Saturday, 27 October 2012

Final day of La Carrera Panamericana 2012

San Luis de Potosí to Zacatecas

Doug Mockett and Angelica Fuentes most certainly adhered to his previous quote and dominated the race on Day Six into San Luis de Potosí, placing first overall for the day. This definitely sobered up the drivers of the two cars leading up until this day and let them know he wasn't that far behind either of them.
After hearing his car roar by several times I am sure he is intimidating to have in the rearview mirror. Having Angelica by his side, a fiercely competitive and strategic navigator calling all the corners, which they both took time to drive before the race began and having made her own notes of each day's course, Doug has what it takes to win this race.
Another major artery of the Mockett-Fuentes team, is his crew, Phil and Oscar. I have seen these two perform the equivalent of open heart surgery on the Olds on a couple of historic streets of Mexico (cobbled stones) into the early hours of the next day to keep them in the race.

Milena and I set out early in the morning to shoot the first stage leaving SLP. We headed out before sunrise reminding me of the silent calm of many mornings crewing for the Taxi.

High desert is one of the many climates in Mexico, which is where we went for our shoot. We met Sue Wendt from upstate New York in SLP last night. She had been traveling with the crew for the sweet two tone green Lincoln and we offered her new scenery away from the parking lots and service stops. She came with us this morning to the speed stage we would stalk and billy goated up the hill with us. Fortunately, no machetes for landscaping projects or shovels for cow patties were needed, just good hiking shoes and an attentiveness for spotting snakes in our path up a steep gravel hill above a cliff.

This last day consists of about five speed stages with the final stages taking place on La Bufa, an impressive rock mountain that offered Pancho Villa a place from where he took the city of Zacatecas from insurgents.

As mentioned earlier, thousands of spectators show up to watch the race and they stand in the most dangerous places on the road where cars can reach very high speeds. Most racers know that racing through these areas is risky and choose to chill out, but a few racers see this as an opportunity to gain time regardless of the risk.

A couple of cars crashed today, no reports of injuries. Unfortunately, first time to La Carrera Panamericana, driver Brock Weidner from Alaska, who drove his Porsche 914 from San Antonio all the way down to the start in Veracruz, had a heart attack on La Bufa while lining up for the last stage and died. He told other participants in Veracruz that competing in this race had been a lifelong dream.

As the cars drive through the finishing arch in the historical center of Zacatecas, many locals show up to greet and photograph the cars, ask the drivers for autographs, pose for pictures and show their appreciation and excitement for the event. The streets are packed and drivers and navigators drink beer and celebrate surviving another Carrrera.

This is a very good spectator event. There are miles and miles of roads here to watch the race with parties at every finishing arch with the locals of each city.There is pure unadulterated passion for motorsports, stories, famous drivers from all over the world sharing the passion, delicious foods and a variety of drinks...but best of all, are the Mexican people.

Then comes the callejoneada! It is going to sound absurd and bizarre when I describe it, but it all starts with a dude and his donkey carrying a couple of clay jars filled with mezcal. The dude hands out little clay sippy cups on ribbons which you hang from your neck. As people are throwing back shots of this shine, drums, horns, a somewhat elaborate dance step to the hooting and music moves the growing crowd through narrow walkways and streets to the old bullring that is now a hotel. The closing awards banquet for La Carrera Panamericana takes place here in the center of the ring where many bullfights took place.

It is a bittersweet evening as we say farewell to all the friends we only see this time of the year and for this event and the new friends we'd love to have more time to get to know.

First place overall went to Gabriel Perez and Ignacio Rodriguez in the Studebaker.

Second place overall went to Emilio Velazquez and Elizabeth Tejada in the Studebaker.

Third place overall went to Doug Mockett and Angelica Fuentes. It must be mentioned that Doug and Angelica won first in their class again today. Hats off to you for the relentless pressure and perseverance you displayed!

Fourth place overall went to Hilaire Damiron and Horacio Chousal in El Buick. Felicitations!

Linda and Stewart Robertson got 5th place overall in their Studebaker! Sweet job, you guys!

Taz and Rudy got Eighth place overall in their Datsun 510! Apparently, there is now a growing market for these boxy little cars in La Carrera community! Congrats you guys!

Here is the link for the Day Seven standings:

And the Final Absoluto overall standings:

The real winners of this event are really all who started AND finished AND had the most fun!

Thank you for following this blog. As frustrating as this site has been to use and navigate, we still appreciate having a way of bringing you with us through this most fun event. Although, this is the post for last day, I will be adding photos and links to videos we shot on the speed stages.
Major thanks go out to Taz for twisting my arm to join their team this year, to Conrad for encouraging me to go, to Rudy for lending me a professional camera for all the speed shots, to Milena for becoming a wonderful, fast, new friend who never swears but can navigate like no ones business, to all the organizers of La Carrera who work so hard before, during and after the event, Lalo, Monica, Karen, Gaby, Victor y Victor, Alejandro, Javier, Eduardo and Enrique, and last but not least, the people who make this such an amazing party...You all know who you are! I love you!

Your dedicated reporters:

Christine Rotolo and Milena Harvey


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Day Six: Guanajuato to San Luis de Potosí

Today was a zero accident day!

Milena and I joined Taz's Datsun crew for a service stop experience in Leon and hung out with all the service crews waiting for their race cars to show up. This is a real awesome group of participants, the unsung heroes, really. Having crewed for Martins Taxi for 3 years in a row, I have made friends with many from this exceptional group of people...they are big contributors to this addiction I have with La Carrera.

Taz's Datsun 510 service crew: Mike, Russ, Scott and Mr. Ken Harvey!

Quick Mercedes Gullwing check up.

Phil and Oscar take excellent care of Doug and Angelica.

Team Aguirre snacking on deluxe gourmet lunch.

Mats Hammarlund's service crew are very impressive to watch in action.

Alfa Taxi' service stop now has a pop up!

Three dudes on a 914!

Top two cars.

El Buick

This evenings drivers meeting reminded racers that tomorrow's route into Zacatecas down from La Bufa, a huge and amazing rock mountain, that many lives have been claimed there. The crowd of spectators is expected to be a thousand, and if I remember correctly, they stand in a a pretty sketchy area where it is easy for drivers to lose control of their cars.

Tomorrow is the last race for this 25th anniversary of the Spirit of La Carrera Panamericana. ¡Suerte to all!

Location:San Luis de Potosi

Day Five....High Five! Morelia to San Luis de Potosí

The route this day begins with 4 speed stages on Mil Cumbres, the first being pretty dangerous because of damp fog in the morning. The road surface is typically wet and slippery in the shade and there is much contrast of dark patches of shade and brightness.

Drivers line up each morning to find out their starting order.

Drivers getting ready to go.

Jochen Maas in a Mustang.

Taz Harvey and Rudy Vajdak head out for Mil Cumbres in Datsun 510.

Martin Lauber and Mark Colbert in Alfa Taxi.

Paul Hladky and Adrian Gerrit head out for ANOTHER day!

¡Mas cervezas en Guanajuato, Paul y Renee!

Miguel Campero and his daughter Alejandra in their Porsche.

Before the service stop, the cars had three speed stages, two up a mountain and the last one going down into Guanajuato. Milena and I met up with Gerie Bledsoe and a couple of his good friends who crew for him for a lovely lunch at the Aurora gallery in San Miguel de Allende. We tagged along to check out the race cars on the last speed stage before Guanajuato from a hill near a corner.

Doug Mockett and Angelica Fuentes fighting their way up from 3rd overall.
Doug: "A winner never quits, and a quitter never wins!"

Jo Ramirez and Alberto Cruz in the Volvo.

Jochen Maas and Manuel Pabst in the Mustang.

Most racers and crews arrive to the zocolos and hotels pretty tired by this point in the race. Guanajuato is an amazing city that has tunnels carved out of the rock hillsides all over. It is a very easy place to get lost when visiting.

Drivers meeting didn't report any accidents...the five day took a break.


Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Day Four...five more on Queretaro to Morelia.

Day Four...5 more

Incredibly, Paul Hladky and Adrian Gerrits, in the yellow Studebaker that went off the cliff and had a Porsche land on its roof, started the race on this day after an all nighter!

Today's route headed to Morelia, and included five speed sections taking the racers to everyone's favorite road headed into Morelia, Mil Cumbres (which means one thousand summits) and has been described as a road that you ski/drive down. Racers driving the smaller cars seem to love it the most.

Five cars crashed this day. One of them, a Chevy Nova driven by John and Chrislana Gregory, which happened before our eyes and camera, and video camera and Gopro video camera.

Early on, Milena and I decided to stake out a photo spot on Mil Cumbres to catch the cars coming downhill and catching air off of one of the thousand summits, so we set out with an assortment of camera equipment and our hiking shoes and drove up Mil Cumbres from Morelia. After much stopping and hiking up steep hillsides, we settled on a perfect turn that seemed to capture the essence of Mil Cumbres, a couple of tight turns with a dip in between. We only needed to avoid stepping into ENORMOUS cow patties, complete with thriving ecosystems, and do some pretty serious landscaping of flora on the side of the road that obstructed much of our shots. Once we cleared our safe zone where we would stand, shoot and get devoured by mosquitos and blood sucking gnats, we set up our sacrificial Gopro camera on a very dangerous wall that had a 20-100' drop beyond it, aimed at the turns.

First place Studebaker driven by Gabriel Perez and Ignacio Rodriguez.

Second place Studebaker driven by Emilio Velazquez and Elizabeth Tejada.

Taz Harvey and Rudy Vajdak in seventh place overall, driving Datsun 510.

The first cars wailed past us. The sound was thrilling because we were so close to them. One of the five cars to crash this day, a Chevy Nova driven by John and Chrislana Gregory came along a bit wide and lost it near our Gopro, screeched across the road and crashed into the mountain and blocked the road!

The 15 seconds after the car stopped were the most tense seconds as we watched the driver and navigator try to unsuccessfully start (...No va) and then get out of the car, knowing that the next race car would be careening around the corner at them shortly...we had potential for an epic shoot!
Fortunately, the next car coming around the corner, was Gael Rodriguez, the route master of La Carrrera Panamericana. He was decisive and swift in telling the racers what to do and where to do it in order to alert the oncoming racers of the trouble.

Yes, five cars, again... No injuries. Aside from the Chevy No Va, the race claimed a Karman Ghia, a Porsche 454 which rolled several times on Mil Cumbres, Dennis Varni's Nash, and lastly, Gerie Bledsoe's Chevy Nova.

Gerie lost his brakes in a #3 right turn, running off on the shoulder and into a stone wall, ripping off the front suspension, steering and causing mucho undercarriage damage. His crew chief, Al said, "Gerie's car turned into a 4wheel drive, one went that way, one went the other way..."

Welcome arches in Morelia!

Paul Hladky and Adrian Gerrits received massive applause and recognition at the evening drivers meeting at the governor's palace for completing the race is their crumpled Studebaker, being referred to as having the spirit of La Carrera Panamericana.

Paul Frame enjoying his cervezas!

Award podium for Historic A plus

Below are the links to official standings for:

The day:


Tomorrow takes the cars back up Mil Cumbres for 4 speed stages to Dolores Hidalgo for 3 more speed stages into Guanajuato.


Monday, 22 October 2012

Day Three Puebla to Queretaro

After surviving our red eye cattle car flight on an unmentioned airline from Bay Area, Milena and I arrived at the Leon airport at 6am, sadly without Brenda, Taz's mom.
We got through customs without much incident, Milena got the green light and I got the red light after pushing the button, which meant my bags got a little extra attention.
Our reserved rental car was waiting for us outside...a Hyundai I10! Picture a Smart Car holding its breath with wheels that look like new spares.
After much back and forth with the various rental companies, we managed to get into a safer car for following this kind of event, a Nissan TIDA. Hardly any power but not snack material for the double trailer trucks all over the carreterras! After a well deserved cat nap, we headed for the zocolo to see the cars come thru the arch...

Gabriel Pérez and Ignacio Rodríguez arrive in first place in Studebaker.

Emilio Velázquez and Elizabeth Tejada arrive in second overall in a Studebaker.

Doug Mockett and Angelica Fuentes arrive in third place in an Olds.

Taz Harvey and Rudy Vajdak arrive in eighth place overall in a Datsun 510.

Everyone's favorite, Jo Ramirez, is first in Historic A class in a Volvo.

Historical center of Querétaro has several amazing backdrops for photographing cars... And friends.

The news of the day began swirling around all conversations in the square about a five car pile up. After sifting through many recountings, here is what seems to have happened...
Paul Hladky and Adrian Gerrit in a Studebaker lost it on a corner and stopped , when a Porsche hit them and pushed themabout a off the road on the hill. They were fine, until another Porsche lost it and hit the first Porsche, who hit the Studebaker and stuffed it down the rest of this small hill you see below.
But then, the story gets crazier. An Alfa driven by Trevor Pettennude and Joshua Finkleman spins out at the same turn and stops, both driver and navigator get out just in time to have a Mercedes lose it and hit their car, bringing the car collection at the bottom of the hill to a ridiculous toll of FIVE cars!

Incredibly, everyone is fine, only one broken ankle to report.

Huge thanks to Pepe Gonzales at Keiphoto for the photos of the car collection. Check out his amazing coverage on Facebook at Keiphoto, and on Twitter @keiphotoMX.

The evening drivers meeting took place in the historic Art Museum in Querétaro and included a poignant speech by former F1 driver Jochen Mass, suggesting that drivers who are going into a turn MUST look for the next turn and be prepared for it. "Senseless driving wins you nothing but bills. Take it easy."
Organizers stressed that the police are getting increasingly frustrated with the event due to all the accidents. There is an underlying fear that this event's days may be numbered.

Historic A plus awards ceremony: First place to Taz Harvey and Rudy Vajdak the Datsun 510, Second place to Martin Lauber and Mark Colbert in THE Alfa Taxi, and Third place to Roberto Servalli and Diego Berhard in a BMW.

Day four tomorrow, Mil Cumbres!!!! One thousand turns! ¡Suerte!