After what seems like forever I finally got word that we are not going to be able to recover information from our 4th camera. I was really hopeful and the company was very certain they could do it, but it turns out that landing the complete weight of a V8 Audi on a GoPro, twice, wasn’t good for the camera or the card. We have to say thanks however to My Life at Speed for loaning us the 3 Contour cameras that did survive! I have been debating how to edit this. We have so much video from practice days and from the race day and I don’t want to separate it. However, the raw engine sound of our V8 and the unfortunate consequence of the degrading weather during our run really seemed like it should be put together as one video. Expect another video in the future since we have some great camera angles to share from practice days.
The video definitely shows our challenges with the weather. Rain started before Picnic grounds and as we get higher and higher check out the rooster tail that continues to grow. You can hear as Val tests for traction as we ascend and you can see as we brake early feeling for traction and nearly come to a halt a few times as well.
It is interesting timing to put this out today since it is also coincidentally the day that Pikes Peak has released new rules that indicate that Co-Drivers are not allowed in 2013. It is sad news for me. I would love to have the opportunity to make it to the top and experience a proper trip back down the mountain slapping five with the fans on the way, but sadly that doesn’t sound like it is going to happen. For the time being however, I hope that you enjoy this video and check back soon for more videos from the peak including Dave and Allison Kern, Jimmy Olson and Spencer Steel as well!
Well, I am pretty impressed with this little thing. Currently DataTech Labs is trying to recover the data off the SD card that was in here, but this little camera just happened to be exactly where the primary impact was on our Pikes Peak crash. Not only that but it was directly between the roll cage and the ground so it took every bit of energy that the crash had. Of course it did not survive, but it didn’t do too bad really. Check it out.
I didn’t have the battery or back with me when I shot this stuff but the battery is very deformed and the back is pretty normal looking. Interesting tid bits. the lens is pressed into the camera and the camera itself is definitely thinner than it was before. The case is remarkably in tact (not useable but definitely not as bad as I thought it would be) I did have to do a bit of surgery to get the SD card out of the camera, but it wasn’t too bad really. Not to shabby considering it was under here!
As a photographer and a spectator I have been to Pikes Peak every year since 2005 and a few years before that as well just for practice days. The mountain really has a way of sucking you in. As a spectator you see this crazy road, you see these brave individuals and you get this feeling that this is not like any other event in the world. When you stand at Devils playground and the air around you is 30 degrees and the wind is bone chillingly cold but the sun rises in front of you and illuminates the world that appears to be under your feet you get a sense that you are alone with natures beauty even though you can see houses miles below.
Over the years I have met many people on Pikes Peak. Photographers, spectators, competitors and more. I have spent countless hours on the side of the mountain waiting alongside of some of the best photographers out there. If there is one thing that I can say about photographers it is that they have seen it all. The stories I have heard from folks like Rupert Berrington or Peter Brock are just awesome and I never thought I would be able to trade that time on the mountain for anything. I never thought I would need to make that choice at all actually.
This year fires ravaged the landscape of Colorado Springs. Devastation at a scale that Colorado hadn’t seen before occurred and the original Hill Climb date had to be abandoned. This was a logistical nightmare for many teams, but it was absolutely the right thing to do. 24 was closed, the fire crews were chasing wild fires all over the state and slurry bombers were a common sight for many of us on the front range. When the date changed I was trying to sort out my plan for Pikes Peak again. In typical fashion I delayed thinking about it until I needed to and at that point I got a phone call. I met Valentin Ivanitski I believe a few years ago. I met him Ice Racing when he would bring his crazy V8 Audi A4 out onto the lake to race. Last year he raced that same Audi at Pikes Peak. When he did, on his first year he made it to the top and immediately got donuts. He also met Savannah Rickli. I have known Savannah for a bit as well. Ice racing and Pikes Peak have both been her thing and I have put a camera on her car for a few years now in order to edit up and release some videos from her runs. Well it turns out things worked out well between Val and Savannah and they ended up getting married this year. With them together I have had a chance to get to know each of them a bit better as well. So when my phone rang and I saw it was Val I answered and the question was “do you want to be my codriver for Pikes Peak?”
Over the years I have thought about what it would take to race at Pikes Peak. I have driven the road many times, up and down, sometimes multiple times a day, I have driven it at night in dense fog and I feel as though I know that road very well, but racing it, that is a whole other thing. I have always been curious. As a photographer you always have a feeling that you know what the competitor is going through. You combine your own experience with what you perceive their experience is and you generate this sense of what is going through their mind. I immediately said “Yes” to Val, then thought two things: “wow, I didn’t realize how much I wanted to do this” and “Hmm, Maybe I should make sure I don’t have any work commitments.”
Time was tight and Val and I sat down a few times to get things in order. First up was making sure the seat fit well and the harnesses were adjusted properly. I got down to his place and tightened everything up to fit me perfectly. While I was there I noticed quotes on his car. One on the drivers door and on on the Co-Drivers door. Val told me that my door is open, if I had a quote for that side then it is easily able to be changed. So I went to work on that. Finally with notes in hand for a few days we went up to Pikes Peak for a recce day. We ran the mountain 3 times (at the speed limit) with notes being called to make sure that everything matched up as we wanted and to work on timing. We found a few spots where alterations needed to be made to the notes and we went about changing them, adding things and basically dialing them in. When we got back from Pikes Peak that day I spent time correcting the notes, getting them bound nicely and cutting corners so they were easy to turn with gloves on.
Tuesday finally came around and I was finishing up some things at work before I left. I headed out to Colorado Springs with two helmets in hand. One for me and one for Savannah. Her helmet failed to pass tech even though it still had 4 years of use left in it based on Snell certifications. Fortunately I was able to save the day and bring her a new helmet. We went through tech, we went through the drivers meeting and we were off to bed. Another day down and the short nights were about to begin since we were going to wake up at 2 am for our first day of practice.
When the alarm sounded I was up and in the shower in an instant. We were outfitted with coffee and only one turn shy of devils playground when a radiator hose blew off our tow rig. Fortunately quick action by a spectator and we made it to devils playground without issue. Val and I were getting ready to get onto the mountain. Lots of anticipation had been building up in myself and honestly I was really curious how well I could do this job. We soon discovered that our intercom system was not working as well… Oh good. The sun began to rise but I didn’t watch it like I did when I was taking photos. I could only see that the light was coming and I didn’t see the beauty that it was creating. Light means we can run and that is all I cared about. When the line began to form we were at the front of it and when the first car lined up we were right there ready to go. When the flag pointed at Val, I was ready and when the flag dropped we both sprung into action. I was screaming at the top of my lungs and he was just able to hear me over the V8 that was roaring through an unmuffled exhaust. We arrived at the top of the mountain and I realized that the quote I had chosen for my door was even more appropriate than I expected. “on the other side of fear there is freedom.” Fear, anticipation, expectation and just plain nerves creep up on you in that start line. When you arrive at the flag the world is in slow motion it seems, since that flag can’t wave soon enough, but as soon as it does there is nothing besides you, Val and a mountain road and you do your job in deep concentration so you don’t mess it up! (trust me, you don’t want to mess up)
After the first day on the mountain we ended up helping our friends Scott Crouch and Lea Croteau by towing their car down to Wreckmasters for a bit of TLC.
Then we spent time sorting out our intercom systems and we also prepared for the next day. Our crew was fantastic. Stephen, Collin and Rhett made it so we didn’t have to do anything. Honestly that was awesome for me. I sure do like tinkering and I like building cars, but wow, it is really nice to simply be able to relax, rest and concentrate on your job. I spent a bit of time just checking notes, looking for any photos that popped up online and relaxing until day two of practice.
At this point we had purchased some Chatterboxes from Apex motorsports. They were great to work with and really gave us a good amount of information. We installed everything and we were on the mountain again ready to try them out. The roar of the engine came with a bit more expectation this time. Day two was our qualifying day. We had two runs on the mountain today, through the fastest part of the course and our job was to learn the road AND qualify for race day. Lots of things change when you see a road for the first time at race pace. Wow, suddenly all those lefts and rights come up on you faster and on our first run I truly got a bit lost. “Is this the 3rd left 6 or is it the 4th?” I came up on the corner before engineers and saw for the first time how, at speed, it looks so much like engineers! Wow, these are things that I never experienced before on the mountain and wow, it is very interesting to see it now. With our first run finished we moved on to run two. We headed up the mountain with much more success and when we arrived at the top Brianne Corn stopped by our car to see if we happened to have any tools with us. Val popped the trunk to discover, no, we don’t have tools, but wait… ALL our spare wheels are in the trunk! We just qualified with both of our runs with 150lbs of wheels in the trunk of the car. On the way down we chatted and decided, yes, this needs to be a trick we play on our crew. We lept out of the car and told them about the odd handling, the clunking, the rear of the car, too much downforce? What could it be. Instantly the guys were on it. they were jacking up the car, they were inspecting all the elements they were looking they were not finding anything until Rhett popped the trunk and everyone collapsed in laughter.
When we headed home to the Rainbow Lodge in Manitou Springs I spent some time with the notes. Red Sharpie and Large letters were put just below that turn before engineers to simply say “fake” I made a few other notes, but I found that simply having a confirmation of a few points along the bottom section really just made my confidence a lot higher. The same day our friends Cody Loveland and Tabitha Lohr had crashed at Engineers. Cody was determined to get the car running and Tab was banged up from the days events. Tab stayed with us and Savannah took good care of her while our guys, Rhett and Stephen, helped Cody get the car together.
Fridays practice was also very interesting. We decided to take it easy, though I don’t know if we actually talked about it ahead of time. I think that this section of road is really a bunch of drag races with corners in between and I suspect it is really the hardest on the car. We ran 2 runs at a casual pace then on our third run we tried to open it up. Oil was down, coolant was down, people were on the side of the road and our idea to run a quick run was foiled a bit by all of these elements. We got down and realized they were lining up for a 4th run. We got in line first and we headed up the hill only to find out that the timing van had already left… Based on our onboard cameras we found that we shaved 7 seconds off our last run from the fastest of our first 3 runs. That felt pretty good and definitely boosted a bunch of confidence as well.
Before we knew it race day had arrived. With our cars ready there is little to do but wait. We arrived very early and slept for a bit until the sun came up. Our crew was buttoning up some of our details as other cars were leaving the line. It appeared that the mountain was putting up a bigger fuss this year however. Monsters car caught on fire, Paul Dallenbach’s throttle cable stuck and only two of the unlimited cars actually made it to the summit! A bit later as we began to line up Jeremy Foley and Yuri Kouznetsov had their now famous crash as well.
We could see as clouds covered the summit and if the anticipation was high on Practice day #1 it was through the roof now that we were waiting on crashes. Every once and a while I would ask what time it was and someone would say 5 or 5:30… It kept getting later and I had never seen the race go so long! Finally we were at the start line. “Guys, do you want rain tires?” was the question we were asked “this is all we have!” was our response and we headed up the mountain.
Val and I were in perfect rhythm. The lower section went better than it had ever gone and I don’t think that is because of the spares that we remembered to remove this time. We crossed a line around 11 mile where we saw a few drops of rain on the windshield but the road was still dry. Val would test the traction periodically to see how early he needed to brake and we were still making great traction. We climbed up the mountain and every turn seemed to be a bit more wet but our traction was holding strong. We passed through the speed check at Picnic grounds at 65mph which was remarkably quick for our car. We passed through glen cove and headed up the middle section. We came up to one of the w’s and val hit the brakes early because of how wet the road looked and we nearly stopped! We still had traction! We arrived in Devils playground and hauled through there as well giving the fans something to talk about again. The next note was L5 /CR and we saw Bottomless. Hmm, that looks really wet. I heard Val say “braking early” and the back end of the car stepped out. Immediately he was on the gas, he was pulling this out, we were drifting and we caught traction… Oh no, It is over now was my only thought, but the car had already begun to roll. The back had touched the outside concrete gutter and it threw the nose of the car into the wall. Once that dug in we were landing directly above my corner of the windshield before we knew it and then over again with a final stop on the roof for good measure.
Here is a video of us at Devils Playground. Listen to that thing! It sounds MEAN!
When all the rolling stopped I thought to myself: “is that it? It sure seems like there should be more.” Then I thought about getting out of my seat and realized I was hanging from the harness. “Ok don’t forget to put your arms and legs in front of you, last thing you want to do is hurt yourself getting out of the seat after all that!” Once I was out of the car things were very clear very fast. I saw the corner worker with the radio and ran over to him. I don’t know how long it takes to roll a car, get out and run across the street to someone, but in that time he had made it about 10 ft in our direction from what I could tell. I looked at him and told him that Val and I were just fine, we are ok, we need him to get on the radio, get a truck down here to get this thing out of here and we need him to get info out to the broadcast to make sure everyone knows both the driver and co-driver are ok, I said, please trust me, you gotta do this or my mom will fly to Colorado and kill you! “Yeah, ok I got it” was his response. The tow truck arrived so fast it was pretty impressive. The car was loaded up within about 10 minutes of when we actually left the car. The driver of the truck was quick to respond, the safety truck arrive and asked us to write down some pertinent information so he could make sure we were ok and we were towed back to devils playground within a total of 15-20 minutes from the time the crash occurred.
When we were at Devils playground we had crowds around the car, taking photos, looking, asking us questions. The first person to ask me a question was a kid, he was probably 10 or 11 years old. “Hey buddy, do you know who broke the record today?” We tried to piece together what had happened, but it all happened so fast, we took some info from the lady in the corner who said to us “wow, you guys looked great coming through that corner, well up until the (then she gestured a rolling motion with her harms)” and we took what we felt in the car and wow, it is all just a bit skewed from what the video cameras tell us!
We discovered as well that at the same time that we went off Jerod Voight’s Camero and Roy Tompkins Corolla went off as well. The radios were a flurry of calls apparently and they were scrambling to get things back in action. They made the call to run to Glen Cove for the final cars.
Soon they sent all the cars down. There are few times in life when you can see exactly how much you mean to people based on the look on their faces and when we were standing there, in front of our wrecked car with drivers coming down we could see the concern we made sure they knew we were ok and it was a good feeling to know how concerned your friends are about you.
On the way down we chatted with our tow truck driver, He told us stories from over the years, he paused and showed us where Jeremy and Yuri’s car ended up and he talked about years before when they used to have 15 tow trucks on the mountain and now they have 6. This all just went in one ear and out the other at the time but the next day I realized what that meant. We drove down with the window down, I didn’t know where everyone was that I knew on the mountain, but I did know I wanted them to see me with a smile on my face waving to them to alleviate any concerns they may have. During that ride down I saw what was becoming a very common sight. The look on friends faces mimicked one another with absolute looks of concern. We passed by Joel Yust and the concern on his face began to wear on me. I knew he had borrowed my radio, he should know we are ok. We began to ask and discovered, no, the broadcast said nothing about our whereabouts! It listed us as “lost” or “missing.” From what my family told me later we were never found but fortunately our car was found at some point during the broadcast.
This race is not for the timid, it is scary, every driver has a few turns that really get to them, but if you can face that fear there is a feeling on the other side that you won’t experience anywhere else. That is Pikes Peak and now I can say that I have experienced both sides and wow, it is an interesting experience.
I need to say a big thanks to my friends and family who have supported me through this and also to some photographers as well for capturing the event.
If you looked up the word ‘determined’ in the dictionary, it says “see racekern.com.” The Kerns have had some of the toughest years at Pikes Peak and each year they come out of it wit a smile on their face and a lesson learned. Some of those lessons I don’t think they could have ever avoided so it is amazing how positive and driven they can remain!
This year’s lesson? Dirt may be scary at times, but asphalt has many faces to. The thing about dirt is that you are relying on a surface that has minimal grip, so you are driving in such a way that you are constantly compensating for that lack of grip. On asphalt you are using all the grip that you can get out of the road. So if that grip goes away, you have a much tougher time. This year the Kerns found a part of the course that dust, gravel, something was blown onto the road and braking grip was eliminated! Stephan Verdier found the same place, but his experience was even more catastrophic! So ride along with the Kerns as they take you up the mountain. Keep your eyes peeled for their incidents and for the pieces that decide not to make it all the way to the summit with them!
Take a moment and read the Kern’s recap on the week at Pikes Peak on RaceKern.com
Well last year we put on quite a show for our competitors and fans at the same time. People could not believe the vehicle that we created when we went to Red Rocks last year to compete in the Red Bull Soapbox Race. Hell, we couldn’t believe it either. I mean, we built what I would consider, an exceptional replica of the Ferrari that we intended to build. No, it wasn’t to scale and no, it wasn’t completely accurate, but the final product is pretty damn nice looking.
This year we knew we had to do it again. We saw that the options were to go to Georgia or to LA and immediately jumped at the opportunity to compete against Hollywood. In our minds LA was going to be us competing against Custom car builders, custom motorcycle builders, Art Center, Hollywood production companies and the Hollywood elite. Imagine the budgets!? Imagine the creativity and the craftsmanship! Man we have to step up our game!
We met with some ideas. What car is going to get us to the podium? Which car is going to top the Ferrari… To be honest We decided that no car could top the Ferrari. I mean, the car, the movie, the scene and running the car backwards…it really was pretty amazing. So what car could we do that would come close? We had some ideas! The question was, could we build a car that we didn’t think looked as cool, but had better story lines, or do we build the ultimate of awesome cars? The decision wasn’t too hard for us to be honest. We like cool cars, so we chose the Mach 5 from speed racer. This car also gave us another possibility: the opportunity to do a female mold for our fiberglass layup!
We applied to the race and we were accepted approximately 2 months before the race. It all began so quickly and we got involved very intensely. We build a chassis with bent steal and nicely machined steering, the chassis went together smoothly, but we soon realized that we had selected tubing that was simply too heavy. So back to the tubing bender we went to build it all again. We then shaped a plug for our mold. We started by cutting everything out on the waterjet and moving on to hand shaping, bondo and sanding until it was all perfect(ish). Onward and upward we laid up a fiberglass female mold which we pulled, did a lot of finishing to, bolted back together and laid up fiberglass for our final body. This all sounds simple when you put it into a paragraph, but we are talking hundreds of hours of work. I am guessing that each of us had over 300 hours of work in this car! In addition to all the work, we constantly came upon things that were going wrong. People who build cars know that some cars will fight you the whole time. The Mach 5 was one of those cars. Every time we thought we had it, something else cropped up that would cause more hours, more time and more frustration. We finally got the car in paint and put it into our trailer approximately 14 hours later to drive off to LA. The vehicle was still tacky when we put it in the trailer and the finger prints we put in it flowed out as we arrived in Las Vegas.
We got to Vegas and decided that applying the decals should be done in a nice prominent location. Where could we do it? How about right in front of the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign? So that is where we put them on. People watched and people asked questions. We love to show off our work and this was a great opportunity. We left Vegas with LA in our sites.
We arrived at the event at 4:45am on Friday Morning. News agencies were expecting several teams for the morning news and we were one of the teams that would be interviewed. Our vehicle was sitting in the dark as the other teams arrived. Crews were inflating Red Bull Arches on a big stage and putting the final touch on things that would be seen on the news. We were excited to meet some of our competition. This is a friendly race and we had been keeping an eye on a lot of the teams. Most teams post photos or videos of their vehicles progress and some were pretty intriguing. One of the first teams we met included fabricators from Overhaulin’. Their vehicle was pretty awesome and that was the moment we knew we were going to have to work hard for this one!
That evening at the Drivers meeting we met a lot of teams some from various production companies in Hollywood, one was from Pixar. UCLA and many of the colleges locally had teams as well as Custom motorcycle fabricators, Troy Lee Designs and plenty of other people who had a long list of credentials. I was psyched that nearly every team that I spoke to was gunning for us. They would tell us how they have been keeping an eye on our photos and videos. One team even said that they learned everything they know about working with fiberglass from watching the Ferrari Build! I can’t think of a bigger honor than to be the team to beat! We had some great conversations about the trials and tribulations of the vehicle builds. It is a funny place to be when something as trivial as a SoapBox race is the main focus of conversation. Everyone had been so involved in the build for so much of their waking lives for the past few weeks that it was about all anyone could think about! As the night came to a close we headed back and prepped for the event.
Early in the morning we headed up to the venue to prep our area. We put up display boards and got the car ready for the day. People began to gather and we took on our roles. We were pinned to our booth all day. The crowds were in love with the car and as the people’s choice voting it was clear we had a big following…however it wasn’t clear to everyone. At first the voting was switched! A vote for Team Speed Racer was showing up as a vote for Team Moustachios. We were nervous as we saw their name rise up on the board with over 25% of the crowds vote. Soon things were switched back and we started showing up on the board with or percentage growing. It was clear that the people loved the Mach 5!
The crowds subsided as we headed up to the stage. One thing led to the next and we were ready to perform our skit. We arrived on stage looking for our interviewer but Paul Rodrigues wasn’t anywhere to be found. We had seen that teams were either getting an interview or their intro video was being shown. So we heard announcers talking about our team and looked up to see our video only to realize that our skit music was playing! We scrambled to catch up, we tried to recover but in the end we simply had to push the car and walk away with our skit in shambles.
The car made its way down the course accelerating from 0 to 40+ miles/hr in under 1 city block. It launched over the first jump it came to with a crazy landing. It tore around the 8ft tall berm in complete control and Matt piloted it over the second jump with a better landing than the first. As they crossed the finish line he pulled the rear brake and skidded to a fantastic 180degree stop. Our time was the fastest time of the day. We had done it…at least we had done that part. Our skit was still looming in our heads as this hurtle to overcome…
The crowds greeted us on our way down the hill. It was clear that we made an impact and that people were going to remember our vehicle. Awards began and we were selected as the clear winner for the People’s choice award. It was a great feeling. We were one of only a few teams that were not from California. So to come in from out of town and have the popular vote, well that is pretty awesome. We were then selected for 3rd place. I was pleased with third. I mean with how much we had botched our skit it was pretty nice to be on stage again.
In the end we made some great new friends and had an amazing time. Our vehicle has been put into the Forney Museum of Transportation and has been a hit with the young and old alike! I can’t believe the amount of attention the vehicles have generated, but I am glad, because we put our heart and soul into its creation so it is nice to sit back and see it turn heads!
For photos of the Mach 5 check out our website GoTeamSpeedRacer
For photos of the Ferrari check out: Team Save Ferris