francisco Ortiz sent me this latest copy of RCM (Rally Car Mexico) and it is the best magazine article on La Carrera Panamericana I have ever seen. Granted most of it is in Spanish but there is 35 full pages and the cover filled with awesome photos and an official program.

Not only are there great articles but there are also pages and pages of photos including a section with each and every team photo of each piloto and co-piloto as well as their car. There are some awesome photos of many cars from the 2007race as well.

Additionally there is a two-page feature article about some of the La Carrera Panamericana cars that competed in last years Pikes Peak Hill Climb with a bitchin photo of Doug Mockett's Rocket headed to the moon. Something else I really enjoy about the article is it shows some of the LCP posters from prior years which I have never seen before. This truly is a collectors edition that everyone will be proud to own for years to come.

I have written RCM editors to find out how you can get your own copy and I have great news. Roberto C. Mendoza who also competed in La Carrera in the #303 Porsche just happens to be the general director for Rally Car Mexico and he has graciously offered copies free of charge to La Carrera Panamericana teams.

If you would like a copy simply drop him an email at; and give them your name, address, zip code and country. It may not be required but depending upon your zip code you may need to send some postage but I assure you it's well worth it. Like one of my friends said, we sould all sign up for a years subscription. So at least ask about it when you write.

Thank you Roberto and Rally Car Mexico!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It's Tough To Live Through Another Racer Vicariously

Father and son Will and me.

When someone ask me what I love most about racing without hesitation I tell them it's doing it with family. Even since my kids were little we all spent race day with each other. If I wasn't with my son at the kart track he was with me at the road races. Over the years our entire family spent more weekends racing than we did at home it seems. Families that race together have more going for them than they realize. In the years to come there will be times when they sit around the living room and reminisce and laugh about the times they spent at the track, the good and the bad. And one day, the kids will be able to say... "Listen up... Let me tell you grand kids about the time your grandfather and me raced down in Mexico....."

During the months prior to the start of the 2008 La Carrera Panamericana one of the toughest emotions for me was knowing I was not going to be there but even harder was watching other teams that were going who where either father and son, husband and wife or family members traveling together. While racing is exciting in more ways than can be explained, there is nothing more rewarding than doing it with a member of your family. Of course anyone who has ran La Carrera will tell you that once you have been there you end up adopting a lot of wonderful people who in fact seem like family before you return home but the simple reality is, nothing is thicker than blood.

One of the lesson I love best about these families is that they are always supportive of each other through whatever hand is dealt them. No matter how tough things got everyone of them had a sincere smile on their faces. If they made a MasterCard commercial it might go something like this... Race car, $100,000. Time off from work and trip, $15,000. Good sportsmanship... Priceless.

In 2007 when Jon and I ran I was extremely fortunate that my son Will was a member of our team. Not only couldn't we have done so well without him but just being able to spend such an awesome adventure with him was amazing in it's self. Since Will grew up in the racing world from the time he was a little boy which led to him becoming the youngest licensed race car driver in the U.S. and eventually to national championships as well as race director for one of the largest racing venues in the U.S. how luck could a team be to have his experience as part of the team?

Needless to say, it really touches me in a special place when I see others as fortunate as we have been. While I can't name them all I can remember some of the "family" teams that I have been blessed to become friends and raced with during La Carrera Panamericana. There are many more but unfortunately I didn't meet them all but here are some of them who ran with us in 2007 and then again in 2008.

Father and son Richard Bailey and Chad McKinney.

Husband and wife Linda and Stewart Robertson from Canada. Boy do those Canadians love purple.

Husband and wife Chrislana and John Gregory also from Canada.

Brothers Mat and Jacob Gregory. (Sons of Crislana and John Gregory.)

"The Boys" passing the ole man. Love this one and talk about memories.

Father and daughter Vance and Kristin Stewart.

Husband and wife Cairenn and Che Voigt.

Husband and Wife and child Francisco Ortiz.

Father and son Jeffery and John Mckain. This one really hurt for several obvious reasons. Like any other "devoted" racer, the first time I saw this photo my stomach turned upside down and my first thought was I sure hope the car is OK. Just kidding. Seriously, earlier in the year I had the privilege of meeting John, Jeffery's son, at Ron Lee's La Carrera party. During the year I had corresponded with Jeffery but later on while in San Miguel de Allende I got to spend some time getting to know them and loved checking out their beautiful car. It was in this very car that I had hoped I would vicariously race in the 2008 La Carrera Panamericana but my race was all too short. On the other hand... one of the main points I am attempting to make here is that the overall outcome of this race means nothing in comparison to the many lifetimes of passing along memories about some of the family members most amazing journeys taken together.

Now here's a relationship we might not want to know about. This is my good friend Clyde Morter and the report I got was Clyde and his team mate had a few too many tequilas and when they asked the local Federallys where they could get a marriage license.... Well, from what I understand the Federallys told them that the jail where they were taking them they wouldn't need a marriage license. (Just kidding)

Speaking Of Studebaker Stories...

Speaking of Studebakers one of my favorite articles which I read several years ago simply has got to be one of the all-time great La Carrera Panamericana tales. While it's far from verbatim it goes something like this... During the 2005 La Carrera Panamericana the colorful Rusty Ward running in a 1965 Studebaker had gone off road taking out part of a bridge in the process, something Rusty has down to to somewhat of a science. Even while doing so the damage was repairable largely due to the fact there were so many Studebakers sitting around in Mexican wrecking yards which was one of the reasons they were so popular in Mexico in the first place. While working on the car they noticed the wheels had been badly bent. Thinking they had things under control and even after the crew and several local mechanics had stayed up all night getting the car ready before the next mornings start the last problem they encountered were the special 16 inch wheels used on this particular Studebaker where considerably wider and taller than the original factory steel wheels and after an exhausting search they could not find replacements.

This photo was taken during a transit stage in 2007 as Rusty and I just had a good time cruising along side by side playing tag with each other.

Thinking they were done for the piloto and co-piloto sat in a local bar drinking their sorrows away when all of a sudden the crew bust into the bar yelling and telling them to get suited up. When they asked why all the rush the crew began telling them they had figured out that the bolt pattern on their car was the very same as late model Ford Crown Vic wheels. Naturally the next question from the piloto was, "Where are we going to find some Crown Vic wheels?" Then one of the crew yelled, "LOOK!" as he pointed to a Federally with a huge smile standing in the doorway waving four crisp one hundred dollar bills. It seems the cars driven by the Federally's that years just happen to be... You guessed it. Crown Vics.

This story is like a fine wine. It get's better every time I tell it. Thank God for the Federallys and all their support.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Some La Carrera History The Corvette Crowd Would Like To Forget

Having grown up during the better part of the muscle car era a die-hard Ford guy I remember a time when you either took an oath of brand loyalty or you rode the buss. It was during those awesome years that my love for performance Ford products grew and like anyone else from that period I rather enjoyed giving the GM guys as bad a time as possible both on the track and street. In those days talking smack was as important as getting a good hole shot. The truth be known, more races were won while bench racing than in the cars.

It was during that same era the phrase "What wins on Sunday sells on Monday." was coined. It was a well known fact that whatever cars won during big weekend races whether it be Nascar, drags or whatever, outsold their competitors that following week. It was for this reason that the big three spent so much money helping both factory as well as privateers. Back then any Tom, Dick or Harry could walk into a dealership and tell them he needed factory help sponsoring his car and get a huge discount on high performance parts he needed.

In 1954 because Ford Motor Company debuted the Thunderbird two seater convertible the guys over at Detroit General Motors decided to continue production of the Corvette. As a result some motor racing history was made when the first international appearance of a Corvette was made. Bill von Esser who owned Chicago Speed Shop and co-driver Ernest Pultz entered the #12 Corvette in La Carrera Panamericana in what was called the Large Sports class. Famous not only for it's red Dayton wire wheels and a custom grille it also ran higher compression Chevy's new “Blue Flame” six cylinder with it's minor internal changes and three carbs which brought it to 155 horsepower with a standard transmission.

While Corvette owners are proud to note this was the first international appearance of a Corvette they are equally embarrassed when they are reminded the "Reliable GM power plant" thru a rod completely thru the block during the first leg of the race and never completed the race. Not exactly the international debut GM was hoping for. As a matter of fact since the first attempt there have been less than half a dozen even ever attempt to take on La Carrera Panamericana. Doesn't say much about the confidence coming from the Vette crowd now does it? Legend has it that when you stand quietly along the road between Tuxtla and Oaxaca you can still hear the laughter that came from the Ford teams back in 1954. From what I've seen, the Corvette crowd should be grateful it didn't catch on fire and burn to the ground and be happy they were at least able to tow what was left back home. CLICK HERE for the curse of the Carrera. Seen here with the EX87/5951

While Von Esser's Carrera Panamericana Racer never earned any glory in a race it did become distinguished for being the first to fail trying. Now it can be seen being sold in die-cast from the Danbury Mint. CLICK HERE.

Anyone who has raced in La Carrera Panamericana would be honored to see their car being sold in model form and normally it wouldn't get any better than having it done so by the Danbury Mint. But in this case it gets even better as you look at the incredible detail and painstaking effort this model builder, Homer, took in creating the background settings and presentation for his model. I would like to thank Homer who created this incredible automotive masterpiece for thanking me for this blog and for the record he also informed me it is 1:32 scale. Thanks Homer!

Check out the details including an authentic looking La Carrera poster inside Von Esser's speed shop.

You can even see wiped up oil spills and tire tread patterns as well as the cracks in the cement shop floor and even the drain.

Check out piloto Bill Von Esser and co-piloto speed by the man and his burro and the awesome detail. Von Esser was probably able to recall every one of those rocks, cactus and mountains having had to sit along the road while everyone else left them behind on their way to Oaxaca and even the man and his burro passed them. I bet he hated the sounds of hoofs. (Have you driven a Ford lately?)

Seen here is one he built for slot car racing along side of the EX87/5951 Corvette Mule which was one of two 1955 Corvettes ordered by Chevrolet engineering. Later the fin was removed and it was assigned #1 for the 1956 Sebring Race along with three others. Two of them never finished the race. None of the Corvettes did very well until Zora Duntov got involved and installed V-8's in them weighing 40 pounds less than the six cylinder which was originally in them. His first good showing was at Pikes peak but then again that's a very short race isn't it?

On a humorous note (as if us Ford guys weren't already laughing hard enough) Bill Beilharz pointed out the dreadful expression on the navigator's face in this photo. Possibly he already knows most of his oil has leaked out on the ground under the car.

I would like to point out this article was written in jest and in no way should it be misinterpreted as being disrespectful towards Bill Von Esser. Quite to the contrary, Esser and his Chicago Speed Shop where very well known and respected in his time and he had a following that is well respected even to this day. A lot of respect must be given and is well deserved to any of those brave enough to take on what was and still is a race well known for it's adversity, danger and trials. Men like Bill Von Esser and in fact legends for all of us to look up to admire for many generations. Theodore Roosevelt said it best... "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out where the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood. At best, he knows the triumph of high achievement; if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

Hey Baby I Was Thinking....

Remember when you promised to love, honor and obey? Well I heard about this race down in Mexico called La Carrera Panamericana and I was looking how streamlined your new car is and it got me to thinking....

To be honest with you I'm not sure what year the Studebakers made their debut in La Carrera Panamericana but when you take a look at their sleek design and then close your eyes to remember how long some of those long straight away's were (We're talking MILES and MILES here) it's easy to see why they are so appealing. (Edit, Thanks to Carson Scheller pointing out a photo from Johnny Tipler's new LCP book I was able to find out during the 1953 LCP Carlos Alvarado C. and Luis Ascencio running in Turismo Especial competed in a 1953 Studebaker.) Not long ago I was at a car show and an old timer had one of the most beautiful original jet black Studebakers I had ever seen. When I asked him if he was familiar with how many of them had been raced in La Carrera Panamericana he put on quite a show in front of everyone as he began telling me how it is an "aerodynamically impossibility" for a Studebaker to reach speeds up to 125 miles per hour. "Because they are shaped like a wing they would come off the ground and crash every time they went over 90 miles per hour. Period!" Boy would I like to shove that old timer and his walker into Bill Bielharz's passengers seat for a ride he would never forget.

There have been many Studebakers achieve what that old timer deemed aerodynamically impossible and granted to say there have been a few that flew a little off course would be putting it mildly. For the most part they are an amazingly wonderful and beautiful work of art that come with wide tires, a bad ass motor an you better have a fast shutter speed should you stand a prayer in hell of getting a shot of one.

Like any other form of racing there is always the possibility of making the front cover of what is better known as the wide world of sports agony of defeat.

OK, so calm down... Sorry I asked! By the way, I saw an old car for sale the other day that could probably be fixed up really cheap. Mind if I go talk to the guy?