Coming into Argentina was a little wild. If you are a first time American traveler, there is a $160 fee, that was the easy part.. This “visa” is good for 10 years, so we will not have to pay it again in December. They took credit cards, you got a receipt, and they put a label in your passport. All this was aboveboard.
When everyone was waiting to get their passports stamped, we started thinking, “geeze, we have a lot of guys with a lot of luggage and crates, maybe we should go through one by one with the bags.” With that, Cody and I went through customs, pushed our bags into the x-ray machines, and after a few questions about the tires we were on our way. We didn’t realize how lucky we were!
Customs: Hold on to Your Wallet..
Basically everyone behind us got stopped. It was so bad at one point, everyone’s parts and tires were being held hostage for “duty fees.” These fees varied from $500 per person, to $500 per group. They also wanted it in US Dollars, in cash, and there was no receipt. At one point I think they were requesting something like $2000 for 3 boxes of tires. Customs was pretty bad. It’s hard to figure out how anyone can import anything into Argentina or make a living. I wonder if they understand how bad all this is for the economy.
Many manufacturers had to pay a lot of money to get the items being held. After some “liaison” with the customs office, some bartering, and several visits to the various ATM machines, most of the items finally arrived at the track.
The track was very high speed and flat turns.. even the 180 degree corners are a wider variety than what we are used to on American tracks.. The two elevated sweepers in the back corners were very difficult, and somewhat deceiving. The optical illusion makes you want to turn into the inside pipe, where you inevitably end up going down the wall. There are several sections of the track that require tough adjustments for the drivers. If you watch some of the videos, the track looks smooth, but it’s definitely not. There are many rocks poking through, and occasionally popping out and bouncing around on the track. Some serious holes developed as well. By the end of the week, the track was just straight hammered, with dust blowing across the highway adjacent to the track. It was quite the opposite of what we had been told before, high bite, no dust, and smooth. I’m sure for Worlds there will be some efforts to maintain the track, even if that means watering the edges and grooming the track before mains and semis.
We were very fortunate to have Byron fuel, as nobody else had fuel except the local stuff. It seems like some fuels are a little easier to get, but nothing we run in the US. Our fuel arrived on Thursday, and we had a challenge to get the tune right and feel comfortable with the fuel right before qualifying started. Running a bunch of different fuels with different oil and such threw our tune all over the place, and I don’t think the engines were any too happy about it. Most other people were borrowing or buying fuel, any fuel they could get. We offered a couple bottles of our fuel to some ROAR bloc racers who needed it.
Set-up wise for the MP9, we figured out a lot. Based on David Ronnefalk’s set-up, we were immediately fast, and with a few tweaks over the several days we ran, we have something solid for December. Lap times we felt were good, and Cody’s practice race performance was good enough. After struggling quite a bit in qualifying, we were pleased to be in the semi, and then end up 5th on the grid after semis. Cody led the main for a couple laps, but got tangled up with an aggressive driver several times, and a bit frustrated after that. There was no officiating to speak of, so we have to count on iFMAR to handle things in December. It was nice that the race was completed on Saturday so we got to practice on Sunday and Monday. The car was even better and faster on Sunday and Monday with a few adjustments we made. All in all, we felt better leaving Argentina than we did after practice in Pattaya 2 years ago, so that’s a good sign.
For tires, we ran the Proline Blockade in M3 compound. The Proline foam seemed to be just the right consistency and durable enough, while some other manufacturers were switching around and trying different inserts. We were lucky to have enough tires to run the whole week, as everybody had stashed as many tires as possible in their luggage. By the end of the week, we were out.
We feel very good about the Team Orion 521b and 321b engines. Both have plenty of power, and we have yet to just make a final decision what Cody likes for the Worlds. That likely won’t happen until qualifying time. The 321b can use a larger carburetor venturi and run deeper in the trigger, while the 521b we can use a smaller carburetor restrictor and less trigger required. This will be based entirely on the feel Cody wants because we can make the fuel stops we want with either engine.
It’s always fun visiting a foreign country, and experiencing the local culture. I can tell you that the beef in Argentina is very good. We enjoyed the steaks at the hotel restaurant very much, and the wine was good. I like the local Nieto Malbec, which isn’t very easy to get in the US. At roughly $15 a bottle, it tastes like something over $30 in the US. I wish my flight was direct so I could bring some back.
I want to thank Herman at Top Racer, and Alejandro Calens for helping us and showing us around, as well as the other guys at the track. It seems like things should be a little smoother going back in December. We can only hope the customs office will let us come in with our gear as long as they understand we will be bringing the stuff out of the country after we finish racing. Wish us luck!
Enjoy the pictures as well as Cody’s interview and the entire main event on youtube: