We used to do a bunch of crazy stuff, so I’m starting a series with the title. Here’s the first one.
This was in 1968, and the year before we had participated in a motorcycle race in Torreon in the state of Coahuila in Mexico. It’s not really close to the border, but it’s driving range from Austin, and we took a bike down for the six-hour endurance. I will post something about the 1967 race another day when I can get the graphics together. Today I have the map for the course starting in 1968.
- The race course in Gomez Palacio
This region is locally call Laguna, supposedly because of some lakes in the area, and the endurance race was “Las Seis Horas de La Laguna.” the six hours of the lake. The first year they held the races in the streets of Torreon, but after that they moved them to Gomez Palacio, which is just a cross a small river and in another state, Durango.
There was a woman who worked at the Astronomy Department at the University of Texas in Austin, and she was kind enough to draw up excellent maps of both courses, and I used these maps in some articles I wrote about the races.
Going to the races was actually one of the fun parts. Here’s the standard windshield photo on the way to Torreon. David Carpenter was driving. It was his truck. It was his motorcycle. He was going to get to keep the trophy.
Anyhow, this was crazy. The races were run on a Sunday, sometimes in May, sometimes in April, and there was never any bad weather. There was no special track, the city just blocked off some streets, and we raced for six hours starting shortly after lunch.
Take a look at the map. “Meta” is the start-finish line, and approximately 70 motorcycles started at the same time, in the direction indicated by the arrows. The deal was that at the time Mexico did not produce any motorcycles larger than 175cc displacement, and that was the limitation for the six-hour race.
What was especially fun about these races in Mexico was there was absolutely no crowd control. My impression from what I have read is that back then there was almost no concept of tort law south of the Rio Grande. Somebody gets hurt, it’s their problem. The race organizers did have the benefit of Mexican soldiers to keep order. I am now wondering whether these rifles were actually loaded.
Especially maddening was that straight section along Avenida Valle del Quadiana that you see at the top of the map. These were not big bikes, but we could top out at over 100 along this section. Then at the end it was necessary to get hard on the brakes and cross over to the east-bound lane before making the turn to the south. Something that really tightened my sphincter muscle was approaching the cross-over and seeing a woman with two little children waddle across the track in front of me.
Along del Quadiana I could get enough speed that drafting a faster bike made a difference. I could get behind one of the local team’s Bultacos and keep up with him all down the straight. When the driver got onto what I was doing he calmly let his bike drift over into the pea gravel near the curb, so I had to contend with a spray of stones if I wanted to stay in his stream. I got back later in the race.
Here are some shots to show you what the traffic was like. Many riders started, but very quickly they got sorted out, and there was lots of room to race. Even so, spectators liked to stand right at the curb, but I eventually found something that made them back off.
Here’s what it looked like making the cross-over before the turn back south.
That sharp, pointy turn labeled 2 in the map is where I got the spectators’ attention. After a few laps I got this one figured out, and I was able to start my turn along the curb on my right and keep the pressure on all the way through. I exited the turn right up to the curb on the south side of the street, and I could see people backing away when they saw me coming.
This is also where I got it back on one of the Bultacos. The Mexicans had some fast Bultacos, and I could not pull them down the straight. But I was following one of them, I think he was the president of the local Moto Club Laguna, as we headed toward turn 2. I was right in his slipstream and keeping up with him. Muscles acted before the brain did. I swerved to the left and went right by him before I realized something had happened. His two-stroke engine had seized, and I looked back over my shoulder to watch him park at the curb.
Here’s a photo of Dave on his bike in the race.
There is one part of the course I never figured out, and I was back here twice more. That was the section involving turns 4, 5 and 6. You had to make a sharp left, then round a slight bend (turn 5), then a hard right. I could never do much more than just walk the bike through this section. There just didn’t seem to be any way to straighten it out.
I have often said there a lot of things I love to do, and there are things I love to do a lot, but there is not much I like to do for six hours. I did three of these down in Mexico, and each one nearly killed me. The fun part always came after the race.
Sunday evening was the awards banquet. The most memorable of these was the one in 1967, and I will get into that in another post. This one was especially sweet, because Dave and I won a trophy for tenth place. The winners got a new motorcycle.
I considered that tenth was not all that bad. Many started, we outlasted some, but we out raced the rest, all but nine. On the way back to Austin we stopped alongside the road and took photos of the trophy.
Like I said, this was crazy stuff, and we used to do a bunch of that when we were young. A person needs to do some of this. There won’t be another chance.