Testing and Tuning… Oh and fun, lots of fun

The Kern’s BMW is finally running. we rocked, we rolled and Dave just straight up deprived himself of sleep and rest, but in the end: that car rocks. Yes, it is running. we finished up saturday, did a big donut in the parking lot at around 9 pm and then headed out to CORE for some testing at 10:30 the next day.


First impression… EVERYTHING WORKS! it is incredible how many little things you need to think about when you do this type of thing, but everything works! It is kinda a miracle. The car was a blast and Dave gave me a ride in it to show me what all the sleep deprivation, bloody knuckles and just general tinkering is all about. Man that is fun.

The course is rough, it is narrow and it is pretty quick. I think we topped out 5th gear in the straightish parts and jumps, tight corners and “other” were regular occurrences. It makes me want to get my hands on a car that I can play out there with…

No post is complete with out video right.. well check out some in car action!

Buildin’ the Bimmer

I’ve been helping Dave Kern build his BMW rally car whenever I have free time. Unfortunately that isn’t that frequent! It has been teaching me a lot about cars and letting me do one of the things that I enjoy the most, figuring out solutions to problems!

Dave has about 16 months into this car, I have maybe a few weeks, so I can’t take a whole lot of credit, but I was down there the other night and we got some of the “you may actually drive this soon” parts put on. Brakes are bled, the engine is all ready, pedals are in, skid plate mounts are in. It is actually looking like we may run this and stretch its legs this Sunday!

A quick note about Dave. Man can that guy drive. It is pretty incredible really. You don’t really have a solid appreciation for what a good driver can do until you are riding along and seeing all the things they can do with a car. Last year he drove my car at Georgetown and I watched as my car did things that I didn’t know it was capable of. I am pretty sure that even Subaru may have been baffled. This year I rode in my car again with him at the wheel at BWDS and again, wow. How does it do that! However one of the most awesome experiences was in Mitch Williams rally car. Dave threw that thing around and at one point said “yeah, that is about as far as I would want to push someone elses car.” I was thinking “well that is about 45% more than I would want to push my own car! Allison, his wife and co-driver is brave enough to ride with him and incredibly skilled at keeping him on track. I suspect we will see her behind the wheel of the Bimmer soon! Check out their website in my links, you’ll be following along with their adventures soon enough.

When the pedals are in, the steering wheel was installed and we could sit in the drivers seat. Well your imagination puts a track in front of you. Your peripheral blocks out the shop walls and you create the sense of speed and suddenly you realize that you are making the engine sounds you imagine will emerge from the hood. Yes, we both did this, but Dave quickly remembered…. TURN THE KEY!

The ice is where it’s at!

This year has been quite the year for speed on the ice for me. I have raced nearly the entire season at Georgetown and now I have had the chance to run up at Bridgestone Winter Driving School as well!

Georgetown is a pretty amazing thing to have nearby. The Our Gang Ice Racers provide very affordable racing very nearby. Heading up there takes an hour and the racing usually lasts all day. For only $20 on the race days and $5 on the fun days, well it is pretty tough to find any racing that comes close to that type of affordability. We’ve been having a lot of fun getting to know the crew up there as well, attending meetings and just basically hanging out with the guys and gals that run the racing up there. What a great group! I’ve had a great time getting to know them, racing with them and working with them on new ideas. With Jon’s suggestions they have started making some longer tracks which everyone seems to be enjoying. So now we have half to 3/4 mile tracks to run rather than 1/4 mile tracks, combos of sweeper corners and tight hairpins and man they are fun! Check out a video from the last race of the year.

Since I know some people in the racing world I happen to know some instructors at the Bridgestone winter driving school. Since I attended the school back in 2007, I was invited up there by Dave Kern. We headed up with two sets of studs, one car and a closing day at the track.

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Bridgestone is a pretty cool place. They create the same ice tracks each year with the help of Gordon Speck, their track manager. It is all laid out by GPS and it is an amazing site when seen from the air. Unfortunately I don’t have access to that video to share with you, but hopefully I can dig something up for you in the future. In the mean time check out www.winterdrive.com for their information.

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Bridgestone teaches winter driving skills to students that are novices up to advanced drivers. They do their entire school on bare rubber with Bridgestone’s Blizzak tires. They also do truck and trailer driving classes which are pretty incredible to see as well. We were fortunate to be able to try out the studded tires on the track. From what I understand this is either the first or one of the very few times a studded tire has ever been run there. I can tell you that it was an incredible experience!

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We bolted up the tires on my car and we bolted up Jon’s set on Mitch Williams rally car. WOW what an awesome time. The studs hooked up like crazy, the track has big walls of snow which provide a bit of intimidation, but man, when you nail a corner it is just an incredible feeling. The studs scuffed up the track a bit and combined with the temperatures make the Blizzak’s hook up even better. HERO GRIP! So I bolted my studs onto another car to let others have fun with them then ran my Blizzak’s and had a blast as well!

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In addition to driving the track it was incredible to be able to ride with some awesome drivers. Dave Kern took me for a spin in the Rally car and what an awesome experience. We hit 90+mph on the ice and the confidence and control that these guys have is amazing. Matthew Johnson was out in the rally car as well and it was amazing to see him tearing up the track.

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I am sure you are wondering, where is the video from Bridgestone… well look no further! Click play and enjoy. Keep your eyes peeled for some rally cross videos this summer.

Georgetown Racing

It was a beautiful day at Gerogetown Lake this week. Sunny, warm and the wind was only intermittent. We’ve actually had some really nice race days up there even if the first days were hovering around-50 with the wind chill!

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This week I talked my co-worker, Szady, into coming up to race. He has an Audi S4 and we talked about winter tires for a while until he decided to go with the Bizzak’s. So what better way to test them out than to come up and race on Ice! He ended up winning his class!

I had the good fortune of winning one of my two classes this week. We had a subaru studs race and a Pro Street race on a big long track with lots of speed. I got a bit hesitant with the speed on some of my laps. Wow it sure seems different when you are hauling at 45+mph on a glaring sheet of ice into a hairpin turn. It is a LOT of fun though and I really didn’t get to comfortable with it until my victory lap… which seems a bit funny now that I say it.

Jon got 3rd in pro street studs, which is a solid accomplishment as well. I went out in the first round!

This time however we added more cars to the video. More jeeps, bronco’s subaru’s audi’s. Everything! Mix all that together with a bit of rocket man and tada! You have a cool Our Gang Ice Racin’ video.

It’s a cold day in Colorado

You know it is a cold day when you can throw your boiling water into the air and it turns to ice before it hits the ground!

Today I decided to partake in this fun experiment, again. However I broke out the GoPro again to share the fun with you. I am beginning to realize that I seem to have a thing for ice however. Ice Racing, Ice sculptures and now crazy boiling water ice.

Hope you enjoy and if you ever have a chance try it out yourself. It needs to be at least -9 from what I am finding.

Georgetown Ice Racing

Another weekend in Georgetown and another fun time. We headed up there to compete on the ice with the Our Gang Ice Racing club and had a blast!

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I always feel as though I finally have the course dialed about 2 hours after my race. But I love going out there and doing lap after lap to go play on the ice. I am also glad that I haven’t gone out in the first round yet this year which at least gets me a second run. Hopefully at some point I will have some familiarity with their course setup and be able to start visualizing the fast way a bit sooner so I can be more competitive!

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It has been great getting to know these guys too. It is a bunch of people who are basically just looking to have fun. I can appreciate that because that is my whole motivation for going out there. I just want to have fun! Sideways action and “fast” speeds always bring a smile to my face!

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This time I made another video. I am fortunate to have a friend in the film world. I chatted with him last week and he gave me a few process ideas, pointers from a guy who uses Final Cut Pro for his job. “Naw, don’t use that format, use this format,” was how the conversation went. Use this format, do it like this, it will turn out awesome. So I did and I did a bit more research in color correction in FCP and a few other things and I am really psyched with the progress. I love making these videos because they all help me learn the program and the motivate me because I am so excited to actually work with this video. Anyhow, I hope you enjoy this weeks installment on Youtube.

New Years on Ice

Yeah, ice is cold. Maybe too cold… But wow is it fun!

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New years day we headed out to Georgetown to go racin’! The Canadian Conti Ice tires we have spec’d out to fit into the mens pro street class and we were able to race with the big boys. The day wasn’t without controversy, but Jon and I were, eh, less than impressive on the ice this time out. Maybe it was the recorded -20 degrees, maybe it was all the hairpin… Maybe it was the pressure. Who knows, but I ended up with 5th place and Jon, well I don’t know what he got. I did win $5 though with my certificate of AWESOME.

Award

The day was very cold, we were able to get out and race however and unfortunately there were no practice runs on the course. It was a fun course however and definitely challenged me. The course was what they refer to as a “coke bottle” which should describe the shape well. At each end there was a hairpin and this was pretty tough. Without using the handbrake we had to rotate the car around this pin and I can honestly say that this isn’t something I have tried to do before. My first round I was doing horribly, but the guy I was racing hit a cone so I won by default. My second round I did fantastically, my turns were perfect and as I crossed the line I let the back end get away from me… and I hit a cone! My racing day was over, but we waited around and once the Pro Street class was done everyone moved to the Cheaters course. Jon and I spent another hour and a half driving the course. We got lap after lap on the course and had an amazing time. We are a bit competitive, but we mainly just want to go have fun, go sideways and just play! Of course, as you are aware, we will take a GoPro everywhere we go…

Another fun day on the ice, we are looking forward to more races soon!

The Video Action

It has been probably 8 years since I have really done anything big with video. I have been tinkering a bit more recently however with POV cameras mainly and basically just having fun learning Final Cut Pro. It is quite different from the Media 100 system that I used in the past, but I am beginning to figure out some of the quirks and getting a bit more comfortable with the system. In addition to that, in 2005 YouTube came out. I missed the early years of figuring out the proper compressions, file types and workflows that are optimized for online streaming so I am catching up now as well. Trust me on one thing. I have been making a bunch of mistakes. One right after the other typically. But I am getting a bit more comfortable and working out a workflow that is getting a bit better to deal with these things.

In the next year I am hoping to get some more of this stuff dialed in. I like having the ability to make videos that are more professional in quality. Hopefully with a bit more tinkering in my “free time” I will be able to get prepared for a few more projects I have in mind.

This year I am playing with the GoPro’s at the Kart track and using the video to tinker with more and more settings, export options and all kinds of other things that the programs have to offer. I am hoping to make a short Ice Racing video from this season as well to show off how awesome it is to race on the Ice and I would love to try to do a bigger and better Pikes Peak video this year too.

Over the past two years or so I have shot a bunch of smaller videos, just quick edits and rough things that I threw together with music or just threw together in an afternoon. I was doing short videos for our SoapBox teams too. They were all done at some ridiculous hour and squeezed in before I fell asleep.

Here are some videos from over the years from some of the adventures we have been on.

Feb 2009

July 2009

September 2009

January 2010

March 2010

March 2009

July 2010

September 2010

December 2010

PPIHC Video, Jimmy Olson and Spencer Steele

Well after a week on the mountain and posting GoPro’s all over two open wheel cars I had a chance to tinker with the footage we got. Unfortunately I haven’t had as much time as I’d like, but we put together a nice little video. The audio is all engine and the speed is all as it happened. It is pretty impressive to ride along and see how close they get to the edge!

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Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, 2010

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.

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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.
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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.
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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