What do you get when you take a high powered EVO made to run the toughest hillclimb in the nation and put its rally shoes back on? Well, you basically get a low level aircraft!
After a bit of a rough ride at Pikes peak this year the car is back in action and ready for another local hill climb. Monarch is part of the CHCA series, in fact it is the last race of the series. The Kerns currently hold the record on the hill when they ran previously in the EVO with almost 200 less horsepower than it has currently. After fixing damage, replacing parts and basically converting it back to a rally car we took the car out to CORE to test it out.
The EVO has so much power that all four wheels spin in nearly every gear on the dirt. It is a bit of an incredible thing. In addition it goes so much faster than the BMW that when you are going along the same course you spend close to double the time simply off the ground. There were several times when I thought: “Hmm, I sure hope we can land, regain traction and make that corner right there.” The funny thing is that the Ohlin suspension is so smooth compared to the BMW that even though you can tell you are going faster, the visual inputs are coming at you quicker, but it feels so smooth that you feel as though you are either going the same speed or going slower than the BMW.
After a solid run at CORE we packed it up and headed home. No need to run it all day but we had a good solid test and it was a bit humbling to see Dave say with what appeared to be genuine surprise. “Wow, after testing with the BMW all summer, the EVO is FAST!”
Yeah, I don’t know what it is, but there is something about a Hot Air Balloon that will bring the neighbors out of their houses. People who have lived next door to one another for years will actually say Hi to one another because of this little event. Every once and a while they will fly from or land at my house. I am sure it is more often than I know, but there are some big fields nearby and they tend to make use of them when they can.
Today they flew in again and as I sat in my livingroom sipping my coffee I thought to myself. What is that sound? Then it occurred to me exactly what it was. I stepped outside and 4 balloons were in the sky and one touched down just 200 yards away. I looked outside and the neighborhood was beginning to emerge from their houses and I stepped out and grabbed my bike to go explore.
I passed by the first to touchdown because it had already been deflated when I got there so I rode onward to the next. I could see it just touching down in the distance and it was definitely a bit of a race to get there before they deflated the balloon. Of course the maze of streets that I was unfamiliar with in that direction proved to be a bit of a challenge. When I arrived the balloon was still inflated and the pilot was just beginning his sequence of deflating it. He hopped out and grabbed a rope then started tugging on it as another passenger in the basket was pulling a separate cord.
As the balloon quickly deflated it was pretty impressive to watch. One person seemed like a small crew to be able to handle such a large beast of material. I mean, I kite can be a handful for one person and here is a guy manhandling hundreds of square feet of material blowing in the wind. Pretty impressive.
When I began to ride away I looked back. It was interesting to see how many people had gathered! The crowd was pretty impressive and the pilot probably could have started signing autographs with how many people were approaching him!
Now as a side note. The last time that I shot some photos of a balloon landing by my house was a couple years ago. That time I woke up to a balloon probably 40ft over my house which ended up landing just 100 yards away in a field. Imagine waking up to a large pig flying over your roof as your house is engulfed in shadow…
For some reason when you buy a GoPro suddenly there is nothing sacred in this world and the GoPro MUST be mounted to everything. I know it sounds silly, but seriously, go buy a gopro and find out for yourself. I can assure you that you will say “Oh! I could put it on ______!” to more things than you can imagine. So when we were out at CORE and Aaron brought along a kite… well guess what happened next!
Turns out the kite is a great way to get an ariel view. However there will be a bit more work to figure out a good way to get it mounted a bit nicer on there. With the aid of a Zip Tie and a My Life @ Speed sticker we were able to get it reasonably mounted on the kite so we could get a few shots.
Of course, timing is a bit tough. The camera takes photos every 2 seconds. (on the setting we were using) and that seems like enough time to get a shot of a car in general part of a course. However that assumption is completely wrong
The GoPro does have a 1 second interval as well and we will try that out in the future as well as some new mounting ideas. In the mean time I bought my own kite to see if we can use a stunt kite to direct the camera a bit more toward what we want to see. I suspect that it will be twitchy and tough to watch like the video that we shot initially (wow, don’t watch that kids you are going to throw up!) But this definitely ads another element to the fun stuff you can do with a gopro… so what do we think, should we try this shot for Pikes Peak next year?
Oh, as a side note. Aaron has this kite for a pretty awesome reason if you ask me. I mean, kites are fun and all, but he bought this so he could fly it at the top of the 14ers that he ascends…
Wow, we have really had some amazing lightning these last couple weeks. Mother nature has really been letting loose. I don’t know what exactly the science is behind this because I haven’t seen storms this consistantly with this much rain at any point in my time here in Colorado.
Yesterday I was in Denver when the storm began. It was intense and we stood and watched as lightning struck all around the building we were in. Center stage for an amazing natural light show. The thunder was so intense that car alarms were triggered and the lightning was so intense that it hung in the sky pulsing as you watched. Later I arrived at my house and the rain was dumping. I wanted to take a photo, but I just couldn’t bring myself to go out with my nice camera and take that risk. The rain eventually let up and I decided to try to get a quick photo off. During the middle of my only exposure the rain began again, slow at first then heavier and heavier… I shielded the camera with my jacket as the exposure counted down and finally was able to run down the street and back into my house. When I finally got a chance to look at the photo I saw that I had actually captured a bit of lightening, 3 bolts from my count and a very interesting scene. It, to me, almost appears as though the light from the city is competing with the lights from nature. Take a look for yourself and click on the photo for a larger image too.
Every year I go up to Pikes Peak for the hill climb and every year the adventure is a bit different. I have worn many hats on the mountain including Photographer, writer, video guy and even tour guide. This year was a bit different. My roll this year was a bit more involved with the teams and it really gave me a good look at what they have to go through to make it to the summit.
Now let me clarify, the teams that I have been spending more time with are all small budget teams. These are guys and girls that don’t have the big dollar budgets and the ones that are sometimes the most impressive on the mountain with the least amount of fanfare. This year I spend the most time with the Kerns.
Dave and Allison are a great duo of Husband and Wife, Driver and Co-Driver. They have two race cars and I am pretty familiar with nearly all the nuts and bolts on both of them now. Their BMW Compact race car you can see more info on the build on my site and the EVO is their hill climb car for Pikes Peak. They seem to always find just enough support to be able to pull off another hill climb and they don’t show up with junk. The EVO is over 600 hp at the wheels, it is very well thought out with weight reduction measures taken at any place that they implement them. It is a rocketship with tires in my opinion and in the capable hands of the dynamic duo, it is a force to be reckoned with.
The other teams, who’s cars I don’t work on, but who I spend time with instead are the teams of Spencer Steele and Jimmy Olson. I met both of these guys through Ice Racing in Georgetown and these guys, well they are best friends and some of the fastest guys on the mountain. Their budgets are reflected in their vehicles as well. Spencer has a philosophy that you don’t paint a car till you can find out what color duct tape you can buy and Jimmy, well, he’s actually driving a car for a different owner named Butch. Both of them have a collection of used tires that they have collected from other teams, they have motors that they built themselves and every part of the work on the car they have a hand in. None of these teams tuck their driver in to get a good nights sleep then go to finish work on the car, the driver is the main part of the team and is integral in making the car go both on the course and in the pits.
In the weeks leading up to PPIHC these teams were working on cars. The kerns were driving to Chicago to get a new AMS power package put into their car. Spencer was building a motor and Jimmy, well he was trying to get his own car running for the event when catastrophe struck and he ended up running in Butch’s car. Exhaustion leading up to the event is a regular thing for these guys and with minimal support a lot of this is just out of pocket expenses too. On Tuesday night, the night before practice, we were under the Kerns EVO readying the car for the next day on the mountain and though the car was mostly ready, the final touches took till nearly 11pm to get through. With a wakeup call at 2:30, that makes for a short night!
On the mountain the first day, the Kerns were battling an under steer issue. With new suspension that they hadn’t been able to test due to rained out track days, they were experimenting on the mountain with the new suspension setup and it was pushing like crazy. Spencer and Jimmy were experimenting too, but they were working with different tires. With all the new pavement on the mountain the tires that they have used in the past, the Pikes Peak Specials, seemed to be too dirt oriented and not quite as pavement friendly, so they were playing with different front tires, different rear tires and run after run you would see different things being tested.
After practice the Kerns headed off to PPIR to continue testing and tuning. The suspension needed to be changed, tire pressures needed to be dialed in and the handling needed to be corrected. After hours at the track only a minimal improvement was felt. It was clear that they were missing something, but there was still time. With that being said, I as able to ride in the car for the first time at the end of the day and experienced a vehicle that has some intense amount of power. 0-60 seems like a silly measurement in this car as you feel that you could just barely stand to drive this thing 60 when it has so much more power to go. Maybe 0-100 or 0-150 even is more appropriate!
Practice day two came about and the same tweaks were being made. The kerns were working with suspension and at the same time AMS tuner Mitch was dialing in the tune on their motor. Jimmy and Spencer were clearly testing tires on each section to see what they could figure out would be faster and I was on the side of the mountain taking video of all of them. In case you don’t remember, last year we ran cameras on most of these cars and this year we stepped that effort up quite a bit. Cameras on the cars and a lot of video from the side of the mountain as well. This is a huge undertaking so check back in a week or so and I will have our final edit up for you to check out.
After practice the kerns headed out to PPIR again, this time they had an infield spot to work on the car. Federal Tires rep Taz Yeh came out to lend a hand and his help was fantastic. His knowledge of the tires and the suspension worked out well and they were able to dial in the suspension and tire pressures to really meet Dave’s driving needs. At the end of the day we laid down a final run on the track. Fully drifting most of the turns in 3rd gear with predictable handing in an AWD car… what an impressive feeling!
Practice day three was qualifying day. This was also the only day on dirt and the dirt was LOOSE. Yeah, The kerns headed up on their newly dialed suspension and they were looking quick. 5:09 was their qualifying time which bettered their previous best qualifying time on the mountain! This was good for second qualifying position however by 4 seconds and they were sure that they could find the extra seconds on the mountain. Jimmy and Spencer were battling out in their own class. Jimmy put down a 5:00 and Spencer a 5:07. With these two guys though that difference in time was going to be cut down… You can just feel the competitive nature between these two best friends! After practice everyone was off to Fan Fest.
Saturday the teams were dialing in, changing oil and just finalizing the prep for race day. Spencer and Jimmy were aligning their cars when I stopped by and as you can imagine it was unique. Big teams, they use tire alignment machines, lasers and other goodies. Jimmy and Spencer? They have a tape measure, a retractable dog leash 4 beer cans and a stick of aluminum. Now keep in mind they have this down to a science. They use two Coors cans on the back of the alignment bar and one Coors and one Bud can on the front… since the Bud can is shorter.
Race day came and the crowds were just huge. It is great to see people recognizing the majestic nature of this mountain and this race. I was asleep at Devils Playground and when I woke up there were probably 500 cars around me. It is a great sight to see! The weather was warm but a bit windy. Overall it was a perfect day for a race and clearly a great day for the unlimited class. Monster set a new record of 9:51, Rhys at 10:09 showed that his car was really capable on the mountain in only two years of running that car and Jean Phillipe had a very impressive appearance at 10:17 which is amazing for the first year on the mountain at all!
The Kerns were poised to break their own record. They headed up the mountain and as they did I turned my radio off. I didn’t want any of that audio on my video. So I waited. They passed by and when I saw their car my heart dropped. Something’s wrong. I turned the radio back on and found that they had crashed at ragged edge and later found out that they crashed, lost a headlight, lost a side skirt, tore a hole in their front suspension and tore the tire on their rear wheel. By the time they got to Cog Cut the were running on a rim and when they got to the top at 12:12 they found that they had just placed 4th in their class… 15 seconds down from the leader while running a flat for the last 5-6 miles of the race. Pretty amazing if you ask me, especially when the race is 12.42 miles long!
Jimmy and Spencer were battling it out as well. Both passed by at a crazy amount of speed and in the end they were separated by 1 second. 1 SECOND! It is incredible. Spencer took the win; Jimmy took second with Spencer’s time being 10:42. Now, here is a little detail for you. This is what impresses me the most. Spencer’s time of 10:42 was set in a car running used tires, a home made motor and duct tape nose cone. This is a homemade project with nearly no support. Spencer’s time was good for 4th fastest overall time on the mountain. This is up with cars that have hundreds of thousands of dollars wrapped up in them. Cars that show up with a crew of mechanics and specialists. Both his time and Jimmy’s time is just incredible to me when you look at the budgets involved. This is what makes Pikes Peak most impressive to me I love that a team with a car built in their garage can show up and challenge the biggest budget factory teams. I think it is an incredible race when money doesn’t dominate and experience skill can win. This really makes this race awesome to me and I am pretty fortunate to have the ability to spend time with these guys and experience the race through their eyes!
I will have a video up from all of these cars and more very soon, in the mean time, check out some quick teasers…
Three days of practice are done. Qualifying has happened and the results are online. The Kerns have been dialing in the vehicle all week. With a major change in suspension this year in response to the added tarmac the testing to dial in the suspensions performance is critical. We were finally able to get it dialed in to Dave’s needs on Thursday night.
This year Dave and Allison have been supported by AMS again for his engine setup, tuning etc. They have also been picked up by Federal Tires. One of the nice things about both of these sponsors is that they are here, they are hands on and they are bringing their own setup experience. So out at PPIR this week while testing they have been hands on, talking about suspension setups, tire pressures engine setup and more. It has been a very interesting experience and I can’t imagine that we would have gotten the setup to dave’s liking as quickly without them.
As we were heading out Dave Carapetyan’s crew rolled up with his newly built Unlimited car. So new in fact that it didn’t get to practice all week.
They were in for a late night and said they were hoping to be at practice on Friday however a blown head gasket held them back from that goal.
We’ve been shooting video all week as well, as you may remember from last year, we are doing a similar project again this year. Spencer Steel, Jimmy Olson, Savannah Rickli and Dave & Allison Kern are all participating and we may even have some video from a motorcyclist, Darryl Lujan. So far I have a ton of video.. I mean seriously, I can’t get through it all just yet, but I can show you a bit of a Teaser… So check this out.
First off, I have to say, it is substantially harder to “cover” PPIHC and also help as a half assed crew member than I anticipated… but… Oh well all 17 of you that read this will just have to deal with the lack of photos!
I arrived on Tuesday evening and rolled down to see a pretty relaxed looking Dave and Allison Kern. Sitting down to dinner, taking a moment away from the car. This was already starting out quite a bit different than the 2010 season for them. Now don’t think for a second that there wasn’t anything to do, that everything was done. This is racing and everything is NEVER done! After a bit of dinner tending to the details began. Final adjustment of the front splitter using prefabricated mounting hardware (doorstops from home depot) finalizing venting locations and mounting for the front brakes and on top of that we had a few cameras to mount and well… some decals to install!
The work continued until nearly 11 since we also did a few things to another competitors car. Tom of Wright Group Event Services. They are a sponsor of Dave and Allison’s car and, he has an evo too, which made fitting the Kerns spare exhaust onto it that much easier.
Once both cars were buttoned up we packed it in and practice began. 2:30am is a tough time to wake up, but I managed and got onto the mountain. There is definitely something awesome about that mountain. Sitting there waiting for the sun to rise from 12k ft is a beautiful sight that I can’t get enough of. This year I am shooting primarily VIDEO. yes, you may have seen shots from last years effort with Spencer and Jimmy, but this year I am doing my best to shoot some exterior shots and I will be putting together something with the onboard footage we will have very soon. Definitely check back, it should be pretty awesome.
After practice we shot a few shots on the mountain for the Kern’s Promo use. Allison was already in her street clothes so she decided to sit out the photoshoot.
The Kerns headed out for more testing and tuning at PPIR. Dialing in suspension settings, tire pressures etc. This is critical. It is amazing to think about how much work goes into a race week. The spectators come home, exhausted, crash for a few hours and then venture back into the world, the racers, well they are constantly working. tweaking, tuning and when all that is done… cleaning! I joined them to help out any way I could. To be honest I was mostly in the way this time. AMS tuners Mitch and Martin were there turning wrenches, recording data, doing math. Lots of stuff that I just simply didn’t want to mess up so I stepped back and observed. At the end of the session Dave told me to hop in and took me for a ride. Wow that thing is fast. I can’t say that I have experienced that kind of speed in a vehicle that was designed to stay on the ground!
Day two came and went as well. The upper practice section of the course is the most freshly paved section. Many have been wondering what it is going to do to the race and honestly it is kinda interesting. The biggest problem with the paved sections? Well that would be the dirt! Race cars use ALL of the track so kicking up a bit of dirt here and there is pretty common, On a dirt surface you have a speed and a constant surface. On pavement this dirt from the sides of the road that ends up on the middle of the road turns the road to “unpredictable.” You can’t just trust that the car is going to take what you throw at it because you may be throwing it at pavement and you may throw it at marbley gravel. You just can’t know. This bit a few folks in the butt today, we watched several take some quick trips off course, but I don’t believe any were serious crashes.
I don’t have as many photos as normal, but here is a quick shot or two from the end of today.
Of course I have one quick video clip from today. I happened to get a quick shot of Bill Caswell rallying a corner up high at Gravel pit today!
In other news, Photographer Joel Yust has been developing new salsa to test the mettle of teams on the mountains. Grant, from SCR Performance stepped up to the plate. “A half an hour later and it got hot in my mouth again!”
A bit curiously I purchased some tickets to go try out this Motorsports Carnival. These things are really good in theory, but if you think of any carnival the rides are usually a bit beat up, you can see the wear on them and well there are some parts and pieces that you think should probably be fixed in order to be safe however the novelty seems to get you through. In a motorsports carnival those parts and pieces just make the vehicle no fun to drive or unpredictable or just downright unreliable. So the level of maintenance is kinda important.
I had a primary purpose for going to the carnival, I wanted to drive the F2000 car. Why? Well, I don’t know, I just haven’t driven one before so It seemed like a good plan. I bought some tickets and headed down.
I truly stayed only long enough to drive the car, watch an Indy car run a few laps then go say Hi to a friend Kubo who was working the cobra ride. The F2000 cars were pretty fun, sequential gear box and a nice low fast car. It is definitely different than anything I have driven before. We only got about 8 laps and we weren’t allowed to pass in the corners… unfortunately, but driving one of these cars on a banked corner and feeling the wind pushing your head around at top speed was pretty cool. Speaking of that, it is interesting, driving an open wheel car for the first time, you feel that wind pushing your head around and you realize how much your head is part of the aerodynamics!
I talked to the workers, they said that the top speed on these is about 130 at the current gearing. The car itself has a sequencial 4 speed gearbox in an “H” pattern. No clutch needed after you get going, which is good because getting going was a bit of a chore. It is powered by a 2L ford motor and has a small (maybe 8 inch wide) steering wheel.There were 6 of us on the track at one time and definitely a range of skill levels out there from newb to well, it didn’t get much into the pro ranks lets say. The car was glued, you felt pretty confident at speed. I didn’t feel confident enough to give it full throttle in the corners, but I hit redline in the straight. I bet that someone who knew what they were doing could probably hold that thing flat out through the whole Oval however.
Afterward, I did a quick look around. An Indy car was lapping:
A lotus elise was doing autocross runs, some drifters were doing their thing, Lambo laps, Spyker laps and of course the Cobra “wet course” laps.
I only drove the one car, but I’d say it’s maintenance was pretty good. I believe that these cars are coming from driving schools who are using this opportunity to try to gain some customers. So since each event as a secondary backing this could be a nicely maintained fleet of cars. We will see what happens through the summer however! Anyhow, check it out if you have a chance, plenty more events to come and there is one nice thing to note. Contact them, send them a note and say Hi. They are willing to listen. If you have a reasonable request for an event that you want to see, well let them know! Here is a link to their website American Dreams Racing
As a side note, I wasn’t allowed to take my GoPro this time, so no video. If I go drive the f2000 again I will take my roll bar mount so we can get some good stuff!
Each year we try to make it out to the Golden Super Cruise. It is just a huge gathering of people with their car that they have been slaving over for years. This year we got out to this first cruise with beautiful weather and of course with a full belly since it was also the 3rd annual Crawfish Broil at my friend Andrea’s house. Anyhow, there isn’t much to say about this one, so check out some photos from the day.
I have always been a fan of urban art. I do have this small issue with things like “breaking the law” and “vandalizing property.” Yeah, call me snotty or whatever but I guess I have this sense that maybe I can participate without any permanent alteration of a current location. How could I create something that people could enjoy and maybe even catch people off guard without creating a permanent mark on the area?
That question boggled my mind for a while. I spend time on http://www.woostercollective.com/ looking at peoples art. some of it doesn’t provide a permanent mark, but may blow away becoming another piece of litter in the street. Some of it leaves behind a permanent mark that, though beautiful, may not be welcomed by the owner of the location. So finally the idea was born. What material could become this urban art. What material could both serve the purpose of stimulating ideas and trigger emotions in people but would also completely disappear without any sign in the future. Water.
My project began with molding processes. Creating molds of my hand and my friend Matt’s hand. We created Ice hands.
These have incredible detail. Every wrinkle and every detail in my hand was transferred to the mold.
Last year I created many of these hands but they stayed local. I never was able to transport them effectively and therefore I could never really get them out beyond my neighborhood. So this year i decided that I needed something that was smaller, more portable and easier to assemble. I looked high and low and created gears. Gears! How simple and how nice to be able to create dynamic assemblies! Maybe one day I can make the function as well.
The beautiful thing about these gears is their simplicity. Individually they are interesting, they have nice detail and they are clearly precise parts, but together they take on an organic shape, they contour to the landscape and they interact with the other gears to create a chain or even an organism of some sort that is able to traverse the contours that it is crossing.
As they melt they begin to take on their own life as well. They sink and fall and they separate and find their own way to dissolve into nothing.
It is difficult dealing with ice however, it sticks together, it melts and it basically does everything very quickly. Transportation isn’t easy. Coolers aren’t good enough usually, but I am working on a plan. Hopefully there will be some new sculptures out in time for the Art Walk in Denver. Hopefully the weather cooperates… I guess you never know but more pictures will surely follow.