Lands End Hill Climb


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..
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Project Baja: The story

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.

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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!

Desert Dingos racing

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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!

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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!

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If you have a chance follow along on our build. Sign up for Rally. It will provide you email updates and if you choose to you can help support the build as well. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter or you can head on over to our Project Baja Website.

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Project Baja: tearing it down

We were hard at work on wednesday night! Tearing apart a bug to get prepared to make our Class 11 race car out of it. This thing is actually remarkably clean. It has had impacts on the front, the back, the sides… you know, the normal stuff. There is about 7 gallons of Bondo on it, but overall it is pretty remarkable how little this car has been molested!

Tear Down

We’ve removed nearly everything but we still have a few more things to tear down. The car now resides on a custom made bug stand that wheels around the shop very easily. Seriously convenient!

Tear Down

Check out PROJECTBAJA.COM for more on the tear down!