The preparation, logistics and communication required to participate in a professional world class rally competition is enormous. The task is compounded when importing a vehicle, spare parts, tools and additional equipment into a foreign country, in this case Mexico.
DarkCyd Racing has compiled a competent technical team, most arriving late yesterday, including lead technician, Ken Anctil from Rochester, New Hampshire, and technicians Gary Grahan from Seattle, Ed Stockline from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and, of course, Kenny Thorstenson from Muskegon, Michigan.
Today Robb and Ben took another ‘recce’ (pronounced ‘wreck key’ and meaning reconnaissance) tour of most of the 13 stages. With only the first stage on pavement, the 3-day rally will take them from the cities of Silao and Guanajuato to high in the mountains. Most of the terrain is dirt, sand and loose gravelly rock. With a number of switchbacks and very rural road conditions, the teams pacenotes must be detailed and during the actual race stage, Ben and Robb must be in sync so that there are no problems or mistakes.
While Robb and Ben were on “recce” the technicians prepared the car for the first stage of the rally which starts tomorrow evening in the town of Guanajuato. In addition to checking all the mechanical functions of the vehicle, the team ensures the car is fitted with the safety equipment required by the event organizers, WRC.
Darksyd Racing Team – WRC Rally Mexico – 2011
Robb Rill, driver; Ben Slocum, co-driver; Ken Anctil, lead technicial
Gary Grahan, technician; Ed Stockline, technician; Kenny Thorstenson, technician
With the temperatures pushing 90° and the sun beating down on the car, it was clear that the pit area needed additional shade and the technicians clamoring for cold beverages and snacks. Also, the hydraulic lift the technicians were using wasn’t sufficient for working on the car—especially for later in the week when pit stops need to be efficient and quick. We needed a heavier duty lift. So Tara and I headed into town looking for provisions.
Now I’m sure many reading this blog, and who have not been to this part of Mexico may think that such provisioning might be difficult. Not to worry. At times I feel like I’m in the states. The main road through town, Boulevard Lopez Mateos, is linked with retailers one would likely fine in big box America, including Office Depot, Home Depot, Sam’s Club, WalMart, Costco and even a Starbux. So Tara and I stocked up on supplies at Costco, including a 3.5 ton hydraulic lift for the technicians, and a pop-up canopy to keep tools and refreshments ready and cool. In doing so, we feel we might have broken the record for packing a Mexican-built chevy Malibu.
Make no mistake, León has its charm. And it doesn’t come from the nearly 200 shoes stores that seem to be on every corner of the city. True, León IS the shoe capital of Mexico—and maybe North America, but beneath the veneer of retail and US-based big-box brands there’s a charming and historical feel to the city. Though nearby Guanajuato may get all the attention do to its UNESCO World Heritage Site status, but León also contributed to the start of the Mexican revolution in 1810.
As we walk the streets of the central historic district we’re treated to the neo-classical cathedral with baroque influence build in 1765, it features four secondary chapels, one dedicated to Saint Joseph includes eight domes and one central cupola through which natural sunlight passes during the day. A large arch marks the entrance to the city, built in 1910 to celebrate the centennial of the Mexican revolution, atop there is the symbol of the city—a golden lion.
The people of León take pride in their city. We noticed many renovation and maintenace projects on classic and historical buildings and sites.
However odd, there is something endearing about the sculpted ficus trees on Plaza Principal in Historic Downtown León.
While neighboring Guanajuato gets the attention for historic sites, León has its charm.
New concept in promotion and marketing — public bathrooms and walking billboards. Wow!
The people of León take price in their city. The Plaza Principal is lined with benches that sit under ficus trees meticulously groomed in geometric shapes. We spot scaffolding around many historic buildings including the post office, churches around the plaza and religious statues outside the cathedral. And the people of the city, like most in Latin America, are genuinely interested to help foreigners and will go out of their way to do so.
By the time Robb and Ben return to the pit after their day of “recce”, all that’s left is do on the car is to fit the WRC-suppied GPS unit to the car. This allows the judges and timekeepers to track each car, ensuring it follows all the rules. Once this is fitted, the car is ready to complete a final inspection by the organizers. This inspection, called “scrutineering” is the final phase before the car is approved to compete and drive on the rally course. Failure to successfully complete “scrutineering” means modifications, repairs or otherwise must be made to the car or else it is disqualified from competition.
Kenny and Gary making final adjustments to get the car ready for scrutineering and racing!
Final touches before scrutineering — the official race logo and assigned car number.
Gary, Ed and Ken go over technical details and specifications for Darkcyd’s Subaru before scrutineering.
The technicians assure Robb and Ben that all will pass the inspection, scheduled for 8PM tonight. So the two return to the hotel for much-needed showers and a good meal before the start of the intense 3-day competition.