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 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
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 have read back in my posts you know Pikes Peak has been a constant passion for me. I have followed the race, spectated the race, reported on the race and more. I really enjoy the mystique of the race. It just has this spirit that you don’t find other places. The mountain seems to have a personality and moods and each year you can’t quite tell the mood the mountain will be in until race day.
I have never been in the race, I have had a real desire to bring this race out to the world. More specifically I have had a strong desire to bring the underdogs of this race out to the world. There are many competitors on Pikes Peak and there are some who hold records, who break records, who are on the podium regularly and whos names are never mentioned. I enjoy bringing light to their efforts and showing the world what these people are made of and what it takes to get there. Some of the drivers I have highlighted are Dave and Allison Kern, Spencer Steele, Jimmy Olson, Savannah Rickli and her codriver Rebecca Greek. Others have been featured in my videos and photos as well and as much as I enjoy the big name drivers that come to this race I am proud of the exposure I have given to these smaller name drivers so people can see what it takes to make your own way to the race. The endless hours of fabrication, the endless hours of counting pennies to get all the parts that you need to make the big day and the final push to make it onto the mountain.
As with other years I have helped the RaceKern team in preparation for the year. Unlike last year however I have had my own car to work on and therefore I haven’t been able to spend as much time as I have in the past. With the accident last year the car had a definite need for body work. Lots of dents and dings and some more serious stuff as well. The decision was made to simply cut all of the body work out and make carbon fiber panels to replace it. We were taking a 4 door EVO and making it a lighter weight coupe. After all the work and all the effort the final result is pretty incredible. It looks like a factory body, but when you touch it you start realizing it really isn’t. each panel on the side of the car is 4.5 lbs. So both panels together weigh about 1/3rd of one of the two doors we removed. After you factor in the other steel that was removed this was a pretty significant weight savings and in addition there is a mold so more panels can be pulled at any time.
When the race date for Pikes Peak came around fires were ravaging Colorado Springs. 350 homes were lost and many were displaced in the aftermath. The race was canceled, there is no way that they could have a race with such uncontrolled chaos going on nearby. Soon afterward I received a phone call from Valentin Ivanitski. Val’s codriver couldn’t make the new date and he hoped I would be interested in giving it a try.
My gut reaction to his request was “YES.” But I decided I needed to be more responsible than that. Check the schedule. Check the vacation time. Sort out work needs as well. In the end the answer was Yes! This of course put me in a tizzy. I have things to get, my helmet isn’t the proper certification, I don’t own a hans. I needed to get the right shoes since mine were torn. Socks, yes you need fireproof socks too and finally a physical for the race. Things keep delaying the completion of these tasks and of course are just stressing me out. But I think I have this all under control now and I am psyched to get on the road, tomorrow, to go race.
This past Saturday Val and I took a trip down to the peak. We did Recce runs, or basically, we took the pace notes we have and we made sure they worked for us. It was a good thing we did all this because we found a few quirks and those quirks we had extra time to go through and correct. I am feeling very confident in the notes now. It is interesting how the notes turn from a bunch of left and rights to actual turns you recognize when you get on the mountain. It is interesting as well how turns you have never really noticed before become the turns that seem most critical when you start seeing the road at race pace. You can feel the pucker factor and if anyone says that they don’t have nerves going into a race then are lying. But as this quote says “beyond fear there is freedom.”
I am really excited for the week and I am looking forward reaching the summit and posting a good time. Keep your eyes on the site and I will make sure to keep you updated this week on the mountain.
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
We crossed the startline at 4:30 AM and joined the procession up the hill. We were constantly moving as we rose up in elevation from 9000ft to 12,800ft and it took us 27 minutes to reach Devils playground. That is 9 miles and probably about 115 turns to get to this point. Racers take between 10.01 and 15 minutes to reach the summit which was another 2.5 miles away! I love this sort of perspective. It is incredible to think of the absolute skill, experience, precision and courage it takes to negotiate some of these corners and conditions at the speeds that it takes to make it to the top in this amount of time.
From our perch at Devils Playground we watched as the sun rose, it is always an amazing sight from the top of a mountain, but Pikes Peak has a certain way about it that seems to saturate the colors to bring the sunrise to life. Our time in the parking area consisted of making a nice hot meal and preparing for our hike up the mountain. Hiking up to Boulder park is a bit of a distance to cover and has an elevation gain of about 1200 ft. But it is worth it. The views from the final sections of dirt road are amazing. As the classes progressed we began making our way back to Devils playground. The clouds were beginning to close in on the mountain and with the threat of lightning it is always nice to know you are reasonably close to shelter.
The racing was intense. As a spectator you need to be patient with any TT style racing. One car passes then several minutes later another passes. It isn’t the constant action of a Formula 1 race or motocross race. You have to appreciate what the drivers are doing in order to appreciate this race. To give you an idea of what the drivers are doing here is a bit of a run-through of their drive to the top:
Monster Tajima’s car is said to have about 950hp at the start line. When he takes off he is accelerating through the start line on perfect pavement. Traveling at speeds up to 130 mph in a car by himself with nobody else helping him to know what is coming up. Drivers often loose track of where they are on the road because of the sheer quantity of turns. Each turn starts looking more and more like the last and there are pretty popular corners, like Engineers corner, that claim drivers who fall into this trap. When he approaches the Picnic grounds he is traveling at his max speed of about 130mph when he has to transition to dirt! This year the dirt was treated with Mag-chloride which firms up the dirt, but doesn’t make it drive like tarmac. So at this point he starts getting into switchbacks. (2009 shot of 11 mile’s drifting left hand corner) He needs to adjust his driving style to the type of traction that the new surface provides while going into a complicated drifting turn into a very tight and slower switchback. As he ascends the mountain he is constantly loosing power as he gains elevation and as he passes the ski area there are several deceptive corners. (2006 shot, heading into the Ski Area parking area) One I have heard people refer to as the “rookie corner” but that isn’t its real name. This is, what appears to be a soft right turn, but it has a later apex than people realize. Sliding off to the outside is a definite possibility if you carry to much speed. The corners continue to relentlessly bombard the drivers through this section. Drivers have to drift sideways to carry speed and they are on constantly variable conditions because of the mix of Mag-Chloride and loose dirt. They need to plan for a corner, but at the same time they need to be ready to react to a sudden unexpected spot of traction gain or loss. If you watch their in car cameras you can see constant corrections. A final hairpin left takes the drivers into a section of rough tarmac and dirt mixed together. This is Glen Cove and once they pass through a toll gate they are back on Tarmac. They accelerate up through some of the most intense elevation gains in the course through some of the tightest corners on the course.
A portion of this section is called the “W’s” this section looks like a cursive “W” from above but consists of very tight turns linked with long switchbacks. As they ascend into 18mile they round a corner in excess of 80mph that has no guard rail on the outside and has exposure of nearly 1000 ft.
Drivers corner a hairpin left and a 90 degree right out of devils playground into a drifting turn that changes from tarmac to dirt. This year the Monster nearly lost it on this transition. Carrying that much speed through two distinct surface conditions is a tricky task! This dirt up top is not treated with Mag-Chloride and is definitely more dusty and loose.
Drivers now have yet another condition to adjust too and in addition their cars are loosing power. The Monster has lost at least 140hp by this point just because of the lack of oxygen. Drivers also have to cope with this sudden drop in available oxygen since only 7 minutes before they were at 9000ft and now they are at 13,000ft!
Drivers head into Boulder park which has a series of turns that have claimed some of the best drivers in the past and head up Ragged edge.
This section lives up to its name with a very significant view of the exposure as you head up to a very sharp left hand turn.
Now there is a transition from dirt to pavement here as well, so driver need to adjust their driving style yet again! (2008 shot of the S turn at Boulder Park) As they approach the summit they have a high speed left turn that takes them across the finish line before they can start breathing again. At this final acceleration the monsters 950hp car is pushing only 665hp!
Of course this account is pretty basic and it completely eliminates variables like weather. Each year weather at the summit can vary from warm sun to cold, to rain, to snow, to hail and each year you are very likely to see several of these conditions throughout the day. The number of surface conditions that a driver can see on their way up the mountain are infinite and the number of changes to the course that they practice can be infinite as well. Spectators are often in the wrong place, they will spectate from racing lines and unknowingly cause drivers to have to adjust their line in order to avoid people.
Our view of the race was speckled with lightning strikes in the distance and nice puffy white clouds in the foreground. we could see the clouds sweeping over the summit and hoped that they wouldn’t sweep by as a driver was headed up. Adding the element of fog to the course is very dangerous and would be very hard for a driver to recover from. We watched as drivers drove past and listened as their motors climbed to the summit. Crowds would leap off the side trails when a V8 would rev in the distance and wait for it to pass by. We watched the final motorcycles from Devils playground. the amount of control it takes to drift a motorcycle around a corner is astounding and it is impressive to watch as they transition from tarmac to dirt as well. The final vehicle of the day was driven by Mike Ryan. He drives a Freightliner… that is right, a semi cab. He is an incredible driver and words can not describe the sight of a semi drifting around corners.
When the drivers are all finished there is a procession down the mountain. The spectators line the road and the drivers come down. I find this to be one of the most awesome parts of this race. To most spectators a driver is the number on the side of his car. There is no face or personality, there is a car that they are cheering for. At Pikes Peak each driver is someone to congratulate, a hand to slap five and a face that you can put with all that crazy driving you just watched head up the hill! I put a camera on Dave and Allison Kern’s car a couple years ago and at the end of their run they ran the camera on the way down. It is really cool to hear the kids ask them to rev the engine and the fans who are congratulating them on a fast time! (check it out toward the end of this video)
Throughout the day I shoot photos, but anymore I enjoy the race. It is funny, when I get home I always wish I took more photos, but when I am there I really enjoy taking in all that is going on. Anyhow, enjoy this recap and enjoy some of the photos that I DID take this time around.
If you have made it this far, definitely check out my entry from Practice as well. There are lots more photos there and more recap as well. Check back because we ran in-car cameras on several cars and you can follow this link to see the initial video from the incar GoPro’s Open Wheel Car videos
If you know me, you know I love this race. It is more than just cars racing against a clock, it is cars racing against extremely variable conditions, history, the clock and themselves. The more time I spend on the mountain and the more drivers that I have the good fortune to get to know the more I realize how much this race means to the people who participate.
This year I spend a good deal of my “spare” time helping the Kern’s prep their evo. The car is fantastic, but unfortunately two weeks before practice started at PPIHC they had a major failure. I rod blew through both sides of the engine block causing a large fireball to sweep through their engine compartment and wipe out most of their electronics. This is a HUGE setback, but Dave is probably the most determined guy I know… and apparently requires less sleep than anyone else in human history.
After countless hours packed into two weeks as well as a trip to chicago to have a new motor installed and tuned dave returned the day before the tech inspection and we buttoned up the final details throughout the day of tech inspection. It seemed that the impossible had been done. The car now sported a new aero package, all body panels had been fixed, new rear diff and of course a new power plant. This thing was about as new as could be! So I went to bed anticipating a good day. It is satisfying to go to bed knowing that you helped accomplish what you thought wouldn’t be accomplishable.
Practice began Wednesday and I woke from a bit of a nap at 5:30 am to the sound of a safety car passing by. The practice was about to begin and the sun was just rising. We had the opportunity to see Rhys Millens new car. This thing is a lemans style car that is built specifically for Pikes Peak. It is amazing to watch, but it is clear that it has some bugs to be worked out. The acceleration that it is capable of is intense however! We had the opportunity to see Dave and Allison fly up the mountain as well. Run after run they were looking smooth! Their lines were great and they were definitely looking fast. We had our eye on a few other cars as well. Spencer Steele and Jimmy Olson were running onboard cameras for a little project that I am playing with and they both drive pretty awesome open wheel cars. In addition the Monster has fully updated his vehicle and he is serious about trying to beat the 10 minute barrier again this year. It is always amazing to hear the high RPM roar of a stock car V8 as well. Those things sound so incredibly angry when they are under full throttle and finally Jeff Zwart in his Porsche GT3 cup car…well that thing just sounds amazing.
After the first day of practice we headed down and saw Dave and Allison fussing over the car. I pulled off and they had the motor apart. Turns out their timing belt snapped and basically obliterated the top end of their brand new, 3 run old motor. I couldn’t believe it! Dave hadn’t slept in probably 2 weeks and now this happens.
The next day we were on the top section. This section is the least viewed section since all the spectators typically are stopped at Devils playground. Boulder park is our choice viewing location and we were up there to see Rhys spin out, watch ACP show up and see an amazing sunrise. Dave flew past us again! How could he have possibly fixed that thing? Well, turns out they replaced the top end of the motor and during their run…well the bottom end let go.
On the third day of practice we were on the bottom section of the mountain. I was feeling pretty refreshed from several days of good sleep and recovery and was out taking some photos. We got word from Dave. They now had a stock motor in the car, but it was going onto the Dyno in an hour. That guy is an animal. Nothing will stop the Kerns from competing! Dave hasn’t had proper sleep in easily 2 weeks and yet the spirit hasn’t changed, his motivation is still just as high as it was when the week began. It is incredible!
After a full day of practice I went down to talk to my open wheeler friends. Jimmy and Spencer were having a good day, but Spencers motor let go as well. “Nothing I can’t fix before the race” he said in his normal mater of fact way. I was chatting with Jimmy’s wife Andrea afterward and she mentioned that she’d been coming up here since 1978 and told me about all the changes that have happened. I had a realization that this race is not just a race to most of these drivers. It is a family tradition, it is an annual reunion with racing friends. The banter that goes back and forth is from years and years of handing trophies back and forth to one another. It is fun to watch this race and I can say I have a sincere appreciation for the history and challenge that this race presents but I wonder if it will ever mean as much to me as it does to these people.
Today is friday, the event is Sunday and Dave now has a car that is in one piece. The car has been dyno tuned and not tested at all. The motor that is in the car is the same motor that they set the standing record in their class. (Time Attack 4wd) But the motor is about 250hp less than the motor that they started the event with. Anticipation is building as the weather reports show poor conditions approaching. It is going to be an interesting year on the mountain this year and only time will tell how it all plays out.
As the final rivet went into the front aero package at around 3:00 in the morning on Dave and Allison Kern’s Evo I was anticipating heading out to the track the next day to see how my wing mounts held up. Dave was planning a test session out at the track and I decided to tag along and see if everything went as planned with the wing that I had just modified to work.
After a late night it was a bit difficult to wake up in the morning so I didn’t actually get started until about 10:00 and I didn’t end up getting to the track until after noon. That wasn’t all that important however, the important part was the Evo was heading out on its first laps. Dave was going to run the first laps with just the front aero setup to see how the car felt before he put the big wing on. On his first lap he had some clutch issues so he came in to diagnose them. Everything that he could think of was not working and I am no help in that department…so I began wandering around. There was plenty to see the place was packed so I figured I’d check out a few cars.
As this was going on a big race trailer showed up. The wrap on the trailer drew everyone in. Classics, old school racing cars, formula cars etc. I was really curious what was going to roll out of that thing. as the rear door went down they didn’t disappoint. This thing had a 30’s Bugatti and a 50’s Talbot Lago! Combined, assuming these are pretty original cars, these two cars were worth in the neighborhood of $4 million dollars. I can assure you that all the other cars that were there that day (probably 40 more cars) would not have added up to the value of these two.
They rolled out the cars and began prepping for the day and their little pit spot was a magnet for car guys. I stopped by and chatted with the guys. They were very cool and very interested in showing off the cars. The guys were from High Mountain Classics, which is a restoration shop primarily for Vintage French vehicles. The owner of the shop was there, one of their fabricator/restorers and one of the vehicle owners was there. They were testing the vehicles in order to head to Sears Point next week.
I had a chance to chat with the guys for a while when another trailer pulled up and a 1960 Ferrari 250 SWB emerged from the back of the trailer. Wow! Another half million dollars in car just showed up!
I had a chance to chat with the owner for a bit and he was very interested in talking about the car. It sounded as though he did all his own work on the car as well which is definitely pretty cool with a car like that as well.
My day was balanced between spectating the cars and checking in with Dave to see if there was anything I could do to help, but at one point a small blue car rolled up… I had never seen one of these before.
The owner said that it was a British sports car and he even said the name, but for the life of me I can’t remember what it was. I do know that it starts with a G and if you can tell me I’d love to know. This car was so small but the lines of the car were beautiful! It made me reconsider my Seven idea and consider building something like this instead!
Out on the track these cars were great to watch as well. Seeing a 1930’s Bugatti mixing it up with some guy in a Corvette that is blowing every turn was just a strange sight to take in. When you see an 80’s camero following a 1950 Talbot Lago Formula 1 car…well that is pretty interesting as well.
It was a fun day out there, unfortunately Dave never got the car running so he had to head home to pull the motor and trans out of his car… Next week hopefully, the evo will be ready to tear it up again!
I have been a huge fan of the Pikes Peak Hill climb for a long time. I have been attending it for the last 7 years and it is pretty addicting. The procession to the top of the hill by all the fans, the sound of engines miles away firing up and the distinct roar of a V8 as it is bouncing off the rev limiter on a road that you just negotiated at 25mph.
Over the years I have met more and more people who participate in this event. I have shot for publications such as Autoweek and even worked with companies like Suzuki to provide photos to their marketing. A few years ago I had the opportunity to provide video on Autoweek’s site. We ran a car on the record breaking Time Attack 4wd vehicle that year piloted by Dave Kern with his wife Allison in the passenger seat calling the shots. I was pretty impressed with the duo. It isn’t every day that you have athletes who not only are the top of their class, but also are willing to go talk to their fans. If someone approaches them, they will talk to that fan about any part of the car, course or preparation that they went through to get to where they are.
As I continue learning more and shifting more to building and creating things I have had the opportunity to help them out in another way. I talked to Dave not long ago and we talked about the wing that he runs on the back of his car. He has had two wings and both broke in one way or another. He had some remaining parts from the two wings but no way to put them together. So I volunteered to take on the challenge. Between the composite skills that I have acquired over the last couple years and the problem solving skills that I have always been cultivating I felt pretty confident that I could come up with something. So I picked up the wing from Dave and started looking at it.
I was given side plates and a wing that were made for different applications, so I slid them together in the most obvious way that I could and started working on an appropriate way to mount these together. My goals were to provide a clean flow of air around the mounting points, provide adjustability for the wing, so he could tune it for his future needs and also (because I could see the wing shaking when he was racing) I wanted to stiffen the whole assembly up.
I cut off the old mounting tabs, and designed a new mounting system. It consisted of custom machined aluminum attachments that would epoxy through the wings sides. The goal of these parts was to allow the user to tighten the wing to the sideplates without crushing the interior foam of the wing. The attachment points flush mounted on the outside of the wing and bulged out in the inside surface. They provide enough threads to live up to aerospace standards, though I wouldn’t say that they are aerospace quality…I mean..I made them!
Once the inserts set I needed to figure out the guy wire setup. Guy wires were the best way to add lateral stiffness to the wing without causing to much aerodynamic drag. I wanted it to be clean and simple, but reliable and stiff. Dave wanted it to be easily interchangeable from trunklid to trunklid in case they needed to move it at some point in the future. So I started brainstorming and came up with a stainless pill design that was able to find its perfect angle in an aluminum cradle. This, of course, is probably overkill, but you know what. It is a great solution! It works incredibly well and I couldn’t be happier with it.
I designed the part in solidworks and revised it a couple times. In the end I had a bit of assistance from John Grimberg to come up with this.
The system works perfectly. Once attached the guy wire increased the stiffness of the wing by what I can only estimate as a 100% gain. It is incredibly stiff now, this is going to provide the carbon part of the wing a lot less load in the corners and allow it to focus on its job of keeping the car on the ground!
We will be mounting this thing up and hopefully heading to the track tomorrow to test it out. With easily adjustable increments for the wing it is now tunable so dave will be able to decide on 16, 19, 22 and 25 degrees for the back wing which means that he can decide how he wants it set up in order to serve his driving style the best.
The wing will be mounted up by tomorrow and on the track for testing the same day. It will be nice to have the opportunity to test it out, try out the different angles and be sure that it is all functioning as it should be before the event!