It was a beautiful morning on the outskirts of Aguascalientes, with all of the competitors and their service crews chomping at the bit to get through the final day of racing. The first velocidad (speed stage) ran through some of the most incredible scenery to date; over high-desert flora painting a final climb into the mountains. This day features a tradtion which has been a part of almost every panamerican race since its resurrection…”La Bufa.”
La Bufa is an incredible section of this race that includes not only some of the longest turns and drastic altitude changes, but also some of the longest straightaways of the race. Having these expansive straight shots during a speed section with roads closed means that the drivers can push flat out and hope that any extra muscle in the drivetrain can shave some precious seconds off of the clock. It is also where a lot of people make mistakes – especially in the final day; usually it involves overheating, blown engines and the like, rather than accidents.
Brent and Joe took the day on knowing the challenges having experienced this stretch in 2008. They drove fast and smart, rolling in to Zacatecas to fall in line with other cars to proudly idle into the final arch. All of the people who complete this race can rest assured that they will be respected and reveared in the fraternity of worldwide motorsports.
Congratulations to Brent Zerull and Joe Brubaker for finishing La Carrera Panamericana 2010!!
On to the celebrating……..
An important aspect of rallysport racing that often times goes unappreciated is the support crews. In this case the “Servicio” trucks and their legions of mechanics, welders, machinists and jacks of all things automotive, are the backbone of this event. Every night these dedicated team members set up under difficult conditions, in hotel parking lots, baseball fields, fairgrounds and even on the street on the outskirts of town. Often times they have to share what limited electricity is available, manufacture their own parts from what they have, and do whatever it takes to keep their team’s car on the road.
Being a part of a Servicio for this race is as demanding as being in the race itself. Not only do you have to work late nights on old cars being driven to their limit, but you have to wake up a couple of hours before the first competitor begins racing the next morning so that you can get your truck and trailer to the mid-day service point. Most of the crews average 2-4 hours of sleep each night and have the added stress of navigating large rigs with car dollies and flatbed trailers, even big-rigs, through confusing roads, skinny cobblestone streets.
We would like to extend our gratitude and our respect for Tom Dragoun from 7s Only Racing for bringing his rig all the way down here to haul race cars and work late nights and early mornings to keep Team Tortuga in the pack. A special thanks also to one of his mechanics, Corky, who knows how to solve problems that would baffle other mechanics and do it in half the time.
This race simply would not happen without you guys.
Joe and Brent were on it as usual with Joe behind the wheel this time. They knocked out all sections, including a great run on the oval track in Aguascalientes, and rocked through the finishing arc with plenty of time to sign autographs…
The competitors keep pushing the limit in the “velocidad” (speed stages) and the race is getting heated. Number 3 Tourismo Mayor competitor Doug Mockett lost it on a turn and crashed into the brush right in front of Nick and I. Co-piloto Angelica Fuentes was out of the car and moving debris within seconds; and with our help moving rocks and shredded car parts out of the way and some locals pushing and shouting, they were back on the road, minus most of their bumpers but still running fast. We saw them at a later stage in the day looking fast as ever on the race track at Aguascalientes.
The stage from Morelia to Guadalajara was marred by some tragedy as is the case with many Panamericana races. Former Carrera Panamericana Turismo Mayor champion (2008) Bill Beilharz crashed due to a mechanical failure and wrecked their Studebaker. Thankfully Bill and his co-piloto are okay and will return next year. Bill is a class act and his team is second to none and we wish them the best of luck next year. There was also a very bad crash during the final transit of the day between an MG competitor from Mexico, Juan José Alessio Robles González and Juan José Alessio Robles Serrano were both injured and we wish them a very speedy recovery. It is a dangerous race.
On our end, the Tortuga Team did very well, especially considering that they have been racing this whole time in the wrong category (against cars with more cylinders and more horsepower). Being matched up against Porsches can be intimidating, but Brent and Joe keep pushing their Swedish 4 cylinder right on into the pack. The Tortuga cruised through the speed stages and arrived in Guadalajara to sign autographs and talk with fans.