Professional motorsport is a cold, hard place. If you want to run with the big dogs, you can’t just build a car in your mom’s garage and show up, right? Wrong. One guy did just that. Here’s his amazing story.

This is the multifaceted tale of Bill Caswell, a man who bought a crapcan off Craigslist to run against $400,000-plus rally cars in a World Rally Championship race. It is a tale of a guy who had a welder, a bunch of credit cards, and a lot of free time but no real backing or funds. It is a story of a dude who taught himself how to build an FIA-legal roll cage because he wanted to spend the fabrication fee on race tires instead. It’s the story of a gearhead who drove a rustbucket to a third-place finish in an FIA-sanctioned event.

Most of all, it is a story of hoonage.

Bill Caswell, an unemployed Chicago racing freak, entered the Mexico round of the World Rally Championship in a 1991 BMW 318i that he found on Craigslist. The car cost $500. One year ago, Caswell decided that he wanted to go rallying with Rally AmericaTwo months later, he crashed a car and blew up an engine five minutes into his first event. Four events later, he found a loophole in the FIA rules that let him enter a twenty-year-old car in the same event as guys like Ken Block and former F1 driver Kimi Raikkonen.

Full disclosure: Caswell is my friend. We have a long history of collaborating on stupid, pointless projects. Most of the time, we hang out in weird bars and at race tracks and talk about the cool things that I want to do but never find time for, the things that Bill actually goes and does. I am admittedly biased.

The story of Caswell’s WRC entry is a story of weirdness: He entered the biggest motorsport event of his life with no crew; an untested, week-old E30 M3 engine swap and a junkyard transmission (don’t ask); a car that was still covered in dirt from the previous season’s rallies (“I’d wash it, but I gotta fix stuff instead”); and a rented panel van. His co-driver, a Rally America genius named Ben Slocum, had not spent more than five minutes in a car with him prior to the event. He did this not out of stupidity, but out of a lack of resources — he wanted to go rallying, and this was the only way he could make it happen.

Amazingly, they finished third in their class.

WRC Mexico took place two weeks ago. I wasn’t able to attend, but thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I got a non-stop feed from Cas while he was there. I was originally going to write a story summing it all up, but the emails — Bill’s wild-eyed, how-did-I-get-here updates from the road — proved to need no embellishment. Here they are. Enjoy.

(Note: This is a long one. If you do nothing else, watch the videos and read the bold sections. The emphasis/bold is mine, not Bill’s.)

BMW vs Corona 2010 Rally, Mexico

The story got dumped into my inbox in fits and starts. This is the first thing I got after not hearing from him for a week:

I think I am in second. But I went off and ripped the drivers rear shock right out of the car. Might be able to weld it but service is like a half hour.

Yeah, that’s reassuring. Huh?

It got crazier from there. I had no phone calls, no updates, just random emails. They got longer and more rambling as time went on. The video above — the rally’s ceremonial night start, with thousands of people, a car turntable, and some strange live music in the background — was taken with Bill’s phone. It showed up in my inbox without warning during the weekend.