When your navigator and co-driver says “flat out, go, go, go” you have to really be in sync with him because what’s he telling you to do is keep your throttle foot planted even though you can’t physically see what’s on the other side of the bend. Neither can he but he has the book and if he’s read it wrong you’re both going to go flying off the side of the road at over 90mph. Well, my co-driver never gets it wrong. He calls thousands of corners, over 3000km worth, at speeds that surprised everyone, especially the big cars that we beat daily. Mark did such an amazing job that it made driving the car the very easiest part of the whole adventure. And his company and friendship made sitting in our little tin can for 8+ hours a day the only place on earth I wanted to be.
Mark and I met through racing and we share a passion for cars and motorsports. But we share a lot more than that. He’s only in his mid-50′s so seven days and 3000km is plenty of time to hear his life story – twice. We have become like that rarest of things at our age, boyhood friends. Like two chums looking for, finding and enjoying adventure we roll down the road laughing our asses off and counting our blessings. One of which for me is having him as a co-pilot in this and many adventures. Thank you Have-a-Chat. I’ll run flat out to the checkered flag with you anytime, anywhere.
It might have been my hands on the wheel but lots of people were propelling our little car forward. I want thank them starting with all of you who followed this grammar abusing blog each day. Mark and I logged many miles commenting on your comments. Comment MVP goes to Joe Ortlieb in South Fla!
Thanks to a great rookie crew this year; Brian and Flo from Competition Touring Cars in Sonoma took excellent care of us and made for wonderful travel mates. You guys are the best.
Eric Kendall is our all around go-to-guy and the person who literally towed the Taxi to and from Mexico from S.F. Eric, Mark and I thank you as do the thousands of Mexican kids who received candy and postcards from you along the way.
Traveling with us and providing many laughs and much moral support were Mark’s wife Debbie and best friends, Sherri and Vivian. These girls drove just as many miles as we did and truly made their Dodge Journey SUV earn its name.
A thank you must be sent out to all the people back home who helped us get here; Dean DeSantis, Phil Denny, Dodge Riedy, Glenn Oliveria, Jon Norman, Dan Marvin, Bill Mertz, Dennis Etchevery, Paul Hasslgren, the guys at Wine Country Motorsports, Max and Andrew at Alfaholics, Randy at Bringatrailer.com, Rich, James and Karolyn at Swirl, my business partners, Tom, Tasha and John for letting me have the time away and my big brother Edward for lending me his truck and letting us put 5k miles on it, not to mention a bunch of stickers that may or may not come off.
We make lots of friends each year in Mexico and some of those friendships follow us home and invite us to theirs – thank you Eva and Frank Lichtenberg for having become beloved friends and our German racing home away from home. You two are 100 percently perfect!
To Doug and Rita, my Angel Angelica, Pancho, Pepe, Conrad and Christine, Ed and Andrew, Stephen, Beate, Guido, Torsen, Gerie, Monica, Lalo, Alex, Victor, the Federales, Mark and Migchuel, Christian, Hans, Lauren and Carson and all the other racers and support crews – Muchas Gracias and buenas suerte!
Thank you EVERYONE, we quite literally could not have done it without you!
Yesterday was the final day of this crazy adventure and we started out strong. After two speed stages we’d actually closed the 13 second overall gap between us and the Mustang in 10th place. Beating him for the day would have meant a top ten finish and first in class. Well, our alternator decided that it wasn’t meant to be. As we lined up to start the third stage of the day, smoke started to come out of the edges of the hood, clearly indicating something burning or about to burn in the engine compartment. We pulled out of line and shut her down. Mark got out and quickly figured out that our alternator had seized and the burning was the belt. So, no alternator, no belt. We could live without an alternator but the belt also drove the water pump and that keeps the motor cool. Not possible to go very far or fast without water circulating through the motor. So, we had two options: go for the speed stage and drive slowly using gravity (it was a mostly down hill stage) and risk a dangerous situation with other cars coming behind us, not to mention messing up their times, OR, wait until all the cars had gone by and try the gravity approach then. And that’s what we did. (Our time on that speed stage wasn’t the slowest for the day!) When we arrived at the bottom of the hill, Eric, Flo and Brian were waiting for us having been pre alerted to our problem by our fellow competitors. They quickly changed the alternator but unfortunately the spare belt we had was too small and had to be forced on. It held for another 50km or so, including another speed stage and then failed. We were then towed to the nearest auto repair store to hopefully buy a new belt. Once there the nicest old lady in the world sold me a belt and Mark and Chewy from EuroLatino (who had graciously pulled over to help us) put it on and we were on our way again. However, we’d lost so much time that we missed the last three check ins and speed stages which meant that we’d lost the day. We went into Day 7 with a big lead in our class but it wasn’t big enough to cushion against losing the whole day so we didn’t place in our class. While very disappointing, it didn’t stop us from celebrating with all of our friends, old and new, in the streets of Zacatecas. I’ll post a little recap and final thoughts later today or tomorrow or whenever this hangover wears off.
A low grade fuss has been made about a friendly rivalry between my former La Carrera partner, Conrad Stevenson and I. Well all I can say is that they got it half right. The friendly part. Conrad and I love to drive and we race hard. But we never lose sight of why we’re here – to have fun. I’m lucky to have friends like he and Christine his amazing wife. Sure, Mark and I are going to try our best to win our class but so will he and his co-driver. The point is that together, along with all the other great people and competitors here, we will all have a blast! So here’s to great friends and all the really amazing people who race the La Carrera, one of whom you’ll see coming up fast in a gorgeous red Alfa with a wonderful smile on his face! Go Condonato go!
Today we race to Aguas Calientes, or as Mark calls it, Hot Water. One of my favorite things about doing this crazy race is listening to him butcher the Spanish town names. Not to mention “moochas grassiasses!” Gotta love him. You can take the boy out of Detroit but good luck taking the Detroit out of the boy!
Wish us luck and see you in Hot Water!!
It was a mixed bag today. While it didn’t rain on us, it had rained yesterday so the hills where we raced were quite wet and the roads slippery. This meant erring on the side of caution and keeping speed down a bit. But it didn’t mean we had to reduce the fun. Mark and I sat one foot from each other and drove over 400km today. We literally talked for hours and loved it! How can you not when your buddy and co-driver’s nickname is, Have-a-Chat? That we did. Yes, we talked mostly about cars and all the racing we plan to do in Europe someday but we also talked about life and the ups and downs that go with it. And speaking of ups ad downs, we’ve moved down a few spots in the standings and finished 2nd in Class today. A respectable finish and one we are proud of but plan to improve upon tomorrow.
Here are a few pix from our day. One from its beginning and one from its end.
to change an Alfa transmission. Otherwise it takes about several hours with a floor jack and flashlight. Tonight in Morelia, the boys swapped back in our close ratio gear box after some repairs. They had the help of a lift and extra hands thanks to the kind folks at the local Dodge dealer. Muchisimas Gracias Juan Pablo Aviles Esquivel,
Service Manager y todos sus employidos a Autos y Camiones Sol de Michoacan.
The kindness and enthusiasm for La Carrera shown by Juan Pablo and his team is not rare here in Mexico. The people are so amazing. Willing to help and patient with us racing around their country. We appreciate them very much!