Day Four. Toluca to Morelia.

Today we watched the racers leave Toluca headed towards Chapa de Mota speed stages and met them again at the service stop in Atlacomulco. Weather seemed good and everyone looked like they were in fine form. It is late so I will post photos of all the wonderful people who participate in La Carrera Panamericana, as you will see, the energy is all good!

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After the service stop, we drove by a couple of beautiful lakes on the way to Morelia for the finishing arch.

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I will have to add more, later. I am dead tired , and I still have to talk about the dreadful storm.

Day Three. Distrito Federal to Toluca.

After leaving the underground gas chamber of a parking garage at our hotel, Presidente Intercontinental, this morning in Mexico City, we made our way out of town, thanks to Google maps, to a colorful row of restaurants lined up the side of the freeway. We ate breakfast tacos with another film crew of awesome guys working with our friend Tomas Lopez Rocha in a Studebaker.
Edgar Fuentes, drove by with a train of cars following him to Toluca. We hitched our two rides to his caravan…ALL aboard!
Today’s speed stages took place in the national park of Nevado de Toluca, an inactive volcano, very reminiscent of areas in Lake Tahoe, with pines and COLD!!!! weather…but alas, no rain for most of it.
We hung out with friends we only see at this time of the year and met new ones. Some crafty gourmets brought cooking gear and shared it with us. My favorite day so far….until, unbeknownst to us, these great shots we took of the cars racing through, came with a bugger of a price.
Please enjoy these photos taken today on two of the speed stages. Apparently, while we were in the woods taking them, we were being bitten by flesh eating spiders.

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Once the race cars passed us and headed to their service stop, we had approximately 40 mins to search for the next photo place where we could feed more spiders. During this time, fans were cooking up a storm!

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The federales started giving signals as they carved through the corners in their Challengers. And the next stage began.

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Tomorrow we head to Morelia and Mil Cumbres (one thousand turns) and a visit to my old stomping ground with all my service peeps! Woohoo! Got a nap today and had time to fix the sleep blogging edits I made! Till tomorrow!

Day Two. Oaxaca to Distrito Federal with buckets of rain.

The rains came down and just kept coming…
Woah! Hats off to all drivers, and I mean ALL! Especially those we blasted past in Mexico City as we bullied our way in the police escort to the historical town center.
I am getting ahead of myself.
It was raining when we left Oaxaca, sleep deprived, again. At least we had some caffeine in our systems this morning at 7:30am. It poured all the way to the service stop that served breakfast. Unfortunately, we got stuck at a race road closure for the race cars turning onto their wet mornIng speed stages.
Breakfast was good with the crew and drivers and we set out to go to the speed stage after. We drove on a muddy pot holed road to Nochixtlan where the race cars were to take off for the 3rd speed section. Once getting there, we learned that we missed a few of the first cars that started.

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We turned around after the cars left for the speed section and took off down the same as muddy road we had just driven. What a sloppy mess! Another day for wet clothes and shoes!
We headed to Tehuacan, to just get stuck again waiting for road to clear. Fortunately, there was a large, lively and super encouraging crowd, in spite of the foul weather.

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We headed to Mexico City, stopping for coffee to amp up for our police escort that would take us to the town center.

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We made it here and there was hope for sun, but it never broke through the pouring rain. It was so stressful and tiring. Tomorrow we head for Toluca…for more rain and cars.

Day One. Veracruz to Oaxaca

After four hours of sleep, we headed out this morning for the first speed stage of Cumbres de Acultzingo…at 6:30 am. The weather was overcast and the clouds seemed to be full of water. This speed stage was canceled last year due to rain, and it was looking like it may happen again. The drive to this stage felt like a two-ish hour drive and a few of us coffee addicts were looking like casualties of a day that barely began.
We headed up the mountain to find a good location to photograph. And we were pleased to find a spot overlooking this serpentine road with the craziest of arrow road markings I have ever seen! I wasn’t quite sure the arrows were pointing in different directions, until cars and trucks coming down the hill, were driving on the other side of the street through the turns.

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After a pretty lengthy wait alongside Carrera fans, who’d found their spots along the road, well before we arrived, the road closure became evident and the race cars began their ascent, beginning with Hillaire Damiron in his ‘El Commander’ Studebaker, who had finished first in Qualifying.

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Paul Hladky and Adrian Gerrits sounded amazing coming up the mountain.

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Doug Mokkett and Angelica Fuentes, cut through the in coming fog with a note that sends shivers through your body.

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Our good friends Taz Harvey and Rudy Vajdak shredding it!

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After this speed stage, we made our way to Oaxaca to the arch, but instead found another student teacher strike, and battled our way through traffic to its new location on the Mirador, a major artery into Oaxaca, that boasts a spectacular view we, sadly missed due to rain.

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Drivers meeting took place at the Quinta Real Hotel, built by the Spanish in 1500s as a convent. Wish I had time to get into the history we heard about it but, will re edit this later!

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Gotta run! Going to Mexico City!

Qualifying on Paso de Ovejas, Veracruz

We kicked off early this morning at 6am, found a Starbucks that would have been better off closed because the only coffee available to purchase was in the stupid frappucino form…but we guzzled them down anyway. Anything to put off the inevitable affair with the ridiculously sweet OXXO coffee for at least one day.
First of seven Mexican sunrises to tag along with us as we made our way to the closed speed section on Paso de Ovejas through waking towns and brutal reminders of the marked and many times unmarked ‘topes’ waking our crew up a little bit more each time we careen over them or slam on brakes to avoid.

Traveling with Jeremy, Sean Fannon and Rene Ortega Ranachilanga as ‘Prensa’, photographing and filming as many aspects as possible of this Carrera. A real treat for me as I have mostly experienced the service crew side of this fantastic race!
We found a good spot and got to work setting up shots.

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Since Sean was camouflaged with the road and low to the ground for cool perspectives, we asked these kind colorful people to stand behind him for his safety. They incredibly were willing to do it!
We could hear the first cars approaching and would continue to hear their motors growl up the hill for the next mile. It is on!

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After qualifying, we headed back to Veracruz to the World Trade Center where all the cars had gone through tech and safety inspections. Super fun meeting up with all our friends and checking out the cars.

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This evening’s event was the ceremonial driving of cars through the starting arch. It was well attended and the energy was exciting, as you see in these faces.

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We even made new friends!

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Wheels turning tomorrow morning at 6am! Below is link to qualifying results! Suerte!
http://www.lacarrerapanamericana.com.mx/images/contenidos/documentos/resultados/2014/resultados-clasificacion-dia-0.pdf

SFO-VER

El Platillo Volador will be sitting out this Carrera so that Conrad can wrap his head around the fact that as of 3:30 this morning, he became a gramps! His beautiful daughter, Raven and her partner Christopher, brought us our first grandson!
I will post a photo as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, I am presently on my way to Veracruz to the incio of La Carrera Panamericana to meet up with Jeremy Heslup, a super talented filmmaker who recently produced a short video interview with Conrad for Petrolicious.com, to assist gathering footage and photos of this year’s Carrera.

http://www.petrolicious.com/alfa-romeo-sprint-speciale-is-a-racing-statement

We met Jeremy this year when he was debuting a documentary he filmed last year at La Carrera. Here is teaser:

http://valkyrproductions.com/2014/la-carrera/

I will continue posting on this blog I started last year. I hope you enjoy it!

Final Day. Aguascalientes to Zacatecas.

Transit to the first service stop was a short distance today, so Andrew, Bill and I decided to ride in the leading taxi, hired by Angelica to take us to race start across town, and watch the cars leave the arch for Zacatecas.
These cabs rides are typically uneventful. But not this morning. As we winded our way through morning traffic with a train of race cars following, our cabbie stepped on the gas at an “orange” light and waved for the race cars to follow him through a newly established red light, when a VW bug made a left turn in front of the cab ripping the fender partially off.
Our cabbie continued forward and pulled over to pop his fender back on and we continued on until it loosened again, making a scraping clatter, and he and Bill got out to wrangle it off of the car and store it in the trunk! We made it to the race start without any further incidents.

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The excitement of the last day of La Carrera hit me in the face the second I opened the door to the death cab. Cars were cued up in their starting order, motors running, handshakes, hugs and best wishes flying around….enough to give you chicken skin.
There were a few accidents the night before and we were all happy to see those pilots at the start this morning, with their 24 Hours of LeMons style fixes…. Lots of duct tape and hammered fenders.

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Once the cars went through the arch, we headed for the first service stop. There was a nice bit of time to get set up, plan a convoy for crossing the border tomorrow with others towing to US, and say good bye to our Carrera friends.
When El Platillo Volador came in for service, the list included changing jets and spark plugs, and advancing the timing. After lunch, Conrad and Nelson headed out to run La Bufa, a dangerous run on an incredible rocky ridge located in the center of Zacatecas. The history of wars, mining, and characters like Pancho Villa is steeped in this city of stone buildings and cobbled roads.

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El Platillo Volador made it through the arch in Zacatecas! Officials taped the bonnet for inspection and we all breathed a huge sigh of relief having completed La Carrera. The fiesta began immediately with cervezas, tequila, mezcal, and champagne. The winners took off to the inspection site and we all prepared for the “Callejoneada”, a roaming party, complete with brass band, drums, happy drunks and a donkey carrying bottles of mezcal with little ceramic drinking cups you hang from your neck. This roving crowd ends up at La Quinta Real, a beautiful stone bullring turned hotel, for the final awards ceremony.

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El Platillo Volador won first place in its category for the day and stole first place overall from Martin Lauber, whose Taxi suffered a seized alternator and broken fan belt. Martin was on fire this entire race and clearly had it.
Tomorrow is a big tow day back to US.

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Here is a beautiful photo Nelson took at the border.

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