Category Archives: Uncategorized

Tuxla Gutierrez, Chiapas to Oaxaca.

We arrived in Tuxla Gutierrez Chiapas, and had a few days to settle down, organize our tools and support trucks and to get the race cars through tech inspection. My involvement was to be crew chief of Mark Colbert’s #284 65′ Alfa Romeo Giulia and about Mark’s car: It is a gorgeous 1965 TI built by Champion Motorsport of Pompano Beach, Florida. The builders did a wonderful job with this car, it is black inside and out and has been restored to a very high level. Mark Colbert likes clean cars and this one is no exception being built from the ground up in full race/rally specifications. Seam welded chassis, gorgeous overbuilt roll cage, full rally time-keeping equipment, Tillett carbon fiber seats, panhard bar, fully built motor, AP brake system, and race suspension throughout. Everything about the car is race car, ok you get the point. Needless to say, the car came to me ready for competition so it needed only one thing, testing and driving. Mark drove the car a few hundred miles and I drove it 20 miles while we were still in Sonoma, I spent a day or two just getting to know the car in detail and doing some minor suspension adjustments/final preparation/torque striping at Competition Touring Cars Sonoma and I had a lot of confidence in the car, especially in Mark’s capable driving hands. He was driving his wife Debbie in the Carrera as his “Co-pilota” and this absolutely raises the stakes when it comes to safety and safety checks so I made safety checks my top priority as always.

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Going on, Friday qualifying took place in Chiapas on a stage from downtown Chiapas to beautiful San Cristobal. It was a very curvy and steep uphill stage. Mark and Debbie, departed and I took the service route in the support vehicle to meet at finish line and do a quick post-run service. Mark did great on this first run and it was the first real action the car had seen. After this the car returned to central Chiapas for  what would become a nightly ritual-full inspection, service and tune. Car checked out fine and we were ready for the first race stage Saturday 7AM.

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It is hard to keep this race blog solely about the race when visiting Mexico and San Cristobal was one of the places where I had my first sobering moment after meeting a couple of tiny kids who where working with their mother on the street selling food. Seeing this level of poverty and struggle while parading through this historic town in fancy race cars reminds me how absolutely lucky I am and reminds me to never take anything for granted, Of course I did my best to give money and spend with those who I knew need it the most but it will never be enough and this stayed with me everyday through the rest of the trip.

Saturday morning, the crew was up at 530 for a quick coffee and breakfast and off to the pits for some car warm up and driver prep. Our trucks were loaded and ready for the chase over the mountains to Oaxaca.

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Nuevo Laredo to Tuxla Gutierrez, Chiapas

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Getting to our starting point of Tuxla Gutierrez was a very long drive over two days. Trip started in Laredo Texas where about 12 US teams met in order to convoy to Tuxla together. The border crossing took several hours by the time Mexican officials fully inspected our incoming trucks, there was even a huge X-ray machine which each truck was required to go through. Despite having to get their job done, the Mexican officials were very friendly and professional, they went through their official procedures with us but always had personal questions regarding our cars and I was always happy to go out of my way and show them. It was obviously a very unique sight for them to see trucks full of race cars and race car parts.

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Once through the border we rooms waiting for us in Queretaro, so we had about 750 miles to cover. This was the first time I had the chance to experience driving through the vast Mexican desert and it was amazing to drive through. Mexico has some of the most diverse and breathtaking terrain I’ve ever seen. There was 100 places I wanted to pull over and explore but we had a tight schedule and a long trip ahead of us so it was impossible. Fuel stops were always a pleasant time to catch up with the rest of the teams and share thoughts.

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Laredo to Nuevo Laredo

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So as of last Friday we had been in Laredo a couple days just gathering some forgotten items locally, acquainting ourselves with fellow crews and preparing to go to the boarder to get our documents in line. Laredo Texas is very much a working class town with the extra element of being a border town so it has a very strange mood in general. Regardless Friday afternoon our entire group traveled to Mexico by cab to get our visas and attain our Automobile permits to cross the trucks/cars/trailers. It was quite a mix of fellow people from all walks of life and from all over the world for that matter. I the while I was a bit nervous, not because of the border crossing but because I knew that Mexican law only permits one car to cross the border per person and I was going to attempt to get thee across (truck/trailer and Alfa). Mark had pre-registered and attained permits for the Alfa and trailer bit being that he had very recently purchased the Ford, he did not receive the title in the mail in time to temporarily sign it over to me so that I could cross the truck over in to Mexico as my own as law requires. We hoped we could slip through the check by having Mark sign a letter giving me permission to bring another person’s vehicle into the country. When I finally approached the border agent, I was very quickly turned down and denied permission to bring the truck in. I asked to speak to a supervisor in hopes to be able to explain my situation, supervisor quickly turned me down, shit! Well I had no choice but to turn back to Laredo and try again later.

My second attempt was a lot more of an adventure Mainly because I had no choice but to try again and this time I was by myself and it was well past dark. Now Mexico/USA borders are always somewhat “sketchy” places in my opinion, but the Laredo border at night, is a lot like the cantina in Star Wars. My hopes that I would arrive to the transportation office and see a new set of faces after a shift change, but to my horror it was the exact same people who had turned me down earlier in the day, shit again! I waited in line anyways, and asked to talk to the supervisor. Supervisor came down, this time he quickly became angry with me. I pleaded with him that I had no other options and I HAD to get across, I asked him if there was ANYTHING I could do and this is where the story got interesting. He told me that there was someone above him and I could talk to this person above him if I was willing to wait. Minutes later I was waiting in a hallway inside the building and a Benicio Del Torro in the movie Traffic looking character came down in plain clothes walked up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder and says “I heard you have a problem” (en Espanol). I asked him quietly if he worked here, and he replied yes, “let’s go for a walk” he says. I walked next to him as he talked under his breath, he asked me to explain my situation, and it very quickly became clear that he was asking for some $$$ to solve my problem. We negotiated a rate and I asked him where he wanted payment, he told me to go back and wait in line and this time he assured I would not be denied. He also told me to meet him outside the building down by the “Rio” after I get my paperwork so that I could pay him. Outside by the Rio was a dark place away from government cameras, it was sketchy as hell but I got my permits!

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SF to Laredo

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So the Carrera started in Sonoma for me. I went up Friday to catch the CSRG vintage races happening at Sonoma Raceway (which happened to be the biggest Alfa GTA meet ever) and help with some final preparation on the Alfas. It was an opportunity to shakedown the cars both on the track and on the road and hopefully catch any possible problems or issues before getting to Mexico where the environment would make it more difficult to perform repairs. I spent part of Friday and Saturday upgrading Mark’s dampers from Koni Yellows to the beautiful Alfaholics threaded dampers. I also added some ride height to the front of the car to better deal with the less-than-perfect roads that we were warned about.
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By late morning Monday, we hit the road. I was piloting Mark’s brand new F350 diesel loaded with spares and supplies, my buddy Eric was following me in his 1999 Ford Expedition towing Martin’s Taxi. I had a tremendous unfair advantage towing with the diesel over the expedition, the F350 effortlessly pulled along and actually got better the faster I went. Either way, we putted through California, Arizona, New Mexico and then Texas. Embarrassingly, I had never done that exact drive and being that I’ve always had a fascination with the southwest and southwest history, I really enjoyed the drive, daydreaming along the way about the olden days and the rich history of this land.

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La Carrera Panamericana!

I’m lucky and excited to be participating in the 2015 Carrera Panamericana this year. It is a race which holds some special meaning to me since my father has always told me stories of the race which he had the thrill of watching in his childhood as a boy growing up in Zacatecas. My friends Martin Lauber and Mark Colbert, both Carrera Alumni, have invited me to join their crew. Martin is piloting his well known “Taxi Perdido” Giulia 1300TI Sedan and this year Mark is taking his very fresh and very gorgeous 1965 Giulia TI which was just finished by Champion Motorsport in Florida. I’ll be towing Mark’s car down to the starting point in Tuxla Gutierrez, and of course supporting the car along the week-long race.

I’ll do my best to post pictures and every night, wish us luck!

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Robin’s Rally

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It’s been too long since I’ve blogged and truth is I’ve been wildly busy. So much has happened in my life these past 6 months that it’s crazy. I’ll catch up on the news soon but for now I’ll talk about an amazing event I took part in this year which a few friends put together called Robin’s Rally. Basically a group of my friends blast up through the backroads of California starting in Southern California taking the long and twisty route every chance we get. It was an amazing and epic drive of about 1000 miles over 3 days. I choose to drive my somewhat recently acquired 1971 Porsche 911T (more on that soon).

The route was mostly paved roads but also included a significant amount of dirt roads in Coalinga and hills above Fresno -it was not for the faint of heart and I had an absolute blast beating the crap out of my car drifting through the dirt roads. It speaks volumes for the amazing versatility of the Porsche 911-even in its hardcore track setup my car did very well. Our group consisted of mostly 911sc’s but there was also two 964’s, a 993, a Cayman GTS and a 912 and the route ranged with everything from 120MPH straight sections, to the tight and twisty “roller coaster”, beat unmaintained paved roads, and gravel and dirt sections, about 500 miles in total ending in Big Sur. I had to leave a day early to be with family but It was a memorable and scenic drive with plenty of Old California scenery from the Gold Rush and Oil Rush eras, periods which I really enjoy studying.

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Parkfield, CA was our lunch spot on day two and was home to some amazing history-it’s also the earthquake capitol of California and the San Andreas fault runs literally through it. I can’t wait for the next one!

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2015 off to a crazy start

Who has two videos made on their cars in one month? It was not on purpose or planned but it just worked out that way this month. My friend Jeff Martin had been working on a short film about my relationship with my 1970 Giulia 1300TI and midway through Jeff’s filming (which we did on our spare time) I was approached by Petrolicious about my car. I couldn’t say no and was very flattered that they took interest.

Check out Jeff’s picture here:

And the Petrolicious feature here:

This year is going to be crazy with a lot of exciting projects going on with Singer and of course the opening of my new side project http://www.dv-mechanics.com just down the street fron Singer. Please stay tuned in and drop me a line with any feedback, etc.

New Website

Please check out my website (work in progress)

http://www.dv-mechanics.com

Dad’s Spider

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I blame my dad for it all. Ever since I was old enough to walk, my Dad put a metric wrench in my hand. I grew up around European cars, specifically Fiats, Alfa Romeos, BMWs and Porsches. Since my dad always had an automotive project going on I grew an appreciation for the engineering behind Euro cars, my Dad always took them time to explain how things worked to me and how things could always be improved upon. My dad was never one to leave things alone, in fact most of his cars spent much more time apart that running. To my Dad, there was equal enjoyment in taking things apart as there was in driving his cars, in fact he probably enjoyed reverse engineering far more than driving his machines. For this reason my pops has had up to 11 cars in his possession at one time…….and all of them in some state of repair or “improvement” at the same time. As my Dad ages and loses interest in things such as cars, I am taking the liberty of getting some of his machines back on the road, to my style. The current car I am taking over is his 1991 Alfa Spider with 100K miles on the clock.

I personally never spent much time checking out the later Spiders, I’ve been a much bigger fan of the 60’s Alfas. But I’m currently obsessed with making a good daily driver out of this 1991 Spider Veloce. The car was purchased by my Dad about 7 years ago and he daily drove it to work until one day he had some unknown component fail. He then parked it and it has been sitting since….until a couple weeks ago when I brought it home with me for some much needed attention.

Where am I going with this car? I’m imagining a sleek, low Spider, with flat black wheels, aggressive offset, SS exhaust system, Momo steering wheel, perhaps a roll hoop, add lightness where possible……yeah a bit of a boy racer car……but first I had a lot of maintenance and diagnosing to do. I had little to no experience with the injected Motronic Spiders, though I have plenty of experience with the Motronic Porsche 964s and this experience came in handy along with some help from the Alfa BB I had the car running in just a few days. I did the following:

New Battery, a fuel tank refresh, new fuel pumps, new fuel lines, new fuel filters, a lot of terminal cleaning on the relays and fuses, replaced coil/rotor/cap, sourced a set of tail lights, cleaned headlight terminals, center support bearing and bushing and replaced intake rubber boot…..this got me running and on the road. After a much needed oil change, I enjoyed driving the car to and from work for a few days until a traffic jam one day had me sitting in traffic just watching the temperature soar above 200. I quickly exited the freeway and rushed to an open road to get some wind through the radiator, clearly my radiator fans were not coming on. Once I made it home, I figured out two things: 1 I was missing a radiator fan, 2 the one I did have was not coming on. I sourced the missing fan, and then after a good 4-5 hours of diagnosing, internet research and testing, I was able to get the fans to come on as they should.

I had the car running safely again and drove it another few days really enjoying the nimble handling and nice sounds of the worn exhaust system. It’s amazing how good the car feels around corners despite tons of body roll and having 100K miles on its dampers.  Friday night with the top down in the freeway was really enjoyable until I exited the freeway and sitting red light I noticed smoke or steam coming from under the hood. I pulled over and an inspection revealed that the water pump seal had failed and the pump was pissing coolant. I managed to make it home after topping off the coolant at a gas station and parked the car until this past weekend when I had the chance to crack it open.

Removing the water pump on a S4 is a pain mostly because of added late car features such as A/C and power steering. On top of this, turns out that you have to remove the crank pulley in order to remove the water pump, but before the pulley comes out, the radiator must come out….what a pain! Anyways I worked though all the disassembly and placed an order for all the parts I need today. While I had everything apart, I decided that A/C has no place on my Spider so I removed the compressor, condenser, lines, dryer and any A/C components in sight. I still need to remove the lines that enter the cabin, that job seemed better for a day when I’m more energetic.

Once I have the cooling system fully refreshed, there shouldn’t be much stopping me from long road trips in this car. Since I’m anxious to make this my stylish daily driver I didn’t make haste and I ordered some wheels, 200 tread wear tires, Koni yellow shocks and I will be installing the IAP spring set I had in my previous Duetto. Pretty soon I’ll be chasing down Porsches at Angeles Crest in this Spider ! More on this in a few days. This car sat far too long, I simply won’t allow it to stop running for too long ever again!

 

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Above is what happens inside a gas tank after sitting for 6+ years.

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After a refresh, though I will be replacing sender with a new one (current one reads incorrectly).

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Engine bay is dirty, slowly working my way through making this car reliable for daily use. I discovered  that my VVT solenoid was never connected the entire time I’ve had the car, looking forward to repair the broken spade connectors and feeling the VVT work.

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Radiator out, and A/C condenser removed, only the PS cooling line is left, I must have taken 40 lbs out of the nose of this car. Add lightness! Better cooling for the radiator too.

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After a quick bath, the car shows some scuffs and bruises yet no accidents ever, I like it just the way it is. I’ll probably get it detailed after I finish the suspension and wheel upgrade.

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Sneak peak at whats coming up for this car………