La Carrera 2018 - Stage 3 - Queretaro

1965 Volvo Amazon rally car racing to Queretaro, MX stage 3 of La Carrera Panamericana. | Photo by  Godet Studio

1965 Volvo Amazon rally car racing to Queretaro, MX stage 3 of La Carrera Panamericana. | Photo by Godet Studio

Stage 3: Mexico City - Queretaro

Finish: 4th in Historic A+ / 53 Overall

Today’s stage was another early start. We suited up at the hotel and got to the Volvo before sunrise. Tim and the crew had left already, needing to beat the Mexico City traffic in order arrive at service on time. 

There are so many details to manage in the Carrera that it will quickly show all your weaknesses as a rally team. Yesterday we made rookie mistakes. Costly errors that we would not make again. Today we would make new mistakes. Luckily the price would not be so steep. 

Late in the stage mechanical issues would appear again. The drive train noise we had heard in Mexico City was back. Heavy rain canceled the afternoon speed sections and our ailing drive-train was spared. A little Carrera luck had come our way. 

The Stage

Map of Stage 3 Mexico City to Queretaro

Stage 3 of La Carrera Panamericana left Mexico City on a 140km transit to the start of the first speed section. Getting out of CDMX was challenging to navigate. Getting lost was not an option and despite the early hour, 100% concentration was required. The espresso and brownies provide by a generous fan at the starting arch helped. 

The morning speed stages were two up the mountain and three back down, with the turn around at the beautiful little town of Chapa de Mota where a fiesta was being held to the celebrate the race. Needing to avoid the chaos of the crowd we found a quiet spot behind the town square where we could relax. 

The speed stages were on tight mountain roads that reminded me of the roads back home in the rolling hills of New Jersey. Blind turns filled with gravel and wet with water tested Chris’s commitment and trust in the pace notes I was giving him. Our Volvo Amazon stuck to the road and was predicable when she broke loose which gave him the confidence to build speed. By the end of the morning we had improved our times and the gap between us and the competitors in our class had narrowed significantly. 

Mid-day service was in the tiny town of Temascalcingo. Thousands of people and fireworks made for a fun stop. The crew was able to get the box trailer down the narrow streets and it was a welcome place to for us to hide from the crowds while the crew did their work. 

During the transit to the afternoon speed stages it starting raining heavily canceling the last speed stages. It was a lucky break for us and our ailing clutch. But, the torrential rain added a whole new challenge to navigating as water came from above and beneath the car. Few race cars are water-tight and even fewer historic rally cars are. We were wet inside and out.

The rain finally let up as we passed through the finishing arch in Queretaro and parked up in the beautiful central plaza. We were pleased with our accomplishments for the day: good stage times, a finishing medal around our necks, and a beer in hands. We didn’t like telling the crew about the terrible sounds coming from the drive-train and they were less pleased to hear it. 

Once we reached that evening’s hotel we pulled the Volvo into our trailer parked just around the corner. The crew swung into action. The gearbox and clutch had to come out. After the awards dinner we visited the crew to see where we stood. “So, what’s making that noise?” I asked. “Nothing obvious” was Tim’s answer. “Ok. Whats the plan?” I asked. The boys spent the night putting in a new flywheel, new clutch, and new gearbox. Thats what spare parts and a good rally crew are for. 

Not Included in Stage Notes

There are two things not included in Carrera stage notes, directions to the nightly hotels and directions to the starting arch. Both of these you have to figure out for yourself. 

In Mexico City I knew the starting arch was close to our hotel so I had not looked up directions. It was, as another driving said, “Just over there.” Though it was close, it was not easy to find. My rookie navigator’s mistake added stress to our morning. 

In a rally as mentally and physically challenging as La Carrera, your team has to avoid un-necessary stress. Planning and preparation is your best defense. I can guarantee you I was prepared with clear directions to the starting arch of every day to follow.