Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Some Years Are Just Better Than Others

I hate to say it but I'm still living the awesome memory of 2007 when my good friend and teammate Jon and my son and I ran the 20th anniversary La Carrera Panamericana. Not only did we finish but in fact we accomplished something I have never heard of any other team doing in their first attempt... we finished in the top 8 overall.

Not only are we extremely satisfied with our achievement but the friends we made along the way are a bonus that is as rich and rewarding as any treasure ever found in the Sierra Madres. It was exciting, adventuresome, rewarding and there are more than 10,000 more adjectives that couldn't possibly describe it all. But what I can tell you is once you have been there you will never forget it, regardless of the outcome. Fortunately, for Jon, Will and myself it's one we will not soon want to forget. What does the future hold in store for us now? I'm not sure but it most certainly holds the dream of returning and knowing what to expect rest assured next time we won't be holding it back to 80 percent.


Today, one of my new La Carrera Panamericana friends sent me the best possible New Years gift anyone could have sent. Johnny Tipler, author of the "LA CARRERA PANAMERICANA 'The World's Greatest Road Race'" sent me some photos from across the pond of Jon and I tearing up some memorable highways with Lucky the GT350R in Mexico. I can't begin to thank him enough let alone try to remove the smile from my face. Every time I see these I find myself strapped in Lucky's seat and can feel all that awesome power and handling all over again as if it was only minutes ago. Thanks Johnny!

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Great Story To End Another Great LCP Year

Is this an awesome photos of Mocket's Rocket or WHAT!

CLICK HERE for a truly great look into what it's like to tag along with what has to be the greatest race in the world. Or maybe it's more than just a great race... Maybe it really is a way of life.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy La Carrera Panamericana Holidays!

I just wanted to take time to express my sincere appreciation to everyone who visits this blog and I look forward to this Christmas and another new year of friendships with all of you from all over the world.

Monday, December 22, 2008


**CARRERA FIESTA – February 21, 2009, 6-9 PM

The Northern California Carrera Panamericana fiesta has been scheduled at the Club Sportiva, 840 Harrison Street, San Francisco, 94107, 6-9 PM. The club’s phone number is 515.978.9900. A contribution of $30 per person for food and beverages is requested, since this will be catered event. Please RSVP. Anyone is invited.

We will show a video or two, and review next's years plans for La Carrera. We will also review the upcoming Chihuahua Express (March 27-29), which many consider a warm up for La Carrera.

Our hosts will be Che and Carienn Voigt, veterans of the 2006 and 2007 Pan Am. They are members of Club Sportiva and enjoy the exotic cars at their disposal.

For more information about the club and it collection of automobiles click on

A few Carrera cars may be parked in the club’s garage. Please let me know if you intended to drive your Carrera car to the event.

Your contribution for food and beverages should be sent to me by personal check or by PayPal.


Gerie Bledsoe
North American Coordinator
La Carrera Panamericana

677 Highland Ave.
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
650-726-9890 (home office)
650-726-9599 (fax)
650-867-9488 (mobile)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

God's Speed Eduardo Cademartori

Eduardo Cademartori hugs friends Courtney Ford, left, and Cam Amici in his hometown of DeLand, Fla. Cademartori, who was in Wisconsin for training with the race-car team.

It saddens me to report that Eduardo Cademartori son of renowned Argentinian artist Hector Cademartori has passed away. Many of us knew Hector Cademartori through his passion of art. Hector designed and painted the 20th commemorative anniversary La Carrera Panamericana poster and has been designing the official Carrera Panamericana posters since 1988.

After coming to the U.S. Hector began to specialize in motor racing art and raised a family and began selling illustrations and paintings to racing teams, corporations, magazines and private parties. His art can be found in and on Dan Gurney's All American Racers offices, Indianapolis 500 Yearbook covers, laguna Seca Raceway, California Speedway, the Carrera Panamericana posters, NHRA offices, foreign and domestic automobile and motorcycle magazines, motorcycle manufactures offices and many mother places.

On Sunday, Dec. 7, family and friends of Eduardo Cademartori learned the 27-year-old DeLand man was on life-support at Meriter Hospital in Madison, Wis., with brain and spinal injuries sustained in a fight just one block from Crave Restaurant and Lounge, where Cademartori had been celebrating his arrival in Madison with coworkers.

A police officer had found Cademartori unconscious on the downtown Madison sidewalk about 2 a.m. Sunday morning. Two men, ages 19 and 22, were arrested and charged in the assault Sunday.

Cademartori had been in Madison about a week in connection with his work as a racing mechanic for Level5 Motorsports. News of the tragedy traveled faster than the award winning racecars Cademartori was highly regarded for working on.

Argentina born Cademartori had grown up in Los Angeles, where he graduated from high school and began his career in racing. His work took him all over the United States and the world. About two years ago, he bought a house in DeLand after being hired by BlackForest Motorsports Group, based on the DeLand Municipal Airport.

Cademartori quickly became a beloved member of the community through his outgoing nature, genuine personality, positive energy, and a sense of humor that literally many times left friends rolling on the ground laughing. In a very short time, Cademartori had made a home, not just as a resident, but as one of DeLand's familiar smiling faces.

Speaking for the entire La Carrera Panamericana community we would like to express our deepest condolences to the Cademartori family and share our thoughts and prayers.

Eduardo leaves behind his mother and father Hector and Florencia and his two sisters Mercedes and Florencia who reside in La Verne, California. Anyone wishing to express their personal feelings I would be more than glad to forward them on to his family.

Another Very Good La Carrera Panamericana Video

A Little Carrera Fun With An English Twist


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Merry Christmas From Mexico

It's a romantic full moon, when Pedro said, "Hey, mamacita, let's do Weeweechu."

Oh no, not now, let's look at the moon!" said Rosita.

Oh, c'mon baby, let's you and I do Weeweechu. I love you and it's the perfect time," Pedro begged.

"But I wanna just hold your hand and watch the moon." replied Rosita.

Please, corazoncito, just once, do Weeweechu with me."

Rosita looked at Pedro and said, "OK, one time, we'll do Weeweechu."

Pedro grabbed his guitar and they both sang.....

"Weeweechu a Merry Christmas, Weeweechu a Merry Christmas, Weeweechu a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year."


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Some Racy Christmas Humor

As a joke, my brother Jay used to hang a pair of panty hose over his fireplace before Christmas. He said all he wanted was for Santa to fill them.

What they say about Santa checking the list twice must be true because every Christmas morning, although Jay's kids' stockings overflowed, his poor pantyhose hung sadly empty.

One year I decided to make his dream come true. I put on sunglasses and went in search of an inflatable love doll. They don't sell those things at Wal-Mart. I had to go to an adult bookstore downtown. If you've never been in an X-rated store, don't go. You'll only confuse yourself. I was there an hour saying things like, 'What does this do?' 'You're kidding me!' 'Who would buy that?'

Finally, I made it to the inflatable doll section. I only wanted to buy a standard, uncomplicated doll that could also substitute as a passenger in my truck so I could use the car pool lane during rush hour. Finding what I wanted was difficult. 'Love Dolls' come in many different models. The top of the line, according to the side of the box, could do things I'd only seen in a book on animal husbandry. I settled for 'Lovable Louise.' She was at the bottom of the price scale. To call Louise a 'doll' took a huge leap of imagination.

On Christmas Eve and with the help of an old bicycle pump, Louise came to life. My sister-in-law was in on the plan and let me in during the wee morning hours. Long after Santa had come and gone, I filled the dangling pantyhose with Louise's pliant legs and bottom. I also ate some cookies and drank what remained of a glass of milk on a nearby tray. I went home, and giggled for a couple of hours.

The next morning my brother called to say that Santa had been to his house and left a present that had made him VERY happy, but had left the dog confused. She would bark, start to walk away, then come back and bark some more.

We all agreed that Louise should remain in her pantyhose so the rest of the family could admire her when they came over for the traditional Christmas dinner.

My grandmother noticed Louise the moment she walked in the door. 'What the hell is that?' she asked. My brother quickly explained, 'It's a doll.' 'Who would play with something like that?' Granny snapped. I kept my mouth shut.
'Where are her clothes?' Granny continued. 'Boy, that turkey sure smells nice, Gran,' Jay said, to steer her into the dining room. But Granny was relentless. 'Why doesn't she have any teeth?' Again, I could have answered, but why would I? It was Christmas and no one wanted to ride in the back of the ambulance saying, 'Hang on Granny, hang on!'

My grandfather, a delightful old man with poor eyesight, sidled up to me and said, 'Hey, who's the naked gal by the fireplace?' I told him she was Jay's friend. A few minutes later I noticed Grandpa by the mantel, talking to Louise. Not just talking, but actually flirting. It was then that we realized this might be Grandpa's last Christmas at home.

The dinner went well. We made the usual small talk about who had died, who was dying, and who should be killed, when suddenly Louise made a noise like my father in the bathroom in the morning. Then she lurched from the mantel, flew
around the room twice, and fell in a heap in front of the sofa.

The cat screamed. I passed cranberry sauce through my nose, and Grandpa ran across the room, fell to his knees, and began administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. My brother fell back over his chair and wet his pants. Granny threw down her napkin, stomped out of the room, and sat in the car. It was indeed a Christmas to treasure and remember.

Later in my brother's garage, we conducted a thorough examination to decide the cause of Louise's collapse. We discovered that Louise had suffered from a hot ember to the back of her right thigh. Fortunately, thanks to a wonder drug called duct tape, we restored her to perfect health.

I can't wait until next Christmas!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Not Everyone Has The Same Vision

Countless times over the years I have been around auto buffs who while looking at some old car whether it be an old clunker abandoned in some farmer's field or something on a trailer with a for sale sign planted in the window. It's then that I notice as they seem to get that glassed over look in their eyes as if they being transported back to some childhood memory or possibly into the future to a place that might be someday.

As we look around at all the different styles, shapes, ages and so many other choices one thing is apparent, everyone has his or her own taste as to what they see in a car. This video is a prfect example of the extream measures many will go to to make that vison a reality and how someone can look at a car and see something in it that you or I can not. I can't help but think the exact same "vision" has at one time or another came over anyone who ever looked at a car and said to themselves... "Oh yeah.... I can just see me in that baby ripping up the highway during La Carrera Panamericana. Hmmm."

Monday, December 08, 2008

2008 LCP As Seen From The Side Of The Road

For a very good look at the sights and sounds of what it's like to watch La Carrera Panamericana from along side the road as do many of the fans from Mexico, this is one of the best Youtube videos I have found on the Internet.

This second video taken by the same person who took the above video, and even though it was filmed during very lite traffic conditions, it gives a good idea of what a typical transit stage is like. Far from doing speed limit.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Bigger Cahones... La Carrera Photographers Or Pilotos?

This isn't from La Carrera but it's a good example of what can and does happen.

Nerves of Steel - Watch more free videos

What A Pleasant Surprize!!! Clément Marin's Work Is Breathtaking

You can only imagine how surprised I was when I received these new photos of Lucky taken in 2007 as seen through the lens of Clément Marin. Many thanks Clément! This is better than finding a roll of undeveloped film for our wedding. Now I know I have to buy his new book. CLICK HERE

Click on each of the following photos to enlarge.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

If You Like La Carrera Panamericana Photos...

1999 Photo courtesy of Clément Marin

Today I got a note from Clément Marin from Paris France telling me about his new 2008 La Carrera Panamericana book and from the looks of it I think it's going to be a nice addition to my coffee table.


Clément wrote;

Dear Panamericana enthusiasts,

After 10 years of taking pictures of the most exotic and extrem road race in Mexico, I decided to make a book of the 2008 edition. You will not find historic data, neither results nor palmares in this book: THIS IS ALL ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY! The introduction is by 7 time winner Pierre De Thoisy. 88 pages.

Hope you enjoy !

Best regards

Clément Marin

Thursday, December 04, 2008

NASCAR influence on La Carrera Panamericana

It's interesting how many famous drivers from NASCAR competed in La Carrera Panamericana not to mention how many cars were prepared or owned by some of the biggest names in racing history. As a matter of fact NASCAR shares a lot of it beginnings in Mexico going back almost 60 years. A lot of these names will not to be recognized by many of todays younger crowd but there are a few of us old timers who do. Hershel McGriff, Bill France, Curtis Turner, Marshall Teague, Clay Smith, Johnny Mantz, Bill Stroppe, Chuck Stevenson, Walt Faulkner, Bob Korf, Ray Crawford, and Jack McGrath are just a few. Have you ever heard of Nascar driver Tim Flock whose good luck charm was a real live monkey by the name of Jocko Flocko who used to ride as co-piloto? It's true.

Jocko Flocko was a Rhesus monkey and remains the only known "co-driver" in NASCAR history. On May 16, 1953, Jocko helped Tim win the Grand National race at Hickory, N.C. - becoming the only winning monkey to date. Unfortunately, Jocko was forced to retire from "driving" duties two weeks later in Raleigh, N.C.. Too bad, Jocko was one of the cutest co-pilotos around.

Here is a photo taken on May 30, 1953 when the one-mile superspeedway in Raleigh, N.C., joined NASCAR and presented a Memorial Day 300-miler. Fonty Flock came from the 43rd starting position to win. Tim Flock fell to third in the final laps when he pitted to remove monkey copilot Jocko Flocko from his car.

Driving a 1953 Lincoln that competed in the annual Carrera Panamericana, Tom Cherry whips a quick lap at Daytona. Cherry finished ninth in what turned out to be his only start in NASCAR's premier stock car racing series. Two different numbers were painted on the durable Lincoln -- the #120 that it had in the grueling race over the rugged Mexican terrain, and the #38 that it officially carried in the NASCAR Grand National event.

Here is a first hand account as Tim Flock recalls the incident that caused Jockos early retirement. "I actually raced with a monkey, which I named Jocko Flocko, for eight races in 1953. It started as a publicity stunt, and we gave him his own driving uniform and a specially designed seat. Back then the cars had a trap door that we could pull open with a chain to check our tire wear. Well, during the Raleigh 300, Jocko got loose from his seat and stuck his head through the trap door, and he went berserk! Listen, it was hard enough to drive those heavy old cars back then under normal circumstances, but with a crazed monkey clawing you at the same time, it becomes nearly impossible! I had to come into the pits to put him out and ended up third. The pit stop cost me second place and a $600.00 difference in my paycheck. Jocko was retired immediately. I had to get that monkey off my back!"

La Carrera Panamericana... No Race for Old Men

Hershel McGriff signs Ron Lee's 1955 Kurtis

To say Ron Lee and his beautiful wife are car buffs would be like saying there is sand on the beach. Without a doubt one of the most exciting private car collections I have seen was the day I spent at Ron Lee's home but as is the case with any collection, there is always one that stands out for one reason or another. In this case it was Ron's beautiful 55 Kurtis. Not only is this car beautiful but to know the historical significance and the players involved with it's involvement in La Carrera Panamericana is worth a read all by it's self. To learn more about Ron's Kurtis CLICK HERE.

Ron and his wife being serenaded during dinner at the Panamericana Gala in San Miguel de Allende.

In my opinion I must say I am so happy that Ron took this car to this years La Carrera Panamericana. Speaking from personal experience I can tell you I have met so many pussies (for lack of a better word) that unlike Ron and myself have unique cars but are afraid to get them dirty let alone push them to the limit. In the mean time in Ron's own words, here is his personal account of his recent adventure in the 2008 La Carrera Panamericana.

Photo courtesy of Go Fast Energy Drink

Well we did it -- it was less than successful, but a lot of fun. Very nice people both in the race, supporting it and particularly in Mexico. What a beautiful country!

We towed the Kurtis for eight days (two nights in San Miguel de Allende – my favorite city in Mexico). The worst night towing was the night we arrived in Laredo Texas. We had dinner; we were supposed to cross the border (walking) for permits at 9:00 PM and left about 10:00 PM. We stood in line for three and one half hours and got to bed at 1:45 AM. We then got up that morning at 4:45 for an early departure! The road south to Coatzacaolcos is really, really, bad. Potholes eighteen inches deep, two to three feet wide. Some even had candles around them to show the way to heaven! Tolls run about twenty dollars a pop and we must have hit at least ten. Gail does a yeoman’s job driving. Yikes, I am too old for this!

Photo courtesy of Coop

We arrive Wednesday in Tuxtla Gutierrez (abut sixty miles north of Guatemala) for our first day. Got our car checked for technical inspection, etc. No problems. We did our first day of driving the next day (qualifying and came in, I think, 57th out of 106 entries – no big deal as we were taking it easy). The next day we finished, again I think, in 27th place finishing in Oaxaca, my next favorite city. Not too bad for an old car with vintage suspension and a relatively small engine.

The next day was the worst and our last (the race is seven days long). We were driving to Mexico City. We were on sort of sketchy roads, like Angles Crest but much worse surfaces. A beautiful Sunbeam Tiger went off the road and tumbled down about 45 feet and totaled the car. A very nice 350 Mustang “pranged” a large rock and totaled it – shortened by about three feet! No one hurt at this time. I got the tail out way too far but recovered. In the process my left leg began to cramp, which caused me to coast about a half a mile down the road. Then my left hand cramped to the point I had to pry it off the wheel with my right hand. The car was not running too well. I thought we got a bad load of gas or the altitude was taking its toll. It turned out my alternator died (brand new Delco Remy 100 amps) and we were miss firing. We stumbled into Tehuacan at about noon, which had a fiesta going for our all our benefit.

Man! We couldn’t run the radiator fans so the heat was building – 220, 240, 250! We ended up guided by the police into the front of a very large concert stage, which had speakers larger than the Hollywood bowl! We were supposed to be there for sixty minutes but we were stuck “dead in the water”. It was the loudest music I ever heard and went on with eight young beautiful Mexican girls dancing for three and one half hours non-stop!!!!! There were at least five thousand Mexicans having a very nice and noisy fiesta in a very small zocollo (square). They treated us like “rock stars! Signing autographs, pictures with everyone, beers floating through the place like water.

Photo courtesy of Coop

At this time my co-pilot Jack is not looking too good. He threw up and then turned the color of grey concrete and started to fade. I took him to get some food but it wasn’t working. We found a doctor and pharmacy and got him some medicine for his diabetes that he left in the support truck that went ahead to Mexico City. Next, two very nice young men helped us out who were with a local car club. They telephoned an automotive electrical guy who took us to his shop and replaced the alternator, starter solenoid and brackets. Jack, my co-pilot went ahead with Gerie Bledsoe (North American Co-0rdinator) who was kind enough to stay with us. We headed for Mexico City.

Photo courtesy of Coop

At this time it is about 7:00 PM and getting dark. We violated the one rule everyone said to hold - - “don’t drive in Mexico at night ” and particularly in Mexico City. We were running north from Puebla, maybe a hundred miles, which takes you from about five thousand feet to over ten thousand before entering a city of 20 million. The Kurtis is running pretty good as it is cool and damp. Pretty soon it is more than damp - - it is raining fairly hard! I have no side windows, no windshield wipers, the RainX is taken over by bugs, my vents are open and the rain is filling my left shoe and coming in on my glasses! This is while we are exceeding sixty and trying to follow a truck and trailer not to get lost! It was brutal!

We arrive safe at about mid-night. I am exhausted, Jack is totally out of it and I just want to sleep. I make an executive decision. Let’s go home!

Photo courtesy of Coop

We did. Jack took about three days to recoup. We had a great time - - probably won’t do it again, but have no regrets.

Beautiful country, nice people, good camaraderie and a lot of fun!

No race for old men. (Even though a number were pretty old – my hat is off to those that finished!)

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."