Monday, November 12, 2007

The dreams

We have been home for just a little over a week, and the dreams keep coming. Last night it was about time cards. Luca had a better dream: We were in the Fiat running Le Mans.

The adjustment back has been a little awkward. So much time has been spent planning and preparing for the race that it's odd to have it be over. As I look back, I am very happy with our little car: It did very well. If you could see it now, it is a little beaten up and badly in need of a wash.

Throughout the race we only ran into minor problems. The first was: In the craziness of leaving, we forgot one box of spare parts. So we ran the whole race on one set of everything. Yep, one set of everything. The last two days, Luca worked hard to manage the last millimeter of brake pads we had left. He is a great driver.

In the 'forgotten box' was also an extra pressure plate. We had fitted a new one in the car and expected it would work well. No such luck!! In fact, all of the parts we had trouble with were the new ones. In Mexico, we learned that there were no new parts available for our car.

Anyway, Luca spend every night adjusting the pressure plate. Then to make it worse, one morning as we were heading out to start the day the oil-gauge pressure hose blew. We just had a shop make it two days before leaving and it was supposedly rated to 200psi, but it couldn't even handle 70psi!

So, 30 minutes before we were supposed to be at the starting line, we were bathing in oil. You could hardly see the car for all the smoke. It got fixed as best as possible in the time we had, but oil got into the clutch. It slipped and slipped and slipped. Luca could barely accelerate without it slipping. The morning drive was very frustrating, and we barely made it up some of the hills. We were able to remedy the problem somewhat during lunch break using a can of brake cleaner and further pressure-plate adjustment. From then on, it only slipped from time to time.

Other problems were: a burned distributor rotor (new part of poor quality) and a broken alternator-cable connector (caught in time). There were numerous toe-in adjustments due to involuntary suspension lowering, the effect of potholes and topes and topes and topes (huge, random and unregulated speed humps that would just pop up out of nowhere)! The water pump (new racing pump!) started leaking on the sixth day, so we had to carry a bit of extra water; we were all three very thirsty.

The exhaust header cracked quite a bit but held on. The engine ran great, even with occasional 9000 rpm excursions when the clutch was slipping; I guess Luca did a good job putting it together. The little car proved to be quite tough, and I am very proud of it.

Many racers made us promise we would race again in the Fiat; we said we would. We had such an amazing time, it would be hard to imagine not returning to race again.
We will definitely race the Carrera again, hopefully next year.

We could not have done it this year without the generous sponsorship we received from our family, Tuesday Car Table here in Santa Fe, Cyberwize, Data Devices International and Preventive Medicine Center. Luca and I thank you for your support.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The aftermath

We have been back a couple of days now, and I still few like I could sleep for a week. I feel like I have Carrera PTSD. I still wake up in the middle of the night in a panic thinking I have to be in the car driving somewhere. I keep having dreams that the car broke or that I have just watched someone else drive off the mountain. Then I realize all is good and I just need a massage and a hot tub.

As the days go by and the photos come in, it's the people we met that stick with me. The cars are beautiful — don't get me wrong — but the people were amazing. I feel that these kinds of intense situations bring out people's true nature, and 90 percent of these people were the best of the best. The kindness, generosity and their ability to see the fun in the midst of chaos was truly inspiring.

I have learned that other Carrera racers have blogs with great stories and photos so, as it takes me a while to update everything, please enjoy the other blogs:

Gary - You are one of the people I am talking about. Thanks so much for writing what you did. Talk about getting choked up. You're the best!!!!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Home at last

We made it home. This has been the trip of a lifetime. The stories are endless — every person on every day had incredible stories. Over time, I will do my best to tell some of them.

I am sooooo glad it is only a seven-day race. We could have done another day. We ran every day on about five hours sleep, one meal a day and a pace that was brutal. All that aside, we are so pleased with the car: It was the hit of the race. We started the race dead last - based on engine size — and we finished 59th out of 100 cars that started the race. This is a great thing!!!!

The car closest to us was almost twice our size. The average engine size was about five times ours (we have 65 horsepower). We were the joke of the race at the beginning. No one could believe we were in the race. The one positive thing at the beginning was the head of the organization approached and told us that a Fiat Abarth had never been in the Carrera before, and it was his favorite car in the race. He made us promise we would not hurt the car.

By the end of the race, people wanted to buy the car. Everyone was in love with it. No one could believe how well it handled in the mountains and how fast it could go. It was crazy: We would pass Porsche 911s, Jaguars, Volvos. One day we placed 41st.

It was so much fun. It is hard to tell at the time though — between the lack of sleep, lack of food, overabundance of adrenaline and a total mob mentality — we just called it fun...and it was!!!!

I promise I will tell more stories. The crashes, the police, the broken bones — I will try to tell most of them, the good ones at least (no one died this year).

Thanks you all for your support and interest in us and the race. It has meant so much to Luca and I.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

We are in Puebla

OH my god, this is insane.

I have just found 5 minutes, a computer and access to the Internet all at the same time.

Things are going great. We started dead last, engine size and all, but by the end of the first day we moved up to 71st. Luca is driving so well.

It is so crazy here, all in a good way. The schedule is nonstop, really. We get a few hours sleep and might get one meal a day.

The cars are amazing!!!!!! So many different kinds, so many different classes.

There were 10 crashes the first day. I´m not sure about today yet. Drivers have broken bones, nothing more. There are a few cars totaled.

People are shocked at how well our car does and how well we are driving. Pat on the back or not, Luca and I both think we are doing really well. The next engine closest to us is over twice the size, and we fly by them on the speed stages.

You can track all the cars by the GPS tacking system they have put in all the cars. Go to

Sorry for the broken sentences and bad spelling ... it's all a blur now. Got to run.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Made it to Laredo

Well, we actually made it out of our garage!!! It is hard to believe. Really it is. We have spent so long preparing it still feels a little like the twilight zone to actually be on the road.

What is also very exciting is to be here in Laredo with a bunch of other cars. About 30 cars from the U.S., Canada and other parts of the world are meeting here to cross the border together and convoy together down to the start of the race. This means that we are here with other crazy people. We have spent so much time on this as a goal of ours, in our own very little world. It is very cool to be among others who have also spent the last year alone in their own process. To be together, sharing car stories, fears ... It is indescribable. It is great. I think I am finally getting excited.

Luca, David and Dario are out running last-minute errands. We needed new cables for our rally computer; for some reason our cables were no good. We need a new tow mount, I have no idea why. We, for some reason, forgot batteries. You know the list of things we forgot ... endless.

Got to go. We have a meeting we all need to be at. Very important meeting: beer, BBQ and how to not get stopped by the Mexican police as we all cross the border tomorrow.

Like I have said before, I will do my best to blog once we cross the border.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Last Day

Well, it all comes down to this. We have all that we have and have done all we can do.

Two days ago, we go a 3-page list of all the things we need for the race car, the chase car, the trailer and for our personal needs. And it really is too late to do anything about it. I don't know about you, but I can't help thinking they did this as a joke. If not, it is just stupid and mean to give this to us at the last possible minute.

Today I went to the auto-parts store 7 times, I went to my office and actually worked, I took photos, washed and waxed the car — it has to look good in the "before" photos. Then I went to the grocery store twice and then the bank (to get all of our money converted into small bills ... we have been strongly warned to have bribe money very handy and in small bills). I guess the point is, I feel a little crazy. Like a snowball with way too much momentum.

Either way, we are all loading into the chase car tomorrow (with the Fiat on the trailer and everything we hope we need packed in every nook we can find), and it all changes: I can no longer go to the parts store or reorganize any more!!!!!

As I look back on the last few months and all the craziness and all the endless things I can worry and complain about, there are two things that stand out. One is how much I enjoy driving this crazy little car. Second, and more important, is how great some of the people have been along the way.

I have been suprised almost daily by people's interest and generosity. It truly has been such a surprising, amazing and wonderful element of this whole process. When this is over, all the ridiculous and frustrating people I have run across in the process (see the last-minute letter above) — them I will easily forget. But the people who have reached out and supported us, in whatever way they could, them I will remember!!!

I really don't mean to complain: It's just that there are so many stressful things to do and decisions to have made. I can only hope that we did the best we could with what we knew along the way. Everything now hinges on how well we did in the planning, the preparation of the car and all we did trying to figure for the worst as we steadfastly hoped for the best. But that is all behind us now: I can't wait to get on the road and start the next stage of this race.

Wish us luck.

I will do my best to post updates along the way. If I am unable, I will make sure catch up with all of you when we get home. Again, wish us luck. And watch this space. Fingers crossed ...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

8 days and counting ...

... Oh my God. I can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I think I could start having fun any minute now. We are going down to the Sandia Motorsports Park west of Albuquerque this weekend for a trial run. Southwest Motorsport is having a weekend racing event. We love this group. If all goes well Saturday, then it is just a few details and we are off.

We got another sponsor this week. It is so great. People are so generous. It is a company called Cyberwize. They sell nutritional supplements. They have given us tons of herbal energizers, protein bars, vitamins, T-shirts and hats we could need. I love this stuff!!

Tonight we are reinstalling the front suspension we took out two days ago. We thought it would handle better without it. We were wrong.

Got to go.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

"Disqualified with no refund"

It is Saturday, and I need to find a way to relax. All in all, everything is still good. We just got another e-mail from the race headquarters, and they have just added another thing we are responsible for -- the driving of the chase team. We get these e-mails about every day or every other day, and they are usually a list of things we are responsible for or we will be disqualified with no refund. I believe that is their mantra -- "disqualified with no refund."

I guess there have been too many pedestrian deaths because the chase cars have been too enthusiastic. They are now holding the race cars responsible for the driving of the chase teams. If they do anything wrong, we get time deducted or disqualified -- with no refund. As if we didn't have enough to worry about!!

Oh well, on another thought: Someday I want to write a book for women on how to deal with auto shops and car-part stores. I can't be held responsible for my actions if I hear another "Ma'am, do you know what you are doing?" or "Ma'am, do you know what that is for?" As if I can't figure out what engine paint is for! So, today I went to pick up two lenghts of Flex Hose, and the guy at Napa asked if I was doing some plumming. I politely replied, as I try to do, "NO, I AM WORKING ON MY CAR". Oh, the joys.

We were just given a copy Pink Floyd's video from when they ran the race in 1991 (guitarist David Gilmour, drummer Nick Mason and manager Steve O'Rourke competed in the race). It makes all the work worthwhile. If you every have a opportunity to watch it, DO. It is fabulous!! The cinamatographer actually lives here. Maybe next year he can come with us, and we can have our own little movie. Or at least he can offer some experience.

I've got to go. I have a apple pie in the oven, and I need to finish covering the roll cage with padding. Go figure......

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

16 days

Here we go. My first blog.

When I think about the time that is left, it is actually hard to breath. Sixteen days and counting. For this endeavor, I really believe there is no sense of being finished, or even ready -- we could probably leave tomorrow, or if we had another six months, we wouldn't be ready. I've never been involved in something like this. The list of to-do's is endless, the money is not, friendships are being tested, relationships stretched, sleepless nights, and we haven't even left yet ... and this is all in the name of fun.

No matter what I say, I can't wait to go. I can't wait to drive!!!!!

If I gauged how we are doing by my stress level, I would say we are screwed. In fact, we are doing well. The list of needs and HAVE-TO-DOs is getting manageable. We really only have two or three have-to's left. We have to mount the safety nets, get the front suspension to the right stiffness, and we have to get the tires (I have to remember to get the tires), and we have to mount and set the rally computer.

It isn't really a rally computer, but is works like enough of one. Do you know that rally computers are very expensive. They do a number of thing that help you along the way with speed, distance, timing and such -- and they can run into the thousands of dollars. We have learned that a certain cycling computer will do the same thing -- or close enough that it will do what we need -- but only cost an astounding $40. This is the learning curve, and it's steep.

I need to go help. Luca is calling. He is replacing the bushings, and I am the parts cleaner and extra set of hands.

I really wanted to thank the people who have helped with either money donations or with their time and expertise. Meeting these people along the way has made this experience so much more rich and enjoyable. It has really made such a difference to us.

There are still one big thing we do need. If anyone can loan or donate them it would be fabulous:
  • We have an extra set of wheels, but we need four Sumitomo HTR 200 185/60HR13 tires.
Thank you, thank you, thank you,


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Here's the story ...

From the Aug. 30 edition of Drive, The New Mexican's weekly car magazine, by Jay Binneweg:

Santa Fe team counting down to the Carrera Panamericana

Before they begin their seven-day, 2,000-mile race across Mexico, locals need your help!

The clock is ticking down for the Santa Fe team preparing to race a 1957 Fiat 600 Abarth across Mexico in La Carrera Panamericana 2007, which runs Oct. 26 to Nov. 1. The seven-day, 2,000-mile route, from Oaxaca to Nuevo Laredo, mirrors the 1950 race that celebrated completion of the Mexican section of the Panamerican Highway.

Stacy Bishop and Luca Maciucescu have been working to get their classic racing Fiat up to spec. So far they’ve rebuilt the transmission, suspension and the main and spare engines; the car has new shocks, and the generator has been replaced with an alternator. Plus, the brake and electrical (naturally) systems needed a thorough going-over.

Still on the to-do list is replacing the glass windows with Lexan and rebuilding and/or checking all the safety systems: roll cage, seatbelts and emergency fire system. You know, the little things.

Because it’s there: When we first told readers about the team’s preparations, in the July 5 issue of Drive, we got a number of questions, but most of all, “Why?”

As Luca, who loves working on and driving classic cars, explains, “I had always intended to race the Carrera, an endurance test of a race that has such a rich history, where only cars of a certain age can run. I didn’t know when or how, but Dario Castino, our chase-car driver, pushed us, and we finally agreed there is no time like the present. So, here we go.”

Stacy picks up the thread: “I had never been racing before, and I couldn’t wait to learn, but you just can’t learn in the type of car most other race teams are bringing: old Chryslers and Studebakers, Mustangs and Porsches. Our goal is to start and finish the race and have as much fun as possible in between.”

“Yes, doing a race in a fast car, for the first time, is a recipe for disaster,” Luca agrees. They needed a smaller car, a car that excelled at overall handling instead of just brute power; because the race course includes a devilish mix of mountain switchbacks and flat-out straights, there would be no “right” car, just one that suited the racers. The car also had to be easy to work on, with all the parts accessible — both for preparation and for fixes during the race.

Though the individual daily stages will be plenty grueling, the race itself is not a start-to-finish free-for-all: Drivers will set off each morning, their departures staggered, and they’ll be timed to a checkpoint, and lunch.

After lunch there’ll be another stage, racing to dinner and a hotel bed in some of the most famous and picturesque cities in Mexico: Tuxtla Gutierrez, Oaxaca, Puebla, Aguascalientes, Mexico City, QuerĂ©taro and Zacatecas.

Since this is also meant to be fun, Stacy wanted something sporty, but not intimidating; a smaller car would help with fuel consumption. All of those considerations lead to the Fiat, which Luca found for sale in California: “We wanted something we could complete the race in.” Stacy fell in love.

A race just to start: But she hasn’t been able to drive it nearly as often as she’d like. Yes, access is easy for repairs — the rear engine and transmission can be simply lowered and removed, as in a VW Bug — but parts have been surprisingly hard to come by, and pricey.

As Luca says, “If you were on an unlimited budget, you’d just have everything rebuilt. But no one can afford to spend the time an owner can; plus, we just want to have fun on a reasonable budget.”

Fiat 500 and 600 models put Italy on wheels, like the Beetle in Germany and the Mini in England. Millions were built, but few made it to our shores, so there are few spares to be found.

So, Stacy and Luca have been doing all the work themselves, with the help of local experts: Jess’ Performance Machine has been extremely helpful and generous with their time and expertise while the couple rebuilt the engine and transmission, and a local mechanic, Stephen Charbonneau, is helping them sort out the electrical system, after reading about the adventure in Drive.

Join the team: Dario Castino and David Crane will drive the chase Land Rover and act as backup drivers. The whole effort is volunteer, a group of friends.

They’re also doing it on a shoestring budget and are asking local businesses and individuals if they’d be interested in helping out — sponsoring the team, donating needed parts, lending expertise, etc.

As with any race team, sponsors will get to announce their contributions on the car and as the wish list below is filled.

If we can figure out a way – one of the places everyone reading this comes in – to set the team up with the right equipment and expertise, we’ll bring you up-to-the-minute progress reports, photos and video right here.

If you have any questions or would like to be part of the effort, e-mail Stacy at

Here are the basics

A list we've put together that we'll keep updating as help comes in. Thanks — Stacy and Luca

La Carrera Panamericana 2007 supply wish list

1: Food for the weeklong trip down to the starting point and during the race itself.
  • Food, drinks and ice for the drive down.
  • Protein bars and enhanced waters to keep us going during the race.
2: Medical supplies for the race, as well as for Mexico in general.
  • A medium-size emergency kit for any medical emergencies that we might run into during the race. There will be ambulances following the race for the really serious things.
  • General medical supplies that one needs when traveling to Mexico.
3: A trailer to borrow so we can haul the racecar down to Mexico and back.
  • Four-wheel trailer at least 12 feet long.
  • Truck box that we can transport, have access to and use to lock up all of our tools and spare parts.
4: Computer equipment to borrow so we document the race along the way and send updates back home.
  • Lipstick video camera with either roll-bar or helmet mounts so we can capture all of the craziness as it happens.
  • Laptop computer to access the Internet and send video to The New Mexican Web site. We also want to do a blog while we are on the trip.
  • Technical assistance to make sure all the computer equipment works together properly, so we can report back along the way.
5: GPS system to borrow for the race.
  • We will get race-route printouts each day, but a good GPS system would make a world of difference as we speed down those unknown roads.
6: An extra set of race tires.
  • We have an extra set of wheels, but we need four Sumitomo HTR 200 185/60HR13 tires.
7: Plenty of extra oil for the race.
  • Seven gallons of Mobile 1 15/50 high-performance oil for the racecar.
8: Decals for the racecar.
  • Lettering of La Carrera Panamericana for the car.
  • Maybe a line on the best place to make stickers for our sponsors. Maybe sponsorship to help us get all the stickers made.
Please contact us about all contributions at


The race cost for both drivers and the car will be $20,000. We are investing $5,000 ourselves, plus time and all mechanical fees, and are hoping to raise $15,000 to cover the rest of the expenses. The money will be split between costs to support the team during the race and to support the car, both before and during the race — you’d be amazed at the needs of a 50-year-old racecar.

We are actively raising money for this exciting event and will share 5 percent of all sponsorship donations with the charity Best Friends, a nonprofit organization that has a “no homeless pet” philosophy. Best Friends has created a sanctuary in Utah where animals can be placed and cared for until a loving home is found, or for the rest of their lives.

Best Friends has a massive outreach program that stretches across the nation, helping humane groups, individuals and communities set up fostering, spay/neuter and animal-placement programs. Best Friends played a major role in the rescue, care and reuniting or placement of animals after hurricane Katrina. Best Friends is run and operated 100 percent by donations, and we are honored to have this opportunity to help. Please go to for more information about the organization.

Sponsorship options

We are seeking:

  • 30 sponsorships of $50: For this gift, we thank you very much.
  • 10 sponsorships of $150: For this gift, we thank you extra much.
  • Six sponsorships of $500: This gift provides the sponsor with a 10-by-2-inch logo/name sticker on the racecar, plus a team T-shirt.
  • Four sponsorships of $1,000: This gift provides the sponsor with an 18-by-3-inch logo/name sticker on the racecar, plus a team T-shirt.
  • One sponsorship of $5,000: This gift provides the sponsor with an 18-by-3-inch logo/name sticker on the racecar, as well as a sponsor patch on both drivers’ race suits and a team T-shirt. We’ll also extend an invitation to this sponsor to join us as a member of the chase crew.
Please contact us about all contributions at

Sponsorship deadlines and responsibilities
Sponsors are responsible for providing stickers and patches or a computer file of their design that we can take to our sign store. We are happy to help with this as much as possible. Please contact us about all contributions and car stickers/patches at

We sincerely thank you for your support. After the race, we will make photos and video available to anyone who asks, though we hope to be able to post everything here and on The New Mexican Web site, the proper technical assistance willing. Thanks again!