All the work, preparation, testing, trials and tribulations come down to this. One run up the Mountain.
Yesterday we got to sleep in, today was another early day. Surprisingly little traffic on the way in. We arrive at the pits, a couple final checks and then we wait. And watch the weather.
Friday was a forceful demonstration of what the Mountain can do. Yesterday was intermittently cloudy. Today can be anything. It starts out thankfully clear and temperatures are mild.
The bikes start pretty much on time at 8 am and their runs go fairly smoothly. First car off is around 10 am, which is a bit earlier than I anticipated. A few wispy clouds form and then dissipate around the peak. From past experience, this will change soon. We are 12th and 27th among the cars and there is a fair bit of anxiety, hoping to run sooner rather than later. When the 6th car leaves the line, Rodney climbs in, we fire up and are soon lined up to go.
And then he’s off. These are some of the most anxious moments, watching the timing screen and hoping for the best, which is all we can do at this point. Rodney’s section times are decent but not as fast as we had hoped. There are many fast cars in the Unlimited class this year. Dumas posts the top time but at 9:05 it’s well short of what what was expected. Paul Gerrard in the Enviate Hypercar, our friend/rival team, posts a 10:19 despite technical issues. This time is slower than the 10:06 Rodney ran last year but everyone seems to be slower than anticipated due to low-traction road surface and the radio announcers comment on this fact.
Rodney’s third section time comes up, and then nothing. The run is red flagged – the Focus of Tony Quinn is out with a mechanical just short of the finish and the cars on course get a rerun. Tony was one of our competitors so now we have a better chance. Rodney comes down and wants to turn around and go back up right away. We only have 6 gallons of fuel at the start of his initial run, but usage in testing has been about 1 gallon per 6 minutes so we’re good. He’s off again. Section times are a bit slower than first time but he does finish with a 10:21, behind the Enviate and 15 seconds slower than last year. It’s a mixture of relief and slight disappointment.
The clouds are starting to form. One of our other fast competitors, the S2 Audi, has a bad start and can’t make it up on the upper sections, finishing well behind. Couple others are not likely to be a big threat based on qualifying times and after their runs Rodney is still third in class. That leaves the GTR, which didn’t qualify due to blown engine and is starting at the very end as a result. So we won’t know until it’s all done.
There are several more delays due to incidents but none are serious. David finally lines up and is off on his run.
Two section times come up and then a red flag. He spun just past Glen Cove. The reports are that there is no real damage but he got stuck on the ridge of the ditch and had to be towed out. Had he been able to get going under his own power he would have been OK to continue, but as it is his run is over. Disappointing, but all part of racing at Pikes Peak.
Now we just have to wait and see what the GTR does. The weather is really starting to turn and soon it is hailing at the summit.
With only 5 cars left, the remainder of the race is shortened to Glen Cove only, similarly to some past events. This is why qualifying reasonably well is important here. After the 2015 controversy under similar circumstances that we were a part of (see our blog for that year), the current policy is clear: it will be considered a separate race, with the remaining cars competing against each other and not those who finished the full run.
The GTR looks formidable and based on lower section times that are virtually identical to Rodney’s they would have had a chance at bumping us down. Given the circumstances though our 3rd in class is safe and Rodney gets a second podium finish in as many tries.
Soon it is all done, the cars come down and we all head down. This year’s event is the smoothest of the 4 we’ve participated in. Things are better organized and many improvements have been made. As always, our gratitude goes out to all the organizers, officials and volunteers for making this unique event possible. And to the Mountain for granting us some luck – and setting the challenges that make us feel we’ve accomplished something today that can’t be taken for granted.
Now the long trip home. We’ll see what the future holds.