PPIHC: Video Number One

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

You can also see this on My Life @ Speed

Savannah Rickli on Fox

Yes, that is right, the 17 year old, youngest competitor on pikes peak, mini driving, highly motivated and driven young lady has made it onto the news for Pikes Peak. They are calling her the Teen Queen of the mountain. I was up at PP this weekend and did a bunch of video and was able to help out Savannah and her codriver Rebecca Greek with a bit of video for their news coverage. Check out the news coverage here at Colorado Connection’s Website I shot basically everything that was not onboard footage

Here is a quick shot of their car last year (I only shot video so far this year)

Carbon EVO Dash | Part 2

I don’t know why I forget this stuff, but I am remembering how much work making a mold is… Yeah. It is one of those things that I remember when I really think about it, but when I haven’t done it for a while I convince myself that it will just take a few hours.

If you haven’t seen part one of this build check it out here. This time I have been going layer after layer, working my way up and trying to get a nice smooth final product. There have been some tricky parts like the airbag area and the vent holes. In addition the portion that I have made with foam is a bit tricky as well, occasionally when you get beyond the bondo layer you find out what happened very quickly when you hit the soft foam! I reached a point where I needed a much better visual indicator of what was going on. So I had to put a coat of glossy paint on in order to see the lines better than I could with the flat primer. So I chose a red paint and painted it up. It gave away some issues immediately. There were some sanding marks that were a bit deeper than anticipated, some waves that I needed to sort out and basically it just did exactly what it needed to do.

Carbon EVO dash project

Carbon EVO dash project

Carbon EVO dash project

So I did a full wet sand on the part and really smoothed it out. some spots got all the way back to bondo again through the paint layer and the primer layer. Once I got it all smoothed out another layer of glossy red and WOW! what a difference! It looks very good right now. There are a few little imperfections, they are all pits and will actually be easier to fix in the mold itself so I am going to leave them and sand them out of the final mold.

After the mold was fully prepped we took aluminum tape to create the rest of the part. Basically the part needs draft, so using the tape is much faster and easier to shape for portions of the mold that we don’t care about. Plus it doesn’t really stick to the fiberglass, so that helps as well.

Carbon EVO dash

Carbon EVO dash

Carbon EVO dash

I believe that there will be two more parts to this project, one more for the mold making and one more part for the final part that we pull off the mold. Check back soon!

Cadet Chapel and Pikes Peak

If you can’t appreciate natural beauty then you must appreciate architectural marvels right? On the 4th of July, we decided to take in both in the same day!

Air Force Cadet Chapel

We started our morning by heading down to the Air force academy in Colorado Springs. I had never been on base before and wasn’t exactly sure what hoops we’d have to jump through to get through their checkpoints. It was a simple process and no cavity searches were performed so the day started off nicely. You can see the Cadet chapel from the highway, though the closer you get to it the more impressive it seems. The chapel stands in distinct contrast to the other buildings there. It has a very modern look with metal and glass standing in a sharp point aimed to the sky.

Air Force Cadet Chapel

Melanie is here from Germany studying religion in America and wanted me to join her at one of her church experiences so I asked her to select an architectural masterpiece to visit and this is where we ended up. I am sure you can imagine that we looked maybe a smidge out of place with me looking around at all the architecture and the design and Melanie taking notes through the service. I suspect nobody noticed in the end however. We were able to check out the inside of the building as well however and it is pretty amazing. The background on the building is that it was built from 1959-1962 and designed by Walter Netsch. The chapel is constructed of tubular steel, aluminum panels and colored glass. One of my favorite things is the pews in the protestant chapel, they were designed to resemble WW1 era propellers, both the ends of the pews as well as the seat backs to the pews. The Organ is also on full display in the upper chapel. I have to admit however the cross behind the alter had a lot of resemblance to a sword in my mind and I don’t know how I feel about that.

Air Force Cadet Chapel

Air Force Cadet Chapel

Air Force Cadet Chapel

We made our way downstairs to see the Catholic chapel as well, this is a much smaller space but the walls were nearly entirely stained glass and gave the impression that the ceiling was floating. It is a pretty interesting room. I didn’t know that there were two more rooms downstairs otherwise I would have looked at them as well. The Chapel apparently has a Jewish room and an “all faiths” room.

Air Force Cadet Chapel

Air Force Cadet Chapel

From there we headed to Pikes Peak. Of course I have been there a billion times, but Melanie had never been on top of this mountain and of course, with all my jibber jabber about the race and the road, well she kinda had to see it in real life to get an idea of what all the fuss was about. So we ascended the road and stopped at a few lookouts to enjoy the scenery. The day was beautiful and the weather couldn’t have been nicer! We spent some time at the top of the mountain before heading back down and took a nice panorama from the top as well!

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Afterward we rushed back to get dinner with friends and then not watch fireworks because the rain had eliminated them as a possibility. It was a fun day though and it made me excited to see more architecture! I only brought my G9 with me on this adventure. I didn’t want to stick out to much with a huge camera taking pictures at the church!

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.
JimmyOlson
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

AutoWeek

So for a few years I was a contributer to AutoWeek magazine. I shot photos and wrote articles for the Pikes Peak Hill climb. It was a very fun gig and I really enjoy that race, but eventually I had to give it up. I just have to many things on my plate and I needed to ease back a bit.

Steve Bennett from Martini racing at Devils Playground

One of my first articles for AutoWeek is one that I am most proud of. I was able to write for them with no restrictions. My article was just what I wanted it to be and although I felt that I could have expanded it a bit, it is an article that I would like to save. So take a moment and read this if you have a chance. I’d love to hear feedback, but I also just want to share it.

AutoWeek Link

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Race day!

Spectating at Pikes Peak is NOT for everyone. It is a full commitment sort of thing. You need to know when you leave your house at 1 am that you will not be getting home anytime soon. You will be sleeping in your car, you will be eating whatever you brought with you and you will be dealing with the elements with whatever you are prepared with. You need to be ready to be isolated to one place on a mountain side for a solid 12 hours.

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At 2:45 am we rolled up to the line of cars that had already formed at the Pikes Peak Highway gate. We were about a mile back fromt the gate and we were ready, sleep was tough to come by even at this hour…so we waited…we chatted and we watched the row of racecars that drove up the access lane.  At 4 am the gates opened and we followed the twisty road up and up the mountain. It is fun driving up there at night because you can see the headlights of the cars ahead of you traversing the road thousands of feet above and below you.

We arrived at our destination, 12,760 feet above sea level, Devils Playground.  We parked the car and attempted to sleep. Anticipation is the key problem to sleeping however, so sleep was light and strange. Dreams mixed with reality and eventually we awoke to see the sun shining, it was 7am, 2 more hours.

We prepared for the day, a light hike to about 13,300 ft to see Boulder Park, then we would slowly make our way back to Devils playground.

Cars were on their way when we arrived in Boulder Park. Actually they were on their way, completely out of order. We were fortunate to have arrived prior to the Unlimited classes departure however, so we got to see them speed past at unimaginable speeds through corners and at the edge of clifs on the way up to 14,000 ft.

We began heading back along the road in order to take advantage of a few shooting locations, but the weather began to turn, so we started making quicker time back to the safety of the car.  We spend some time using the cars shelter, then time out on the course watching and spectating the race. Rain came, lightning, hail, sleet and sun… Temperatures fluctuated from cold to hot in an instant and the road’s personality was revealed. I don’t think the mountain wanted to be beaten that day. 10:15 was the fastest time, posted by Monster Tajima. Marcus Gronholm crossed the line about a minute slower, with a blown turbo and a rear wheel/tire/brake on fire.  Eriksson crashed at Engineers corner, which is a popular crash location and Mark Rennison posted a mediocre time because of engine trouble.

Dave and Allison Kern were looking amazing all week during practice…however their car just sounded a bit different during the race. They posted a time of 12:15 (approximately) and I came to find out that they lost an intercooler line at the start line. They went from 30lbs of boost to 4-8lbs in an instant. The power loss was dramatic but they were able to capture 2nd place even with this loss!  Imagine what they will be capable of with all their horsepower available.

I am already looking forward to next year. I have my fingers crossed that Gronholm and Eriksson will return ready to take on the mountain with a bit more experience under their belts. I hope to see Rennison return, maybe with a more reliable motor and I hope to see the Dave and Allison Kern return with their motor in full working order too.

Pikes Peak is an amazing race, there is no other event that I am aware of that puts the spectators so close to the race, the drivers, the cars and the course. The history of the mountain is a great thing. I look forward to seeing it again… and if you are an event organizer reading this, drop me a line, i’d love to help you make this race even bigger and better than it is already.

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb….practice

There is definitely something unique about going to bed with your alarm set for 2:30 am. Personally, I do this pretty rarely, so when I do, I have back up alarms that are extra loud and maybe even closer to my head than normal.  Surprisingly it is always easier to get up than I expect.  This is what it takes to spectate the Pikes Peak international Hill climb.

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Every year I head down to this race. Normally as a photographer for a magazine. This year however I went down simply to watch…and take photos…just not for a magazine.

Thursday morning at 3:30 am, we were rolling through the gate on the way up the mountain. Darkness hides the exposure on the sides of the road as we gained elevation but onward and upward we went heading past Devils playground, Engineers corner, the W’s and many other famous corners on the mountain.  We finally made it to our destination in Boulder Park. It is always a good idea to get to Boulder park first. That way your car can be the most protected from the rocks and debris that the vehicles will inevitably throw backward as they accelerate away. This year I was joined by my good friends John Grimberg and Jeremiah Hueske. Jeremiah has come to the event the last couple years…it has become a bit of a tradition and we are now collecting more people to share it with.

We parked the car and shut off the lights to complete darkness at approximately 12,700 ft, the temp said it was 44 degrees, but the thin air simply chilled you to the bone when you stepped out of the car. We stayed inside, protected from the elements, watching top gear. As the sun snuck up from the horizon the mountain was revealed to us and we began listening intently for the sound of engines.  Soon, the sound struck our ears and we knew the day was about to begin.

Cars began charging up the mountain, one after the next. The most anticipated were the newest vehicles, two Ford Fiesta’s driven by Marcus Gronholm (codriver Timo Alanne) and Andrea Eriksson (codriver Per Ola Svensson) as well as the RS 200 driven by Mark Rennison. Of course, Monster Tajima was right up there as well with a purpose built vehicle that has been coming to the event for years, but the facination was with the new drivers and vehicles…

Eriksson came charging past then suddenly there was a red flag. word came across the radio that his fiesta was on it’s roof!


Mark Rennison had issue the day prior and was taking his practice runs in a rental car as well, so Monstar and Gronholm were showing us how fast the mountain could be driven.


Among the other drivers were Rhys Millen and the Kerns. Rhys is a top drifter and he simply makes things look perfect when he drives by. His car is always sideways and he is one of the most exciting drivers to watch.  The Kerns put their stamp on the race last year with an impressive time that shattered the record in their class by nearly a minute!  This year they were back with 200 more horse power under the hood and a lot more technology in the car.


The driving was incredible, faster and faster during each practice run. You could see the line being etched into the road and the drivers beginning to find their pace as they practiced the course. As the excitement rose the time progressed and 9am came around.  Practice was over. We were back to our hotel about 10 hours after we woke up and it was only noon!

Friday started the same way, 2:30 rolled around and we were getting up. Packing for the day and getting ready to head up to the mountain again. This time we were headed to the lower section. We arrived at our destination, Eleven Mile, and immediately saw something we hadn’t seen before, Cars. There were nearly as many vehicles on Friday, practice day, as there normally is during the race. It was clear that the new drivers were bringing more fans!

The sun began to rise and the fans emerged from their vehicles. The day was perfect, not a cloud in the sky and just a faint breeze. The first engine began up the hill and we all waited in anticipation. The motors are often so loud that you would swear that they were coming around the corner you are looking at even when the vehicle is still a mile away!  Soon the first car blasted around the corner and threw a huge plume of dust into the sunlight. The car dissapeared as fast as it arrived, the entire time we saw the car it was completely sideways at full speed. This is why we come here!

The anticipaction of the race began, speculation of who could take down the 10 minute barrier… Then speculation on what the weather would do and whether or not Eriksson and Mark Rennison would get their cars back together. Then of course the topic of the event came up.

Pikes peak is the only event that I know of that every driver comes back, not because of the event, but because of the mountain. The draw of that mountain is strong enough that every driver that I have spoken to repeatedly says “I don’t think I want to do this anymore” but every year they are back.  I am sure you are wondering why they wouldn’t want to do this anymore. The reason is simple. The race is run very poorly. The marketing, organization and, well basically everything all seem as though they undergo no planning and are simply put into place by hasty descisions and big egos. This year no timing was displayed to help boost interest in the race. Never has there been marketing in Denver…which is 70 miles away from the event. Restrictions are put on the Media at such a high level that they don’t want to show up to the race for any reason other than its history.

But even though competitors feel as though they were duped, media feels unwanted and spectators have to make a large effort to spectate (this is just the nature of the race however, not a reflection on the organization) the event is successful.  I can’t wait till tomorrow to head up to Devils Playground and watch fans and vehicles roar as the clock ticks.  I hope to see the record fall, but a small part of me wants to see the mountain hold back that 10 minute barrier once again! All this will have to wait, because tomorrow is race day and tomorrow the mountain will decide.