Finally can catch up and do a cumulative post…

Late Friday we finally finished the work on the car and loaded it up. I wanted to drive across Utah and most of Wyoming in daylight (some EPIC roadkill at night and I really didn’t want to add to it). So at around 8 pm it’s all packed, M and I go home for an hour or so to grab our stuff and then we hit the road. Tristan and Jay decided to fly – 25+ hours in the van again wasn’t appealing enough I guess. Not an option for us.

The drive is long but thankfully uneventful. I sleep for 3 hours in a truck stop but other than that it’s straight through. In the meantime the flyers encounter a challenge – seems their plane sucked a cone into the left engine while parked at the terminal. That’s a new one to me. Jay said the airline was insisting it was a bird strike for a while. Odd looking bird!

They were supposed to meet Justus, our intern, who is flying into Denver from the FSAE event in Nebraska. She landed at 2pm. They were originally scheduled to get in around 10 – a long wait now made longer. M and I get updates on all this via text message as the van devours the miles, now in darkness. I try to find ‘sweepers’ – trucks going at approximately the speed I want, to stay 500 feet behind. The hope is that any suicidal deer would meet their fate on the sweeper’s bumper and not mine. I see countless evidence that it’s a popular thing to do for deer in these parts. Some of it is very fresh. Fortunately the drive is without incident.

Tristan finally texts that they’ll be arriving in Denver around 2am. We’ll be driving by a couple hours earlier so we arrange to pick up Justus curbside. The toll road is odd – lots of automated checkpoints though it isn’t clear if they’re on or not. If all are, we’ll be getting quite a bill in the mail since price is per axle.

Arriving in Manitou springs the weather is quite nice, sky is full of stars and the only remaining unknown is whether I can fit the larger trailer into the gravel driveway off the steep street, especially after what is now 29 hours on the road. No problem, first try. Tristan and Jay show up shortly thereafter.

Sunday is a full day to recover from the trip. Jonathan flies in at midnight. Monday is registration and tech. Waiting in line to get teched we check out some of the other cars there. Pretty impressive machinery! The Honda factory LMP car is particularly fun.

Pikes Peak has very stringent safety requirements, for obvious reasons. Fortunately the D2 is ‘overbuilt’ by design and we only had to add two tubes to our chromoly frame to better resist boulder intrusion. The staff go through their checklists, measure thickness of rollcage wall tubes and firewall, then sign off on the car. We’re good to go!

After tech, Jonathan and I attend the rookie school and the general drivers’ meeting. Now all the formalities are done and at 3am the next day we’re up on the Mountain for testing. Our class (Pikes Peak Open, so far we haven’t been asked to move classes) is running on the middle section today. We follow a long string of cars and trailers up the road. The van struggles to get up to Glen Cove with the loaded trailer – it’s carrying probably 2,000 lb more car, equipment and spares than it did three years ago. But eventually we make it.

Setup is now routine – get unloaded, turn on the generator, go through our various checklists, wait for light.

Today’s primary goal is to test the new aero. We get four runs and make several adjustments. It is working well and responds to changes as anticipated. This section has few high-speed corners so the real test will come on top tomorrow and then qualifying below on Thursday. But this gives us good data to review. And some cool video that we took to see if the wing is moving or vibrating – thanks to Andy at MyLife@Speed for setting it up. All seems well in that regard. The Mountain is gorgeous in the morning!

Even without mufflers the car is still very quiet – here’s a video of one of the launches. As in earlier tests, we finish second fastest behind Paul Dallenbach.

Upper section tomorrow. Jonathan has not had any chance to drive it yet due to weather two weeks ago and the hectic schedule since his arrival. So we’ll be taking a cautious approach and focus mostly on fine-tuning the aero settings.

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