Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A very quick summary of our weekend in Mexico

I stole the following from a post I made on NASIOC. It's a quick summary of the weekend in Mexico, and I thought some of you might enjoy it:

Sunday - flew to BJX via IAH. Arrived 5pm. 86 degrees out. Picked up rental cars and drove to airport. Had dinner with KB, AG, TP at a (shocking!) Mexican restaurant. Skyped home. Early to bed.

Monday - Up early. Went to Gr.N test arranged by STi. Met Risto Pietilainen and Denis Giraudet. Caught up with Mark Higgins, Dan Barritt, and Nasser. Drove some test stages to test damper and diff settings. Ate hamburgers grilled by George Donaldson of STi and Colin of WRC radio. The boys were slinging 160 burgers in a day; impressive! Back to the hotel. Early dinner. Final prep of notes for recce and discussion re recce support with JB and AG.

Tuesday - Up super early. At first recce stage at 6:37. First car there. Yes! In about two minutes OMV Bixxol Hungary team shows up then KB, AG and all the rest. They let us out at 6:57 and TP and I are first car on SS19. Was first stage we recced in 2006 and we quickly realize notes suck. Ruh-roh! Clean up as best we can and do two quick passes. Also realize that Dodge Durango is WAAAAAY too heavy and crappy to be a good recce vehicle. Thankfully, we'll have a Spec. C recce car in Argentina! Recce recce recce until late in the evening. Meet up with JB after each loop of stages to consume tuna on bread, trailmix, powerbars, Diet Coke, and Red Bull. Notes much better after SS19. Thinking we're not as terrible at this as we thought! Spend all night cleaning up the notes until exactly 0:00. Do not finish. At 0:00 go to bed regardless. This turns out to be the best decision I made all week.

Wednesday - Up super early again. Recce recce recce. All a big blur. Finally recce the SSS. Finish. Good news. It's only 18:00. Go to SWRT PR event with Travis and the boys. Drink bottled water in a corner. Totally excellent. Ditch ASAP to go work on notes. Eat chicken soup at VIPS with AG. Work on notes until 0:00. Do not finish. Go to bed.

Thursday - Up sort of early to get to Shakedown at 10:00. Find out SD is delayed until 10:30. Go through FIA fuel up process and get to SD start at 10:30. Wait to start until 11:45 as WRC cars are cutting in front of the line etc. Hang out and meet Martin Rauam and Kristo Kraag and Andreas Aigner and Klaus Wicha. Seb Loeb comes by to speak to Travis, right as we need to pull forward, so I basically instruct Travis to drive over Sebastien. Oooops. Not good. Marshalls finally get control and send us out in order. Do two quick loops of the shakedown and confirm the following -- 1) The SD is not very representative of the stages and yes, it's a Gr.N car. 2) Boy, we are losing time to the fast boys (Toshi, Mark). Go back to the service park, refuel, the car, waste a few hours there. Get dressed for the ceremonial start. JB drives us to the holding area in Silao. Huge crowd. Sign autographs and pose for photos. Travis disappears to use bathroom. Hang out with the usual kids. Start to wonder where TP is. Hang out some more. Team manager asks about TP. Call TP on mobile. Found out he's ordering a sandwich. Instruct TP to return to car ASAP. TP sad as was hungry. Remind self to pack sandwich for ceremonial start in Argentina. Drive rally car to Guanajuato. Hang out in alley and talk to Rauam/Kraag who are totally cool guys. Go over ceremonial start. See the governor of Guanajuato. See a load of screaming fans. Almost get lost on way to 3rd ceremonial start. Find 3rd ceremonial start. See Wagonmonster. Go over 3rd ceremonial start. Drive back to Leon. Almost fall asleep on transit. Put the thing into overnight service area. Go to hotel. Skype home. Try to fall asleep. Try again.

Friday - Up early. Call TP. Get to service park early. Settle nerves. Review notes, fuel figures etc. Ok, time to go. Get in car. Quick transit to first stage. SS1 - good pace feels good - spin 200 meters from finish line. Go over small cliff. Costs us 17 seconds. Crap! Long transit to 2. Do front to rear tire swap. SS2 - mega fast sorta scary. Decide to ease off a bit. SS3 no issues. Long transit to service. 30 minute service, no drama. SS4 repeat of SS1. Tire swap on the transit. SS5 - mega fast again. Lots of drama. Off in a ditch on the codriver side twice in three corners. Absolute miracle no punctures. Check tires on right side. Front has a sidewall cut, but we leave it on for tire management purposes. Rear has been knocked off the bead but is holding air. SS6 is mega fast, so we decide to change the rear. Put on a spare, which we'll have to run on Sunday, but SS6 is only 17km so no worries. SS6 no drama. Transit to SSS. SSS two runs against Nutahara. Lose both - the bloody Mitsu is fast! Transit back to service. Handshakes all around. Did what we had to to get our feet wet. Dinner at VIPS with Travis. Review notes for Saturday. Off to bed.

Saturday - We know our notes this day are not as good as our notes on 1/4, 2/5 and 3/6, so we expect to fall off the pace a bit. Also, we know the front runners will push hard. Do 9,10,11. Car feels perfect. See Andrew Harvey on SS10 on a cliff side. Cool. Go into midday service. Service. Eat at PWRC catering. It is awesome. Awesome. Come out of midday service and have a wicked loud banging on front right. Call the boys on the mobile and talk. Have to stop immediately and investigate. Full spanner check at a Pemex on route. No issues found on front right, but now well late. Drive like batshit to get to control, but encounter traffic and check in 1m late. Hey - I've taken roadpoints at a WRC event. Sa-weet. Absolutely soaked in sweat, start stage 12. Decent time, all things considered, but we're swamped now.

Finish SS12. Have a look at the car before 13 and realize that one of the bolts holding the rotor to the hat has sheared and is hitting the caliper intermittently. Remove bolt. No more noise. Excellent. Run SS13 and SS14 and SSS. Start hearing bad chatter from rear of car. Frankly, at this point, the car is making all sorts of noise we've never heard in a rally car before. And we've now blown the 2nd damper of the event!!! Call boys. Go to service. Boys service car - decide to replace rear diff. Put car in Parc Ferme. With Nutahara having to take SupeRally to change the gearbox, now have a lock on 5th with an 8:47 lead down to Vojtech and a 2:34 deficit to Mirco Baldacci if we can nurse this thing to the finish. Oh, yeah, talk to Kristo and find out that he and Martin are out. Bad diff, I think. Too bad, as they are super nice guys and deserve a good clean run. Definitely guys we will enjoy hanging out with for the rest of the year.

Sunday - Bad dreams, nay NIGHTMARES all night. Totally stressed out. Must get car to finish. Awake early. By now, checking in and out of controls at WRC level is just as second nature as at Ojibwe, for instance. Pull up to start at SS17. Huge clump of Travis fans. One girl wants to kiss Travis for good luck, while one kid who runs toward the car is so enthusiastic he scares a cop and gets pummelled in a ditch. Once he's up and the cop lets him go, he's at the window too. Run SS17. No drama. SS18, no drama. SS19, no drama - except we see a naked guy 800m from the end. Wow, didn't need that. Finish SS19 with brakes on fire, though. Road section to SSS. Loooooong wait at SSS where we hang out with Stepan Vojtech and Michal Ernst (who looks a lot like Ralph Fiennes). Nice guys and terrors on tarmac, but this wasn't their weekend, for sure. Michal and I extend mutual invitations to NYC and Prague. Drivers talk about... well, whatever those types usually grunt about.

Run SSS against Vojtech (I think). On second lap, braking from tar into gravel, Travis mis-shifts, and we get a wicked noise from the rear. Rear diff or driveshaft definitely gone. Nurse the car through the SSS, losing by 40 seconds (not that it matters). Ease it back to service, talking to boys on phone all the way. This should have been a triumphant transit - instead it's worry worry worry about if we get car home. Get car into service. Get weighed. Go over ceremonial finish ramp. Wave to fans. Put car in Parc Ferme. Go sign autographs and hang out with marshals, teammates, new friends until 4pm.

Travis, Alex, Ken, and I with Maria Jose and Alejandra, who were responsible for event PR.

Can't believe it's over. Review split times and recognize exactly what we have to work on for Argentina. Return to hotel and realize laptop, video camera, and $400 in cash gone missing from room. Resolve with hotel, credit card companies for 3 hours. Go have a drink with the team. Go to rally party. Have a few drinks and talk rally technology with a bunch of British men (Hi Reg and Johnny - good to see you!). Return to hotel. Sleep. Pack. Breakfast with Mark Williams and TP. Drive to airport with MW, TP, and Brian Scotto, our embed. Suffer long wait in BJX for delayed flight to IAH. Sit with Scotto on flight to IAH and laugh ass off as usual. Seriously the funniest man in America.

Oh yeah, our next event is the Oregon Trail Rally, and then almost straight to Rally Argentina.


gloriafanbud8subaru199 said...

Good laugh Christian! Thanks I needed a good laugh. What was up with the shocking! Mexican restaurant? Wow, you really did a lot of work. Hopefully you'll be able to take a break, or at least until Oregon Trail!

tinaLynn said...

Christian - your blog is great. Love having an insider's view of the chaos. I am surprised at your nervousness (or anxiety, perhaps) based upon your usual calm demeanor. Your reaction (or lack thereof) after the Cog roll was one for the books. So very stoic that I suspected you may be part machine. So you really are human like the rest of us (grin).
Seriously, though...you guys did a tremendous job out there.