La Carrera 2018 - Stage 0 - Qualifying

Stage 0: Oaxaca-Mitla-Oaxaca

Finish: 5th in historic a+/64th overall

Qualifying day was a huge moment for our team—my brother and me. It would be our first official day of rally racing, Chris’s first chance to drive the Volvo at speed on a rally stage and my first chance deliver pace notes at speed. 

Launching ourselves into the unknown we were nervous. At the end of the day though, we’d held our own, not made any mistakes, and came away confident we could race La Carrera. 

The Stage

Stage 0 was a short four section day totaling 99.3 km. After a 42km transit from the starting arch to section one, we ran the 13.2km qualifying section twice, first as a warm-up, then as the timed qualifying run. It was good, flowing stage of #2 and #3 turns on clean road punctuated by #4’s and cliffs with few straights longer than 200m.

The final fourth section was a transit the town of Mitla for a small fiesta. We then headed to a  banquet lunch at the Los Amores Mezcaleria. 

Torrential rain hit while we transited to the banquet, turning the whole mezcal farm into a giant mud puddle. Getting in and out was a slow muddy affair but the food, mezcal and distillery tour were worth it. It’s no wine and cheese tour but at the end of each day, La Carrera will feed you well. 


Help From Friends

You will often hear it said that the community and camaraderie of rallying is what the racers love most. That is certainly said of La Carrera and it is certainly true. While Chris and I had studied the rule book and understood the stage timing procedures, going from book knowledge to hands-on knowledge always has it’s frustrations. 

Taking the newbies under their wings, on qualifying day we got some essential help from the teams around us about what to do at the timing checkpoints, how to complete the timing card, and how to avoid simple rookie errors. Their generous advice setting us on a path of success and without them we could not have done nearly as well. Thanks to Michael and Kistry Shoemaker in #283 ’69 BMW 2002, Janet McFarland and James Walter in #343 ’64 Mercedes 200, and Scott and Matt Lawrence in #202 Studebaker. 

Shaking Down the Car

Our Volvo Amazon ran well for qualifying but had a couple small issues. The engine was idling too rich making it hard to keep it from stalling. Tim re-jetted the Weber carburetors, but it would take several days to get the mix just right.

Louder than that, we blew out a piece of the exhaust manifold gasket where the fit of the manifold wasn’t giving the gasket enough support. James fabricated a fix overnight and we were good to go. 

Over the next couple stages we’d have some more mechanical issues as we continued to shakedown the Volvo. Nothing that would stop us, but it sure did make for some stressful days for driver and co-driver alike. 

For today, though, we’re happy that our first Carrera Panamericana has well and truly begun. No longer wishing to be a team on a rally, today we are that team.