Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Alfred Hitchcock has nothing on us...
Racing in Mexico is nothing short of an adventure, one that any race driver get's excited just thinking about let alone actually doing it. It seems there are far more obstacles there than almost anywhere else in the world. They have obstacles coming from the road, the side of the road, the middle of the road, hell even under the road, off-road and yes even from the air.
Remember back when I mentioned something about buzzards going thru windshields? Well, I wasn't kidding. It has happened on more than one occasion during the La Carrera Panamericana and keep in mind, you would have to be going like hell to connect with one of these big boys. If you have never had the privilege of seeing how big a vulture up close trust me, they are huge. In fact if Alfred Hitchcock were alive today he would be jealous as the thought of a Mexican vulture crashing thru a windshield of a high performance race car would send chills up even the bravest of the brave.
Back in 1952 The Carrera Panamericana soon lived up to its burgeoning reputation as a car-breaker, something the teams’ preparatory outings had also indicated. Nobody was more keenly aware of this than Kling and Klenk, who felt the full force of the rally’s destructive potential during the opening stage. Kling, thundering towards a long right-hand bend at 200 kilometres per hour, spotted the vultures lurking by the side of the road too late. One of them promptly took off, smacking into the windscreen of the 300 SL on its ascent. Co-driver Hans Klenk sustained an impact to the face and was briefly knocked unconscious. However, he reacted like a true professional: this was no time for peaceful convalescence – there was a race to be won. Klenk’s first words on coming to confirmed as much: ”Let’s get going, Karl!” And Karl Kling duly put his foot back down. Some 70 kilometres down the road, Klenk then used the opportunity presented by a tyre change to wash down his face, willing helpers picked the fragments of glass and bird from the car, and without further ado the pair were back on the road and heading for the stage finish in Oaxaca.
After completing the stage, Hans Klenk was given a quick once-over, passed fit and sent on his way with an encouraging ”vaya con Dios” [God be with you]. Clearly some form of protection was required in the event of a similar impact, and to this end, Kling and Klenk bolted eight vertical steel bars over the new windscreen. They also discussed the species and size of the dead bird, agreeing that it was a bird with a 115-centimetre wingspan and weighing as much as five fattened geese. If anything, the incident seemed to spur on Kling and Klenk, and with passing years it turned the victory and the Carrera Panamericana itself into the stuff of legend.
A driver can't help being concerned with the knowledge there are vultures already waiting along the path of this race!!!