Viva La Carrera – Karlo Flores at La Panamericana 2017

By Karlo Flores

After barely missing first place in La Panamericana 2016, I was left pondering, what next for gorgeous Nina and I? An engine refresh was in order and while coordinating the refresh with Greg Aronson of Fat Performance, my questioning of power available arose. He indicated he could make a 2.7L type four engine with approximately 200 hp and 220-240 ft.lbs of torque, running on pump gas. Well, what was I to do? Nina seemed to say, “Why Not?” The order was placed and Fat Performance delivered an engine that did not need high revs to deliver its power. First test was to be the “Chihuahua Express” in April 2017. Good thing my mechanic Jose Luis of Farben Motors knows people and we could schedule a private track day in Chihuahua to test. And testing we did – to the point of almost running out of gas on her new 15 gallon tank (60 liter). I have to admit, I did spin out in turn one after the straight by missing a downshift.

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The Race in Chihuahua was very good, the dry conditions allowed one to push as much as you dare, and the phone’s GPS had us clocked at over 122 mph / 205 kmph. She wanted more but the “dancing on the straights” or Uri Geller flotation elevation sensation + common sense kept my foota that “sane” level. We finished the 3-day race shiny side up and all smiles, however there was missing/misfire on the engine we needed to address.

The next opportunity to test came by gift wrapped. WEC (World Endurance Challenge) was having one of its endurance races in Mexico City, on the same track that F1 Races! Taking place in September the timing could not be better to test out and fix the ratatatat missing we had experienced in Chihuahua. Nina was freaking scary at the track the first day, but not her fault really. Some body parts and chassis had been strengthened, BUT the alignment had not been done after, so at 80 mph Nina was commencing a cha-cha-cha dance I wanted no part in. So back to the pits and we missed the practice day. Got a quickie alignment and in the following days raced while adjusting the brake balance which was also new and had WAY too much braking at rear, and if you know this track you know it is not a good one to have too much rear brake. It has the longest straight in all of the F1 schedule! On the last day as we had Nina better dialed in, we passed about seven cars in the first lap of the last race, until &**@$&(@! the ratatatat came back with all its might and we lost all positions gained, finished the race on 3 cylinders second to last place – but not last! It was either fuel starvation or electrical issue, we could not test further on track.

We got Nina on a dyno and worked out the missing, attributed to a cracked carb float. OK, fine.

On our way to La Carrera Panamericana in mid October.

With new 2.73 liter engine we are bumped up a class to Sport Mayor, all other four cars in this class are V8s, three of them LT’s – a Mexican tube frame car with fiberglass body very similar to an AC Cobra. Light, powerful, low to the ground with lots of rubber. A fellow Porsche 911 friend thinks me crazy going up against these beasts. “I don’t understand your strategy,” he mutters. My gut feeling tells me we have a chance to do good, this is a race of attrition and endurance, and I have faith in my gorgeous Nina, my
navigator/cousin Juan Carlos and my Farbergon support team. We arrived at La Panamericana in Queretaro a day early to test at a local track which was also the start place for the race. Brake balance was  adjusted and the ratatat seemed long gone. The following day we qualified approximately 15th place, seeming to be at a good point for  this race! Reality kicks in the first day, one of the LT Cars is 6th in general standing which means they beat us by about 31 positions, about 5 ½ minutes, though only one of the LT cars also beat us, but not by much – only 35 seconds in the day. I wasn’t pushing yet was still in the honeymoon stage with the new setup. I did not even bother looking at our time as we had spun out 270 degrees in one speed section. After the spin Nina stalled in the apex of a corner but fortunately she fired right up! I knew we had a fast Mustang behind us so I got back on track as quickly as possible to the far right and looked in my mirrors to “point and pass” the fast approaching Mustang, well driven by a Swedish team. After a safe pass I tailed them the reminder of the speed section as my navigator could not keep the excitement in and tossed his cookies. My poor cousin, the things I do to him! Turns out we got a podium (3rd) the first day! What surprise and elation! From there onwards we were stoked. We could actually do this!

Day two we saw the very fast “Costeña” red LT car on the side of the road. We thought he got a flat but he had serious engine problems; I guess he was pushing too hard. We got second place on day two, and it just kept getting better with 1st or 2nd place podiums every day after that. Overall result landed us in first place in our class! 16th overall ahead of several much more powerful cars. So a very successful overall race result, much more than we expected and we were very happy to receive nonetheless.

On a non-racing note I was very touched with the success of the nonprofit initiative started last year, where we had a drawing and gave away 10 ipads. The initiative started with myself and two other Porsche pilots, Diego Candano and Miguel Granados. We quickly realized how out of touch we were as there were other more urgent necessities among Mexican children. So upon reflection the decision was made to outreach to orphanages and schools in need to make donations of items they needed. Brenda Lopez, our chief mechanic’s wife, jumped on the idea and volunteered hours and hours locating needy orphanages and schools we could make specific tailored donations to. Gerie Bledso also helped us outreach USA pilots and Rene Brinkerhoff joined. In the end we donated to five orphanages and one school reaching out to more than 250 children in need! The initiative also gained 11 new participating pilots and  navigators. Photographers donated their pics, suppliers their vans, a friend donated six new bikes, an uncle donated big gallon jugs of cleaning supplies, in short, some people “got it” and participated either volunteering or with donations to help the cheering Mexican children that support us with so much enthusiasm during these races. A beautiful thing happened when approximately 40 kids from the local orphanage came by the Pits in Queretaro to collect the donations our group of had put together for them: food, clothing, personal hygiene items, toys. We greeted them, they got into race cars, got their shirts signed by pilots. Smiles, laughter and jovial enthusiasm surrounded us all at pits for about an hour while they visited us. The joy would continue throughout the race, and we are looking forward to the expansion of this initiative so we can help more children in 2018!