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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here is a beautiful photo Nelson took at the border.
This morning we left Guanajuato and headed towards Leon. Five cars crashed during the race today, but fortunately, no one was seriously injured. One of the cars was in our class driven by Miguel Granados and navigated by Ricardo Puente, who shared the podium with us every night, with exception of the first day because we were licking our wounds from breaking and not finishing that day.
When El Platillo Volador came into service, the car report was very good, no need to do anything but sit in a plaza parking lot flanked by American chain stores.
Here are some photos of our friends and what crewing looks like.
The Swedes, Tommy and Anders
These guys are very experienced crew in La Carrera Panamericana. They have helped us out on many occasions, including today when we showed up to the super sunny and hot paved lot with out a shade tent and carved out a little spot of shade under a tree for EPV from their already staked out spot! Thanks, Julio and Anders!
EPV rolled in without a to do list! Woo Hoo!
Both cars made it to Aguascalientes and there was some serious chillaxing poolside!
Second in class today! Tomorrow, La Congoja, La Bufa and finally Zacatecas!
Race cars left Morelia this morning at 9am to run Mil Cumbres in the other direction. It rained a lot last night and the general consensus was that it might be cancelled….but it was dry!
Our service was in Silao on the way to Guanajuato. El Platillo Volador arrived with a list and Bill and Andrew jammed on it and sorted it as best they could in a 45 minute service. We pitted with our awesome friends in Taz Harvey’s camp.EPV went out for another three speed sections before arriving in the historic center of Guanajuato. Another amazing city built on steep 8,500′ rock mountain with 29 hand dug tunnels.
There was one crash today and everyone was fine. We headed into the center to see the cars in the square. Today Conrad and Nelson took first in class! Yay! Tomorrow we go to Aguascalientes!
Wow! Race start was at 10 am this morning! Participants were definitely looking better than they looked last night. At 9am our service car was ready to go but first we had to stage an intervention.
Andrew went to the bathroom and came back with a Boxer puppy! He said he “found” it in the bathroom.
After returning his furry friend, and keeping hope to find another Boxer puppy in another bathroom on the road, he and a fresh Memo, got to work at the service when EPV arrived. Conrad and Nelson had some communication system issues so Conrad had to “go visual” which meant they lost quite a bit of time.
Everything got tightened up for El Platillo Volador to take on Mil Cumbres, a favorite run for many of the participants, which means a thousand turns. From there to Morelia, a beautiful old city, definitely worth visiting!
We have been major 24 Hours of Lemons fans since day one and share that wacky passion with the man behind this event, Eduardo “Lalo” Leon. Here he’s rockin’ his Lemons sticker on his Jaguar.
Cars were parked in the zoccolo and down came the rain. Conrad was bummed that the rain had caused the last section of Mil Cumbres to be cancelled.
Tomorrow, we head for Guanajuato, wheels turning at 9.
It was wheels turning at 7 for the race cars this morning. Our service car piloted by myself, headed out into Mexico City and promptly got lost. Without the help of a slimy taxi driver, but with the help of a police man and a fellow crew team and, thank goodness for Andrew Watry, we made it to the freeway! Yes, that task is a cause for celebration.
Service took place at winery Frexinet, where we tightened bolts and reinforced areas inside the fenders to protect them from all the gravel the tires were mercilessly picking up from the new roads and flinging up. We were super lucky to have help from Steve Berry and John Tharp from Apple Farmer. Sadly, their car suffered a crash the day before (no personal injuries) and headed back to Washington. Steve and John decided to stick with the race and help others out….Thank you!
Overheating has been fixed for now, phew! El Platillo Volador came to the arch in Queretaro and placed 2nd in its class!
We met Bill at the hotel and found him well rested. His bag went missing at the airport and he only had to worry about it for a few hours while we went to the zocalo. His mom will be happy to know that it indeed arrived at the hotel in the evening.
We got to see the car arrive through the arch in Queretaro. Here are some photos.
When you find yourself deep in Mexico on a seven day race, and your car has issues on Day One, preventing you from finishing that day, no matter what you do to fix it, your confidence is inevitably shaken the following morning. It doesn’t help matters that Day two leads you to a huge city like Distrito Federal. Not a place to get lost in. Trust me. Race start was at 7am and cars began cueing up at 6am.
El Platillo Volador headed out of town on the historic route out of Oaxaca. One of the morning speed stages was run in the rain. EPV was spitting out water again, causing a stir in a couple of little pueblos when a helmeted being in a space suit jumps out of a flying saucer and runs around frantically searching for water.
This blurry photo is really how many of us view these mornings.
Angelica Fuentes is an exception for sure. After 18 years of racing in La Carrera, she is always the most steady, supportive and knowledgeable person at any hour of the race….even after suffering two tire punctures this day preventing her and pilot Doug Mockett from finishing the day.
La Carrera Panamericana went through great lengths with the City of Mexico to provide the participants police escort to the main square in the historic center. If I even tried to begin to describe this journey, you still wouldn’t believe me. We weaved our way through Mexico City like a video game, at a pace that would have been a sure shot to 25 to life in prison. A trip that a normal car would take 30-50 minutes to make, took us a hair raising 10-15. Large city streets were closed and thousands of people contained to allow our roaring circus to invade. Really, truly an experience of a lifetime.
Tomorrow to Queretaro! Ed will be heading back home and Bill “Memo” Mertz will be waiting for us there. Huge thanks to Ed for everything he brought to our team, towing the car, maintaing a steady and helpful demeanor the entire time. Not to mention the stories he shared in the long road trip. Ed Adams, you are truly a gem. Thank you!
Today was hard, period. El Platillo Volador came in for service after it’s first speed stage with complaints of water spitting out of radiator. Conrad made a gasket from a piece of rubber. With fingers crossed, we sent El PV out into the high desert from our hot, dusty PEMEX lair.
This is our buddy Richard, The Apple Farmer in his Studebaker. He is an amazing driver and we really enjoy hanging with his team!
After leaving the mountain town of Huajuapan, we came across El PV and the guys…on a trailer! It was a long straight and no shoulder on the sides of this road…and the average speed is about 80 mph. Thanks to John and Barry for scooping up our bummed out pilots and the little coupe and gave them a lift to Oaxaca.
After driving behind them, we noticed that El PV had lost a linkage on it is rear suspension. After getting to our hotel, we figured out the missing piece, a key bolt, which Ed and I promptly sourced in Oaxaca.
This addressed the biggest problem on this day. Our place in rank dropped to 70. Tomorrow we head to Distrito Federal, Mexico.
Qualifying took place today just outside of Veracruz. Growling engines, primed for this day, shook a small pueblo awake with fantastic machines, federales, organizers, service crews, creating traffic….I can only image what the locals think when this event barrels through. They seem to enjoy it after they recover from the initial befuddlement!
Conrad and Nelson came in second in class just behind Martin’s Taxi and will be starting in 36th position overall tomorrow when Day One takes our speeding roadshow to Oaxaca. Car is running well and the boys are grinning!
One of the main things we love about this event is the people who come to participate and the people who organize this amazing race. People have been so friendly, helpful and generous with us. The air is packed with excitement, relief, nervousness, competition, and a whole assortment of feelings and attitudes. There are lots of hugs, kisses, handshakes, and encouraging words…really amazing!
Our hard working crew after chowing down street tacos and Mexican Cokes.
Yipes! It’s midnight! Gotta go sleep! Here is a strange thing you don’t see every day!
Here is another Aeromexico casualty. This driver is seen just having dressed into his race gear, seconds after a Euro Latino mini van pulled up behind a throaty Falcon, out of a suit case! I said to my friend, and it was confirmed, that he too, was hosed by Aeromexico and got the Mexico City airport sleepover award. Apparently he was picked up and driven to the start of qualifying all in 15 minutes!
Andrew arrived early this morning and we all headed off to complete registration. Of the 110 cars signed up, 50+ have been processed. It is so wonderful to see old friends and new. There are some amazing cars here under the World Trade Center Veracruz’s roof. El PV got it’s OK sticker from Monica Grossman, Conrad was advised in medical check up to have more tequila and women (WTF?!?!) haha! And tomorrow is qualifying in a windy, rainy coastal city.