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
After an incident at Pikes Peak I really wanted to just get in a car again. I wanted to get in the co-drivers seat and I wanted to do it sooner rather than later. I never really developed a fear after the crash, but I just wanted the opportunity to just get back in the car and do the job again. I was chatting with Dave Kern around the time of Pikes Peak and he mentioned that Allison, his wife and codriver may be out of town during the Lands End Hill Climb. This is a race that is part of the Colorado Hill Climb series put on by the CHCA. So I looked forward to that opportunity.
As time passed Dave realized that Allison didn’t have a conflict after all and I was debating on whether or not I would go to spectate when he and Allison competed. Dave had different plans. He had his ears open and found me a seat after all.
Last year I went up to Bridgestone Winter Driving School with Dave and several others and we had a fun day out on the track. Among the others was Aaron McConnell and Roger Matthews. I had met Aaron several times before but I only met Roger the night before we went to play on the track. At Lands End, Aaron had the opportunity to pilot the Suba Performance Rally car and Roger was debating on whether or not he should bring out his car. Dave described his car to me over the phone as “one pissed off bunny” and mentioned that Roger didn’t have a codriver for the event. I took that opportunity. I knew Rogers demeanor and personality, but not his driving style. I did know a bit of his history, Rally America stage events as well as Pikes Peak were on his resume and I felt pretty comfortable with the person I had met nearly a year before so I loaded up and headed out to Grand Junction to run the event.
Lands End is part of the CHCA series. The format is a two day format. The first day is dedicated to practice. A full day on the mountain with as many runs as everyone can get in from about 8 am till about 4 pm. We ended up with 3 runs of the full course. On day two, it is race day. You get two runs and you need to make them count.
Our class was small. The Kerns were the only other 2wd Rally car in our class. The AWD rally class was a bit more populated but the main classes were the Open wheel, stock car and truck classes. We ran strong for the little rabbit and we pushed it hard. In the end we were second and we had a couple really good, clean runs.
Since I have managed to destroy all of my GoPro’s we didn’t have the best setup for some of our video, however, we did manage to get video from almost all the rally cars as well as Joel Yust in order to throw together a quick compilation video. Enjoy! Thanks also to Joel Yust for that photo on this page!
Side note, check out this last minute camera mount that we threw together with a discarded Iced Tea bottle..
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.
It has been an incredibly busy time in the life of Josh McGuckin. With two races coming up fast and two cars that seem like they will never be finished it has been a rush to try to make all the parts and assemble everything.
With Project Baja we need to have a running car that is ready to race by, gulp, July 7th. Holy crap that is way too soon and we are having terrible luck with parts right now. Shipments are being sent to the wrong place, the wrong unit, sent back, or they are simply delayed. It is very stressful right now, but we are pushing forward to make that car happen.
We have been fairly fortunate to have some good folks stop through the shop. Emme Hall was one of our recent guests. She was ready with her work boots on and we showed her how to make sparks the PB&J way.
Because we can’t seem to get enough punishment, we were offered a slightly larger work space which we have accepted! This sounds great and really, it is great. It is just really bad for timing. Our new space is about 150 ft away from our current space and we have to move in this week. THIS WEEK! HOLY CRAP! Last night we were down there throwing a bit of epoxy on the floor to clean it up a bit and make it easier to clean in the future. Tonight that will finish up and tomorrow we are putting in Pallet racks to create better more usable storage. All that time we are also working on the car, so there will be a bit of a rotation of people doing many things at a high rate of speed…
Of course if you know me you know that I have been helping out the RaceKern team for a while as well. I can’t just abandon them and even though I have helped out a lot less than I have in years past I am still down there helping whenever I can. The Kerns are gearing up for Pikes Peak again. When is that again? Oh yes, that is July 4th-8th. Oh and when is testing again? FRIDAY! Holy CRAP. Seriously, how does all of this stuff get jammed together!?
So the EVO (aka EVIL) is still in many parts, but it does run now. It has suspension, tires, wheels, engine, exhaust and more! What doesn’t it have? Basically, it has no body panels from the front quarters back. Yeah, that is a lot. However parts are popping off molds, fasteners are flying about this way and that and hopefully this thing will be bolted together by Thursday… Wow, that seems so close and wow there is so much left to do!
Late nights are pretty common these days and I am sure that sleep will become more and more rare as the month wears on.
We’ll be back at it again tonight, Keep your eyes peeled for new posts soon and listen to this engine sing for a quick minute before you run away!
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.
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.
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 RaceKern.com
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!
I have been working hard on my current project, Project Baja. If I haven’t mentioned it too much on here it is because I spend most of my time writing about it on the Project Baja site. I started thinking about this project though: why do you do this stuff? That was the question that crossed my mind. Why? Well. These are the interesting things in life. The adventures that many look at and few do.
One day, many moons ago I watched the movie “Dust to Glory.” When the movie finished I thought to myself “I could do that.” I have watched that movie repeatedly since then and I always think the same thing. “I could do that.” The real question is why though. Why spend all the time, the money and the effort on something like this? For me I think it comes down to one word: Experience.
In 2008 while sitting around with some friends we decided to make a soapbox car for the RedBull soapbox race. Cars for these events are often cardboard, taped together. Some of them are more complicated but none are taken to the level that we wanted to go. The purpose was not entirely winning. The reason for that is experience. If my team or I choose to do something we do it so we get something awesome of of it and what is more awesome than education? We learned a lot from that car. Little lessons like: “Wow, fiberglass sucks to sand!” or “Body work sure does live up to the ‘WORK’ part.” When we went to the race we had an amazing time, we met a ton of people we answered questions and we basically had an amazing experience.
In 2009 we did it all over again. The Mach five wasn’t just another fiberglass car, it was a completely different molding technique. We decided we needed to learn how to do make a female mold on this one. It was a completely new experience and we were able to learn how and be successful making the project all in a very short period of time. When we took that car across country we had so many experiences along the way. Meeting new people, showing our vehicle and well, creating the story of the trip. We have friends that I am glad to say that we would not have developed otherwise.
So when we circled around to the Baja Car I thought to myself. Imagine the places you will go, the people you will meet and not only that but the stories you will have from this project! We jumped in and yes! As usual we flailed a bit but we are going strong.
Already I have met some amazing people. I traveled to California to go to Lisas Wedding and I was able to meet the Desert Dingos. Specifically I met Jim Graham. They showed me around the car as well. Jim has been an amazing resource and has quickly become a friend. It was a great experience walking through their outdoor shop nestled in the redwoods. It was fun to check out their car and learn as much as we could. I only wish I was able to go back! Now that we have made the progress that we have it would be great to see it all again. In addition we have met Yves Braun. Yves is in the desert racing community and just happens to have a shop that is just up the street from us. He has been one of the most generous people and has provided us with a tow when we need it and a free donor car too!
The more we learn about all of this the more the experiences are becoming apparent. I met Paul Massey through all of this as well and his friends at the Fire Guys Racing Team. Paul has told stories, showed pictures and just added fuel to the fire. The other night as we chatted he was telling me how excited he is to go to Mexico for 2012’s race and he also said “there is always a big part of me that is excited and a small part that is pretty nervous.” I think that about sums it up. Everyone that goes to this event knows that there are a lot of question marks. When you are in the middle of the desert with nobody around and you are relying on this vehicle to save the day… Well. It is plenty to make you nervous. Add to that the possibilities that simply exist in Mexico. Unpredictable law enforcement, unpredictable fans, the challenge of getting everything you need into Mexico and the additional challenge of getting everything you own out of Mexico. There is a lot to worry about! But every piece of that is just another chapter in the story that is the Baja 1000!
With all of these potential experiences laid out just imagine the stories that are going to come out of it. Now consider that we aren’t even there yet. We are working like crazy to find sponsors, money to join our team and help make this happen. We can figure out a lot of stuff, but we can’t just create money. So now we spend a lot of time trying to figure out exactly how we can get money. You know what? Well it turns out that we have been developing relationships, we have been able to be very creative with some marketing ideas, we have just learned a ton about dealing with potential sponsors and it just adds to our experiences. Our marketing plan is always evolving but our webisodes are something that we love to make and people love to see. It has been a lot of fun and a big learning experience figuring out all of this!
I just came across this bit of writing I did along the way in Europe when I was following some mountain bike racing. I thought, Maybe I should throw this up on the site… So here it is. Hope you enjoy. I threw some photos that I could find easily from the events in here as well. I have so many photos from this trip but these are just a quick smattering to go along with things.
Twenty two hours and I am at another counter, this time I am finally getting a rental car, not another plane. I took off from Denver Tuesday and now it is Wednesday in Milan Italy. I flew here a bit spontaneously in order to travel through Europe and go to the World Championships in Livigno Italy. From there I planned to go to the World cup finals that are conveniently the following week in Scotland.
“Would you like insurance” the desk clerk asks, “YES!” I said as I recap all the stories I have read about driving in Italy.
6 crazy hours later and we arrive in Livigno; we descend into this town via a mountain pass. It is beautiful and the venue is visible from all parts of town. We fumble around the town in our Fiat Punto and stumble across our hotel. In our journey to Livigno, we took several wrong turns that worked out well. Even though they cost us about 2 hours of travel time we also drove through some beautiful mountain passes we would not have seen otherwise. We learned that if you ask an Italian for directions they say the equivalent of “It’s just over there” and wave their hand in the direction that you need to go.
The venue was great and the courses were fast. The DH course was fast enough that every rider was in a skin suit, which is not something you typically see! Practices went by and we saw a helicopter over the XC course covering the races. You never see a helicopter at a NORBA event. Not recently anyway! The XC race was broadcast live and highlights were shown again when I got back to my room that night. The crowds were arriving in droves. This town is situated in a bowl of mountains. Mountain passes are about the only way to arrive in this town and the nearest airports are four hours away, but that didn’t stop the spectators. Walking though this small mountain town was amazing, the spectators were everywhere! The streets were all packed and the cars had to slowly creep through. This town was also known for its Tax Free status and the visitors were definitely taking advantage of this! This town was making out because of the popularity of this sport. DH, MTNX and XC all had fans there and most of the fans were at all the events.
The DH race began and the Helicopter was out. The fans were out as well with Horns Bells, whistles and whatever they could use to make noise. The racing was intense as the riders descended at very high speeds. I spoke to a few riders who said they weren’t used to going that fast. As the riders got faster they suddenly stopped. It turns out the top 10 women and top 10 men had their entire run filmed by the camera. This added wait time between runs, but it was incredible. In the end the fastest Man was Fabian Barrell. The fastest Woman was Anne Caroline. Fabian leapt off the stage during the awards and crowd surfed away! The crowd at the stage was packed.
MtnX was also incredibly fast. 4x Phil built this course just as had most courses this season. The course followed long stretches of fall line and the racing was stepped up because of the speed. Incredibly the police (who obviously don’t do much traffic control in Italy) decided they needed to control something. They held up the race as they tried to arrest some top notch photographers for being to close to the course. But matters were soon straightened out and the racing began. There were a few big crashes including Procomp’s horrible crash which resulted in a compound fracture. The crowds here were amazing. I have seen a course lined with people before, but I have never seen it packed on both sides top to bottom. The spectators were about 10-15 deep in areas. The cheering, the applause, the OOhhs and Ahhhs. It doesn’t seem like much but it is so alien when you are used to a typical NORBA crowd, which usually consists of all the riders mom’s and dads and a some friends as well. I was distracted from the racing a few times just looking at all the spectators and their energy level.
In the end the fastest riders were Americans, Lopes and Kintner, both seemed unstoppable in each of their runs and both proved they were the best in the world!
On the way back to Milan the next day, my navigator sleeping in the passenger seat, I began to think about Ft William. They told me that Livigno was the smaller of the two events, what should I expect in Scotland?
We hop off the plane and walk across the runway in Glasgow with only 2 more hours of travel until we arrive in Ft William. Again it is a rental desk that we are standing in front of but this time they don’t seem as welcoming. Turns out they “don’t seem to have our reservation.” Luckily one of the five other rental companies happened to have a car and it turned out to be cheaper than our quote anyhow. When we walk out of the terminal and begin to walk across the street and there is a note on the ground. “Look Right” Well this is a good time to remember that the cars drive on the wrong side of the road here. When we get to the rental car it is even more apparent since the steering wheel is also on the wrong side. Our traveling Duo, Fraser from Transcendmagazine.com and I turned to a trio with the addition of Brady from Hcor.net. This was great, until we began loading our travel gear, camera gear and laptops into this poor little Ford Fiesta. We figured it all out however and moved on to the driving. It takes a lot of thought to stay on the left side of the road but we managed.
The Drive to Ft William was narrow, winding and scenic. It was a great drive with rolling green hills and clouds that touched the top of most of them. We arrived in Ft William and the town was packed, we found our bed and breakfasts and prepared for the week.
When we arrived at the venue it was apparent from the pits that something big was going to happen here. Trucks kept arriving as big screens, timing equipment and displays, and a redbull DJ Pinzgauer arrived with more companies filling the pit area. This was going to be big. The terrain was a lot different here. The land was soft and grassy the woods were lush and tough to negotiate and there are bugs…and they are not normal bugs. These are called Midges and they made us leave early the first day to find some sort of protection from them.
The course was all perfect, too perfect. It seemed strange that the course could be so perfect with perfect dirt, perfectly arranged rock gardens and berms and then only one foot to either side there is 3 inches of mud that covered the rest of the mountain. However this course was designed by the worlds best and built using rocks and dirt from outside of the area that could stand up to the conditions and still stay ride-able. This is a great course. It has speed, technical sections, muddy sections, jumps berms…it has it all! When I go to races I typically hike a course the first day and decide on a few places that I wanted to shoot, but this course had dozens! It also had rain, and clouds. In fact they had a helicopter at Ft William that never left the ground because of the clouds. The practices went by and the riders loved the course. However I didn’t hear much from Peaty during the practice, he would look at things, and ride by but didn’t say much. He really wanted to win this year and everyone knew it. On Friday the spectators started to arrive, the crowds were getting thick and the hillside was alive with spectators. People of all shapes and sizes were traipsing up and down this mountain and it was great! I got talking to different people, some didn’t ride at all, but all of them knew about the riders. It was like asking a Football fan about his favorite player, these fans could tell you all about the riders. I had no idea fans like this existed. In the US we have Superfan, he is devoted to the sport and goes out of his way to know the riders and cheer them on, but in the UK this was normal. Everyone was superfan! The fans were from all over Europe as well. People traveled hundreds, some even thousands of miles to come to this event. The town was packed, every sign said “No Vacancy.” There was live music downtown and huge crowds everywhere. This was much bigger than a US race, even the Angelfire world cup!
When the race arrived the crowds brought their horns, they had bells and whistles some just had beer cans filled with rocks, but they were crowding the course like you see on television when you see clips from the tour. Everyone was close; the riders could feel the energy and pushed their limits. In the end Peaty took the title and Minnar took second.
The MtnX course became crowded as the fans packed in. People climbed trees to get a peak. Kids asked the riders for parts of their bike after the race. It was awesome. Riders were signing autographs and putting on a show. Lopes showed up in a Plaid hat/wig that covered his helmet. Streakers ran down the course and there was general good natured mayhem in the crowd. The races went on and as the heats progressed the crowd got louder and louder. The fastest riders took their final run and Live Ove Nordmark and Jill Kintner took the win.
On my way home all I could think is that this is how bike racing should be in the US. The sport is exciting and so impressive to watch, this is the kind of energy and enthusiasm that the riders deserve. I can see the sport is building in the US and I can’t wait to see the spectators line the course tape.