|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
July 27, 1999
|Contact: Claire Marie Chizma|
Newhall, CA -- The Motor Sports Unlimited Racing Team, consisting of pilot Dennis Chizma and copiloted by his wife Claire Marie Chizma, finished 13th of 52 in the Mexico City 24 Hour Rally July 23-24, 1999. This event is sanctioned by the FIA and is scheduled to be a WRC event in the year 2003. Six U.S. teams participated in this year's event of which three teams successfully finished the grueling 40 stage rally. Crew members were Joe Jasik, Shane Polhamus and Jenalyn Topham.
The Motor Sports Unlimited Class B entry was a 1968 VW Type 1 (bug) and was kept stock while also reinforced for rallying. It produces only 65 hp and weighs 1900 lbs with a full 16 gallon fuel cell. The entry would have been more competitive as a Class C car but the decision was made to run Michelin rally tires in the event which put it into the higher classification.
Driver and co-driver have been very successful in the local California Rally Series in years past with entries of a 1992 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4 and a 1977 VW Rabbit. The Mexico City Rally will be the only event the two will run together this season as a new team car is being built for the 2000 U.S. National season. Claire Marie has joined Hairpin Racing and driver Lee Shadbolt for the U.S. National ProRally Series for 1999 where she holds a 1st place position in the Production GT Class.
Dennis worked for Speed Unlimited, the shop that prepared the Herbie cars for the movies back in the 1970's. When he turned from road racing to rallying he began the project of restoring and building a Herbie replica. The Motor Sports Unlimited "Herbie" successfully finished the Ramada Express Rally at Laughlin, Nevada in December of 1998 when piloted by Dennis and copiloted by John Forespring of Olympia, Washington. It is a super spectator pleaser wherever it goes.
Herbie was put on a Texaco/Havoline car hauler in Tijuana, Mexico on July 13th with the other five U.S. entered cars. The five members of Motor Sports Unlimited Racing Team then met the other teams in Los Angeles on July 22nd for the flight into Mexico City. Tony Chavez, a resident of southern California, made the travel arrangements for all of the teams and everything went very smoothly. Three Chevrolet Suburbans awaited the team at the Mexico City Airport to transport them into Toluca where the cars awaited them in a highly secured facility. Many employees of Luis Lago assisted the teams throughout the weekend with translation of rules and also lodging, transportation and meals.
The Friday stages began after a Town Square Parc Expose complete with high style. A band playing parade circled the square as cars were weighed and parked for public display. It became immediately clear to the team upon the first transit to the first special stage of racing that this was to be a rally unlike any they had ever entered before. The roads were blocked by the Policia for the race cars and the crowded public streets were filled with onlookers. The Mexican National teams led the way at incredible speeds. The Policia waved them on.
Special stages one and two were a 13.5 kilometer climb up the side of a 12,000 foot volcano and then back down again. The teams then transited to an area where the next three stages were run on dirt roads filled with ruts and rocks where tires were destroyed and a front shock broke loose. Transit times were so tight that there was no time allowed for this type of servicing without penalty. The racing stages were much smoother than the sections of transit. The first service was in a grass area in the town of Valle de Bravo. Then the eight night stages were run on tarmac where the roads were filled with spectators and fans. Motor Sports Unlimited finished those stages at 2 am and were then shuttled to the hotel to get a few hours of needed rest. 6 am was the wake up call.
Saturday's special stages began with four dirt stages where Herbie ran flawlessly. Both pilot and copilot were conditioned to the elements and the event felt very good. After a short service, six tarmac Stages were run at one minute intervals between cars. Then a one hour service was completed in Valle De Bravo before the planned transit to the remaining six stages.
During this service the rains began. It turned torrential with street flooding and trees falling. This necessitated the cars to be rerouted an additional 20 kilometers to the stage start. Stages 34 and 35 were tarmac. Stages 36 and 37 were the best dirt stages of the rally. Stages 38 and 39 were tarmac with a transit back to Valle De Bravo where a crowd of 7,000 people had gathered for the festivities.
As Dennis pulled the car into the crowd, he was met and congratulated by rally organizers. When waved forward by parking officials, he overran the foot of primary rally organizer Patrick Suberville. The bumper of Herbie then caught his pant leg and he fell to the ground. Both driver and co-driver were oblivious to this mishap as the crowd overwhelmed them. Luckily Patrick was unhurt in the incident.
Post rally parties were held at discotheques throughout the night. The teams rested, then moved the cars back to the transport lot in Toluca and continued the journey back to the Mexico City Airport for the four hour flight home. Herbie will be picked up in Tijuana on Friday.
On behalf of the Motor Sports Unlimited Racing Team, we extend our thanks to the organizers of the Mexico City 24 Hour Rally. A special warm thanks to Angel and the others who worked on our exclusive behalf throughout the weekend. Also to Tony Chavez, who made it possible for the U.S. teams to realize the goal of attending this spectacular event. Everyone completely enjoyed the event and we will be returning next year and for many years to come.