A short story for Univision in Mexico on the road racing border series that we often run in. Mike W in the #37 Eclipse GST and Jason Steiinhart in the #15 Eclipse GSX get some good screeentime. Incar footage in Mike’s Eclipse.
After our triumph in Vegas, we headed south of the border to Tecate. This event is entirely different from races we do in the U.S. The track is a temporary street course approximately 1.9 miles in length. It is rough, dusty, and unforgiving. We again brought our 1G Eclipse. Many other gringos from the Porsche Owner’s Club, Touring Car Club, and NASA joined us. Having previously dominating our Group A class in the Border series, we were nicely “invited” to run our car in Open Class from now on. Open Class is just that, anything goes.
The primary change we made to the car was all new JIC shocks and springs. Our old suspension had a lot of mileage and it was time to upgrade to something more current. The weather was mild by comparison to Vegas so we felt confident with the engine as it was set up. Suspension tuning was our primary concern.
Tallini went out for practice and returned shaking his head. The track was so rough and the springs we were given so stiff, it made the car undrivable on what was effectively a paved rally course. “The car is always off the ground!” Tallini said. Literally, as there were two “yumps” on the front straight away. We worked frantically to soften up sway bars and tire pressures in order to minimize this problem before qualifying. Since we weren’t the only ones dealing with the rough track, all the teams were busy dealing with suspension set up.
Qualifying was uneventful. We did our usual routine of hiding from the competition, laying down a few fast laps, and then sneaking up behind them in order to size them up. Tallini came back with second overall fastest time. One of the POC Porsches, Dino Casamasima, had put down a time a whole second faster than us. We felt like we had a little more car left but we were afraid we might break something in the driveline. We thought it was prudent to save the car for the race on Sunday.
Warm ups in the morning should have been uneventful, but after 3 laps Tallini pitted with smoke pouring out from under the hood. We broke the turbo oil return line (rally style) and fortunately had a spare in one of the rally boxes. No problem.
Before the race we discussed how to handle our pole sitting Porsche. We decided, go for the win or break trying. Standing starts usually work to our advantage. On the outside of a staggered front row, Tallini launched hard on the Porsche and beat him into the first turn. Nose to tail for laps, the Porsche kept taking stabs at us and even got past in the braking zone at the end of the front straight. Tallini immediately worked him over and retook the lead. The race was turning into a gladiator match. Unfortunately for Porsche, we hired a meaner Italian and the gladiator match was over. After squeezing each other in the braking zone, Dino ran wide, clipped a curb and developed a leaking right rear tire and he slowed. SET, MATCH, GAME!
We smoothly sailed home to victory. With thousands of spectators lining the track. Tallini took Welch for a victory lap and saw first hand just how rough it really was. They love us in Mexico!! Fan clubs, Tecate girls, appreciative people, Mexico has it all. We can’t wait to go back.
Our friends from Open Track Ryan Flagharty and Gus Heredia also ran their 4AG Corollas in the Group B class. Gus won Group B.
The track was pretty cool for a street course. It was in a hilly area based on a divided highway through a slight valley right by the Tecate Brewery. One side of the road went up and curved back down the side of a hill, then to a short straight with a long dip, 90 right, hair pin right, sweeping left back on to the wide road through the valley that curved slightly. Since it took you at a pretty high speed (110-120) down to another hair pin right back onto the front straight, they built a chicane out of tires to slow things down before the hairpin. This tire barrier would get regularly rearranged from cars blasting through them.
Rob Tallini was driving our 1G FWD this weekend. On Saturday Morning, the car started running a little hot. We found one of the flat fans had died, melted solid inside the fan motor. Scot Gray went on a tour of down town Tecate looking for some kind of universal flat fan. Not in Mexico. Lucky for us, our number one race fan in Mexico Pedro Kim volunteered to drive to Pep Boys in San Diego to get one for us. He lives in Tijuana and had driven all the way to Tecate to see us. He has been to every Mexican race we have run and even drove up to watch the LA Street Race. Pure devotion. We just turned the boost down to 1.0 bar and it ran cool enough till we got the fan installed.
We qualified fastest in Group A on Saturday but were a little slower than the faster open class cars. Power seemed a little off even for 1.0 bar and there was a little dark smoke when the car came on full boost. We went looking for a boost leak and found one, one of the Allen bolts to the compressor outlet flange was a millimeter too long and wasn’t tightening the flange down enough. Fixed that up Saturday after the sessions and were ready for the Sunday morning warm up.
We turned the boost up to 1.2 with the overtake boost set at 1.3 for 6 seconds (one of the few working PRofec A’s in captivity) and with new Porterfield R4-E’s the car was pretty much dialed in. We played a little with tire pressures and were ready to race. This time they combined the three fastest groups so we got to play with the faster open class cars. The two fastest were VW Rabbits running 2.2 liter 16 valve motors (one turbo and one supercharged) and weighing 1800 lbs. Power to weight we were about the same and they had a lot less weight for their brakes to slow down.
They started the race groups separately in their qualifying order. We were at the pole position of the second group, standing start. Rob got a good launch on El Coyote in the Mustang (pronounced “Moose-estang” in Mexico) and just squeezed in front of him heading up the hill. As soon as the open class cars disappear over the hill and as Rob is approaching the crest of the hill, we see a huge dust cloud rocketing along the side of the hill and down to the center of the little valley. Red flag all corners, everyone back to the start. One of the open class cars (a 1500 lb Pinto with a XR4Ti turbo motor) was the victim of a little too much enthusiasm on cold tires and cold brakes.
Re start is a replay of the first one. Rob worked his way through the remaining open cars and up to the back bumper of the lead bunny. They played with each other up to about the 1/2 way point, Rob was a little faster but since they weren’t racing for actual position tried to be nice. He got a little bored and started working on a pass but the Rabbit started blocking, on one drive out of the last turn Rob ended up giving a little “assist” for the Rabbit up the front straight. The car gets hot with no air flow when following close so he let the Rabbit have a little space.
Then bwaaa…pop. It just started misfiring and sputtering. No juice race over. The alternator kicked the bucket. Rob coasted in to the pits. Arturo in the red rabbit went on unchallenged to finish first.
After our strong showing in the last two races we were politely asked if we “wanted” to move our Group A car over to their Open Class. No problem.