Low Budget Race Report International Edition: Ensenada Grand Prix
By Alex Vendler
As some of you know there's been a bit of a lull in the action on the Starletabusa project as we try to solve the big rattling sound that setup is making. If you are still wondering what that is then read about here. With that project on simmer and no one calling in need of a slasher movie shot these days, this guy has been turning to other forms of entertainment. The Geo Metro Gnome has not been much to talk about of late but it still gets out every now and again and it's always in the “I can't believe how fun this thing is” category. Since we are not racing against the rest of the cars at LeMons races due to being shunted off to the non competitive “X” class, we started running other events that would allow our science project on the track.
One such organization is the “Chumpcar” series, a pretty blatant imitator of the LeMons concept sharing the bulk of the rules so many teams run both events. Chump is a bit more lenient with on track conduct and doesn't force its participants to do goofy performances as penalties for bad driving. The races also have fewer but faster cars so competition is pretty brisk and overall feels a bit more like racing than the more festive LeMons events. We know from experience that it's just as hard to win a Chump race as any Lemons race these days but the best Chump feature is that they will take on venues that Lemons won't run. Such as, oh I don't know, a legally sanctioned event running on the streets of downtown Ensenada, Mexico for example. Wait? What? A road race on a street course in a major city in Mexico? How could that be anything but awesome? Well off we went to find out.
The adventure began as any other with a loaded BOX TRUCK race transporter hitting the highway except this time we headed south to the last possible exit off the 5 freeway that's still in the good old US of A. It's a K-Mart parking lot and nothing could be more fitting as a last outpost. Here we met up with the other American teams for a mass run for the border. The Mexican race promoter even provided our group with a “Coyote” to help get us south smoothly. All that was totally unnecessary as we sailed through the checkpoint with just a cursory glance in the back by the friendly but well armed Federales. We did go through the effort to have registration papers on the race car and Mexican insurance on the truck and since no one ever asked to see any of that stuff I guess it worked.
Skirting the south side of the triple armor plated border wall complete with cameras, patrolling jeeps, and lots of dudes with guns, we headed to the coast toll road. The road is not bad all things considered, but is much more winding and bumpy than anything we would call a freeway stateside. It is also decorated with dead dogs, busted down cars and some other fun obstacles to keep motorists on point for the 90 minute drive to Ensenada. For once in the life of the box truck it was not the crappiest vehicle on the road since what is considered a drivable car in Mexico is pretty liberally interpreted. As is evidenced by the photo below, the whole team arrived safely and was brimming with enthusiasm for the upcoming race weekend.
We ditched the truck in their fenced parking area and it all seemed pretty safe so off we headed to the main drag for some food and booze overdoses. Driver Dan's liver took the brunt of the abuse that night and he was pretty useless for the first half of the next day. Here is a three photo progression of his downhill slide…
Getting going the next morning we headed to the race course and the impromptu paddock. BEACHFRONT paddock! We set up literally steps form the sand and this a highlight of the weekend. How much better can it get than to combine a day at the beach with a day at the track? Plus there was a non stop parade of food vendors coming by trying to sell us goodies. Now that's a system tracks in the US should catch on to. Even in the middle of a pretty nasty heat wave the cool ocean breezes kept temps down and helped blow away the smoke of a thousand bad valve guides.