Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ralf Christensson's Misfortune in 2010

Since Ralf Christensson from Sweden is a very good friend of mine and knowing he suffered some terrible misfortune while driving a Mats Hammarlund rental at this years La Carrera Panamericana I asked him for a summary of all that took place and here is his reply...

To give you the short story:

As so many others, when we arrived in Mexico City for our connecting flight to Tuxtla we found out that Mexicana didn't fly anymore. So it was just to buy new tickets for us 2 the next day. Not a big problem if it wasn't for the fact that our families was to fly down the week after. In all we had 24 flights to rebook!

Finally in Tuxtla we meet up with Mats and the crew. And our yellow
Volvo. Specially since we had t-shirts and postcards with a yellow Volvo. We where a bit surprised to see red Volvo and after a while they told us that they had decided to repaint the car to red the week before. But they didn't remember to tell us. It hadn't matter since our stuff was already printed. But it was a surprise.

Since we had 4 days before the race our plan was to fix some minor stuff on the car and then just drive the car as much as possible. Like anything ever goes according to plan in Mexico. It turned out to be 4 days of working on the car and in total 3 hours test driving. It's not a good plan to do the Carrera in a car you never driven, and I consider 3 hours as nothing. To add to this, my co-pilot Kristian had never been a co-pilot before so some practice for him would be great. Not much to do but drive and take it as it comes.

After the qualification, which we considered a test drive for corners, we started the race something like in the middle of the cars. It was a great day and we had lots of fun. The car did well until 2 kilometers from finish in the last leg. A wheel bearing decided to quit on us. Standing at the side of the road, knowing that another 2 and we had finished all stages was no fun.
After about 5-6 hours the service team with spares showed up and fixed the car. It was night driving to town! Not the best start of the race. Anyway we where still in. As always, the results at the drivers meeting was a mess. Since we hadn't completed the day we did not have any times at all. So our start the next day wasn't even on the starting list. We managed to get a starting time somewhere among the last 10 starters. Lot's of passing
that day.

We made it the second day and I can assure you that we where as happy as the winner. Third day was a bit better. We started in a fairly good spot, perfect driving and doing good speed. Came to service and not much to fix. Leaving service and after about 20 minutes after, the car started to misfire and sounded like we lost one cylinder. Short after smoke came from the motor. Pulled over and just stated that this is it! Pulled a spark plug and noted that it was smashed. Not a good sign. Called the crew who showed up quick. At this point it was the end of the race for us.

Third day was with the crew in the van. Even if it's interesting to see a new side of the race, I didn't like it at all. And imaging having to do this the rest of the race too.

Luckily, for us, the other Swedish team crashed in Mil Cumbres, without injuries. But their car was gone. Same second I heard it, I thought about the motor. Trying to talk the crew in to it wasn't easy. It was late at night before Mats and the crew was on the same page. Some of Mats crew was on our side from start and really helped to convince the others. This was in Morelia It was decided that me and Kristian together with Erik, our assigned mechanic that did a great job during the week, and Luciane, probably not the correct spelling sorry for that. Luciane is from Morelia and have a "workshop" there that we could use.

Our red Volvo was still in Queretaro and the blue donor was on it's way to Morelia. Early bed and then we changed the motors the day after. Was some problems but nothing we couldn't fix. Strangely the blue motor had survived the crash. A hole in the oil sump was all. Except for the fire that took most soft parts a couple of days before.

After the motor change, we had plans on painting the car yellow again to get some good luck back, but we didn't have the time. At around 8 pm we started the drive to Guadalajara to be able to hook up with the rest of the gang and prepare for start the day after.

And lucky for us, the rest of the race, 2 days, was OK. Misfiring and stuff but nothing major. Needless to say, we didn't have the best Carrera. But if I sum it all up, meeting all the people, culture, food, mexicans, cars and driving, it was a great week and it will most likely be followed by more. But next time it's back to the old trustworthy Falcon.

So Gary, next year, come down and have a great time you and Jon too. I bet that Lucky is up for it.

Take care

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