Earlier this year I had participated in the Player’s Run. When it was over I began to look for something else to do.
It’s easy to agree to enter a race like this. The panic and doubt comes into play once you recieve your rule book. After looking through the required modifications to make a street car into a full race car, my biggest concern was the roll cage. I made phone calls for several weeks and just as I was about to give up all hopes of finding a shop that could do it in time, I was directed towards BSM Technologies in Michigan. We had everything set to have the cage installed. I was going to drop the car off on a Monday 3 weeks before the race. That would give plenty of time to do all the work that was required. That was 2 days after the unthinkable happened. My Elise was in an accident. From the pictures it’s hard to tell how severe the damage was but let’s just say that everything was bent except from the frame. The control arms bent into the shock, the real panel was crumpled and the clam was cracked right through.
The entire rear end of the car was replaced. AutoEurope put everything back together in record time. This delayed the installation of the roll cage by about 3 weeks giving us essentially a weekend to put in the roll cage. BSM put in 79 hours over a weekend to get the car out and back into my hands. Larry from FAS did a great job redoing the leather for my doors to accomadate the cut outs that had to be done. Brian took out the stereo for me and managed to salvage all the good bits to go into my G500.
I was ready to leave Detroit for Chicago to pick up my truck and trailer when suddenly a flood of coolant sprayed onto the windshield. I had just been warned by the Elise that the radiator had cracked. Luckily for me it happened 20 minutes from AutoEurope and not after I’d trailered the Elise 3000 miles to the start point of the race. A few hours later and the new radiator was installed.I left Detroit on Halloween to drive the 330 miles to Chicago. I should have arrived early enough to pick up my truck and trailer and hit the road but with the radiator blowing and traffic totally sucking, I made it into Chicago around 11pm. The next morning I went to R.A. Adams Trailers to pick up the new trailer only to find we couldn’t get the Elise into it. 6 foot ramp extensions, some custom ramp lifts, a little elbow grease and a few hours later, I was ready to begin the drive to Laredo, Texas.
To shorten this section, I’ll just let you know I drove from Chicago to St. Louis, stayed over night and then to Emory, Texas where I picked up co-pilot Cade Wilson. Cade and I headed out from Emory and drove a couple hundred miles until we decided to sleep around 2am. In the morning we drove for a few more hours to get to the San Antonio airport. There we picked up Steve Warwick, our crew chief and additional co-pilot. At the airport we ran into a couple other drivers after we noticed their rig. They’d purchased a Lincoln (if I’m remembering correctly) which had run previously in this race.
The drive from San Antonio to Laredo wasn’t bad. It seemed to pass by much quicker than the previous 1400 miles I had done solo. We headed to the La Quinta Inn to meet up with the others from the Coyote Convoy. We got directions from some of the group on where to go to get our temporary car import permits. We headed out towards the border but first we needed to find a kinko’s so that we could create a registration document for my Mom’s truck. There is nothing like forging a title on a truck you already own. I think the people at Office Max, who let us use their typewriter for free, got a big giggle out of it. I doubt we’re the first people who needed to do something like that.
From there we headed to the border. We paid our 50 cent toll to walk across and get our stickers only to be denied entry to Mexico. I guess we looked lost and it was fairly late so the border guards sent us back. After feeling defeated and a little freaked out that we’d driven so far only to be turned away, we headed back to the hotel. We explained our situation and got better directions on where to go. This time we had a larger group consisting of the British team of Adrian and Conrad who are driving the 356 Porsche with the blue flames. They will now be referred to as The Cheeky Brits. After about an hour in line, lots of photo copies and any number of forms stamped, we were on our way back to the hotel. By the time we went to sleep it was just after 2am. Our alarm was set for 4:45am. Just enough time to wake up throw on our shoes and get hit the road with the convoy at 5am. I took a bowl of lucky charms with me while I was running from gas station to gas station looking for a working ATM.
I then fell asleep in the back seat of the truck. I have no idea what happened from 5am until about 10am. It was a complete white out from the fog until a few minutes after we passed a toll booth. We came out of the fog into a pristine mountain view into the surrounding valley. I had neither my camera or my video camera in the truck. Most of the photo ops from first few days have suffered from a camera being out of reach.
We drove approximately 689 miles to San Miguel de Allende for a charity event held in our honor. The charity builds kitchens on to local schools. It’s a great concept and I hope the convoy continues to participate in the fundraising efforts in the future as this was the first year that the convoy had any involvement in it. The next morning We brought the cars out to the Jardin Square and had a great time with the locals. The Lotus was a big hit. The shocking thing is that MORE people know what it is here in Mexico than in the United States. It really shows that the Lotus marketing effort is crap at best in the US.
We left San Miguel around 7pm, drove on to Mexico City, got lost in Mexico City, got pulled over and then finally escorted through streets that were flooded with 2 feet of raw sewage and finally on our way to Puebla. We made it there around 2am. After sleeping in until 9:50am (you’ll notice our team sleeps until the last possible minute) we were able to grab a bite to eat at the free breakfast buffet and hit the road to Veracruz.
We happened upon the Cheeky Brits, yet again, as they were having their morning coffee. We lost them for a bit only to see them again, on the side of the road, having coffee! I see a pattern developing here.
We joined them for coffee for about an hour and then hit the road again. Once we got about 45 minutes outside of town, we unloaded the Porsche and the Lotus to have a little fun. Driving in a truck and trailer is only so amusing. Adrian took off and I quickly followed him. We played around at 100mph for a bit when the Porsche backed off rather quickly. I pulled to the side of the road and flagged them down when they caught up. Something was definitely wrong. Luckily they have both a support crew driver and a mechanic so they are well on their way to being sorted out.
I left them to tend to their vehicle and went on my way to catch up to my trailer who I had flagged to go on ahead. After a good 30 minutes at speed, I finally caught up to them. We made our way through town, only to find ourselves headed in the wrong direction. We were heading right into the heart of downtown instead of towards the beach. I asked a taxi driver who told me to turn right at the next big street. I turned only to have the 6 lane wide street turn into a 1 lane street market. The lotus was followed by the truck and trailer. I was sure we were going to take out someone’s tent. We made our way through the streets and markets to the beach with only 3 near miss collisions. There is a definite shortage of stop signs in Veracruz!
I’m glad to report that after a 3000 mile driver, my team and I have finally arrived to the start point of La Carrera Panamericana!
I want to thank the following people for helping me get here:
My Mom, although she would not help me fold my clothes after I did some laundry while passing through town.
Bob, Ben, Charles and the rest of the crew at AutoEurope
Brian and Crew at FAS
Don from Competition Engineering
More thanks are to come as they come into my updates!