Thursday, November 1, 2007

We made it to the end!

We arrived in Nuevo Laredo after a long day of racing. We did La Bufa again and then had long transits that got us here from Zacatecas. We had another flat tire but changed it quickly enough to end our segment on time. I'm really tired but plan to attend the celebration tonight anyway.

Pierre de Thoisy and Frederic Stoesser won 1st place in a Studebaker. This was Pierre's 7th win. He got a cake with 7 candles at the ceremony. We finished 41st (out of 100). Not bad considering our power to weight ratio and our modest budget.

What's next? I'll have to think about that one for awhile.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Steve did some preventive maintenance this morning, replacing spark plugs and cleaning the points, and he fixed a flat tire that picked up a nail sometime after yesterday's race. The car has been very reliable overall, though.

Steve working on Phinix in the maintenance area at Tehuacan, which was under a large permanent translucent canopy. It made a great place to work on a car. Plenty of room, lots of ventilation.

A Porsche Spyder, or maybe a knock-off.

We managed to leave Tehuacan this morning in the lead group of about 15 cars that was escorted two abreast by the police through town at high speed. It was an impressive sight and a load of fun.

We ran La Bufa twice this afternoon. One of its most dangerous features is the grand view of the mountains and the town of Zacatecas below. It's easy to become distracted as you burst upon it, but you have to keep your attention on the road. We encountered two cows on the road in a tight turn, but missed them both.

Pierre de Thoisy (right) and Frederic Stoesser are one of the leading teams in the race. Pierre has won this race six times in this car. He's also raced at LeMans for BMW and in the Cannonball Run.

Phinix in the Plaza in Zacatecas.


We arrived in Aguascalientes last evening. Some cars are sporting scars but most are still looking good.

We moved up to 39th. We do well on the downhill sections where driving skills are paramount and not so well on the uphill sections where our small power to weight ratio slows us down.

A Jaguar XKE that came a little too close to a rock wall.

Phinix with some of its competitors. The yellow car on the right is a Facel Vega, a French car that was not imported into the US.

With all the crowds it's really hard to get pictures of just the cars. This Lamborghini is an exhibition car supplied by Fiat, one of the race sponsors.

Even though the roads are closed for the Special sections you still have to be careful. We've come around corners to find Burros, Cows, downed trees, and rocks. But the worst are the photographers. You round the bend and there's one standing right in the middle of the road intending to snap a picture and run, but you don't know which way he will run or when. Some of them leave their cameras in the road and dart out to click the shutter and dart back.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mil Cumbres

We did Mil Cumbres uphill today. It was just as exciting as doing it downhill yesterday. But most of the day was consumed by long transits.
Clouds pouring over cliffs on Mil Cumbres this morning.

The Panamericana is really two races. One is a collection of what they call Special sections where you run against the clock on closed parts of highways selected for being challenging drives. This is the smallest, but most intense part of the race. The other parts are called Transits, which require you to get from one Special section to the next on time. If you get there early or late, you get penalized. Your total score is a function of your times and your penalties. The Transits are on open public roads with regular traffic, but since it is impossible to arrive on time by driving at legal speeds we drive much faster. The police along the way actually abet our speeding, looking out for us, getting us through road construction, traffic tie ups, stopping cross traffic at intersections when we arrive, turning the lights green for us. It's like a dream. We've driven at two or three times the posted speed limit past at least 200 police cars in the last week, and didn't get one ticket. They close the roads from the outskirts of town into the town square when we arrive at the end of the day and we zoom into downtown on empty streets, through traffic lights red and green, and past the traffic jams caused by the street closures. Then they give us medals and a party. How great is that?

Tomorrow we do La Bufa once each way, and Friday, the last day, we do it again on our way to Nuevo Laredo.

Other Panam Postings

Here are links to some other Panam blogs that my wife Vicki found:

Monday, October 29, 2007


We arrived in Morelia this evening after tackling Mil Cumbres (Thousand Peaks) in the downhill direction. This is a twisty bit of mountain road near Morelia that is one of the two most challenging in Mexico. (The other is La Bufa.) Tomorrow we drive it again in the easier uphill direction on our way to Aguascalientes.

Morelia seems more cosmopolitan than other towns we've visited so far. We're staying in a Holiday Inn with a McDonalds, a Burger King and an Applebees within walking distance. Finding someone who speaks English is easier, too. The road we took into the main square is built on both sides of an old stone aquaduct that runs down the median. The cathedral is large and magnificent. There are better pictures of Morelia than I'll ever take at Soul of the Garden.

The repaired shock absorber mount held together all day, which raises the odds that it will hold up for the rest of the race. Car trouble and accidents continue to thin the ranks, although many problems are fixed overnight in hotel parking lots, including engine overhauls, transmission replacements and major body work. A Corvette went off the road yesterday, turned over, and burned. It was beyond repair. No one was hurt, though.

We're required to carry a lot of safety equipment, including five-point seat belts, helmets, gloves, roll cages, fire retardant suits and fuel cells. It's hot and uncomfortable in all that stuff on a hot afternoon, but worth it when you need it.

Sunday, October 28, 2007