Savannah Ivanitski: Pikes Peak

Well, I had a few minutes to throw together a bit of video and started with Savannah’s video from Pikes Peak. There is a ton of video to wade through still for all the other cars, so keep your eyes open in the near future.
Savannah only got to run to the mid point since SOMEONE crashed and they shut down the top of the course…

I had a great week with Savannah and Val and all the fingers crossed team. Hope you enjoy a bit of a ride along in video form

Progress on the EVO

Well when Dave Kern starts something he is most likely going to finish it. I mean seriously. His wife Allison recently recounted the time that the motor blew during a race, fire was shooting out of the hood, over the car in large balls of glowing heat and she had to tell him that it was over, they had to pull over. Well, this same determination goes for fabrication of the ultimate race car too.

This years car features a complete composite body, about half of which is being fabricated by Dave with a bit of help from me. The other half are commercially available parts. The new car will feature larger, stickier tires, more elaborate aerodynamics and a full flat bottom to also aid in the aero. Wow, it is a ton of work and wow I wish I had more time to help him out because I feel bad that he is going at most of this alone!

Check out some photos from the build so far.







My composites professor from Metro has decided to tackle the front aero. With a brand new splitter that should actually weigh about 1/3rd of the weight of the current splitter… well this thing should be mean



Check back for more and check in with RaceKern for even more details on the build.

Kern Racing’s Evo build for 2012

With a build of my own this year has been a bit hectic. Trying to manage my time while being committed to building and helping with the Kerns cars has been quite an undertaking. I am sure Dave would love more help, but this year sleep is a consideration…

So last year on the mountain was quite an effort by Kern Racing. They have been pushing it to the limit and as they say, if you aren’t crashing you aren’t getting better. Well, they did crash last year, then they finished 4th. Yes, that is pretty impressive considering they sat on the guardrail for 35 second, then raced 6 miles on a missing tire and a busted shock! At the end of the race last year their car looked like this.



Race Kern PPIHC Tire

So when they assessed the damage the realization was that the body work needed to be done and that means that there needs to be some thought into the future of the car. The race is all pavement in 2012, so the car will need to be wider, the tires will be bigger and it will need to be ready to accept them. So how about we modify the overall width of the car with a widebody kit? Well, if you are going to do that, then why not lighten the car by removing the rear doors? And if you are going to do that, why not make the entire body out of carbon fiber? Well that is what the plan boiled down too and they are in the midst of making that happen.

Dave got started on the car by ordering up a stock widebody kit and we got crackin on getting that installed. You can check out all the details of the assembly on

With all the body work in progress I took a day or two to stop down and work out the details. It is a lot of work doing all the bondo work for a job like this but we got it to race car quality and we’re pretty happy.

Once it was all finished up a good waxing went down we made a mold of one side of the car. This is a big panel and we are glad to get through it without any issues.




With the mold curing still and the polyester resin still stinking up the place we rolled the car on over to the lift and started cranking away on other projects. We switched out the rear suspension, the rear brakes and installed the new front fenders. Then we cranked on the new beefy rear sway bar and looked at the front brakes only to realize we didn’t have the right wheels nearby to fit over the rotors.


So we worked on a plan for the rear wing mounting, we worked on a plan for the new front splitter and we called it a day. Tomorrow we will meet with John Wanberg. John was my professor at Metro and he is getting a bit giddy to make really cool composite projects happen. Tomorrow we are talking aero elements and primarily the splitter. I am looking forward to see what he comes up with!

Pikes Peak: Savannah Rickli & Rebecca Greek

The youngest driver and the most encouraging navigator, yup, you guessed it! The Dynamic duo of Savannah Rickli and Rebecca Greek attack Pikes Peak in their Mini cooper with only 200hp. Pretty crazy when you think that others in their class have more than 3 times that kind of power.

Ride along as they rocket up the mountain with only a few mishaps along the way.

PPIHC Video Clips

I spent pretty much the entire week climbing around Pikes Peak in order to get shots for this small video project that I was working on. The project was to create a PPIHC video that features a group of smaller name, lower budget drivers and I guess I root for the underdog so I really enjoy bringing these names to the front of peoples minds if I can.

After spending that week collecting footage, you know I am going too also shoot other cars too so I put together a lot of Extra footage to put that out there as well. This is very comprehensive. It is nearly every car that practiced with the unlimited/time attack cars and a few others as well. There are a ton of locations and this was all shot by me over the 3 practice days, race day and the test and Tune day. Enjoy!

Ride along with Jimmy Olson at PPIHC

Jimmy and Spencer are great friends and it is amazing to see how close they are in all the racing they do. Ride along with Jimmy as he finishes second in open wheel by only 1 second! His time is good enough for 5th fastest on the mountain a pretty awesome thing to be able to say as well!

You can also see this on My Life @ Speed

Pikes Peak: Spencer Steele’s full run

I will be adding each of the drivers full run’s over the next week, but today we have Spencer’s. He was the fastest in the group of drivers that we had cameras on and I figured it would be nice to get his run up first. Ride along with Spencer as he claims the top rung on the podium in Open Wheel devision and also grabs the 4th fastest on the mountain. Keep your eyes peeled, he’s got a few hairy moments too!

If you haven’t seen already, check out my previous entry with video from all the cars we ran cameras on this year. Video Number one link

You can also see this on My Life @ Speed

PPIHC: Video Number One

Yeah, I decided after working on this first video and realizing that YouTube now allows uploads over 10 minutes that I will also put together individual race runs this year. I will work on that later today actually, for now, here is the first edit from the mountain. Ride along with Spencer Steele, Jimmy Olson, Savannah Rickli, Rebecca Greek and Dave & Allison Kern. It’s quite the adventure and keep your eyes peeled the race runs were, very eventful!

You can also see this on My Life @ Speed

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb 2011

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.

Precision alignment of an open wheeler

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!

Register Crash Pano

I will have a video up from all of these cars and more very soon, in the mean time, check out some quick teasers…

Pikes Peak, Practice days

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.

Dave C's Unlimited EVO

Dave C's Unlimited EVO

Dave C's Unlimited EVO

Dave C's Unlimited EVO

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.

Dave C's Unlimited EVO

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.

Check back soon for more from the race!