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!