Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pikes Peak 2009- Days 1-4: Cliff's Notes

Saturday July 11, 2009
9:30AM departure from RRM World HQ in Austin. Vehicle #1 (truck, trailer and race car) hauls Wes, Jen, PC and Rudy while the much more road friendly vehicle #2 grabs the early lead hauling Dave, Eli, Nathan and Tyreese. Except for a couple stops for food and the occasional fuel stop the trip goes quick and smooth and we arrive in Green Mountain Falls, CO around 11pm to set up camp. The car comes out of the trailer, the EZ-Up canopies go up and tools are scooted around just enough so a couple sleeping bags can be laid out. Some opt for tents while some sleep in the trailer, nobody stays awake for more than a few minutes.

Sunday July 12, 2009
Everyone is up around 8 and starts work on the car. As always, there's plenty of setup and suspension issues to tackle before testing the following day. Our co-driver Ryan sets us up with some engineers from Fort Collins, the first of whom, Cody Ragone, shows up around 7 to visit about the car and setup to make a game plan for the morning. We finish the day with a team meeting around the campfire and hit the hay for testing in the morning.

Monday July 13, 2009
An earlier morning, we're up in the 7 o clock hour to finish last minute prep and load the car for testing. Cody and a couple of the guys head out to Pikes Peak Intl Raceway which we've rented for the day to set up scales and equipment while the rest of us head to the windshield shop to replace the thoroughly cracked windshield in the race car. We meet Cody as well as our second setup specialist, James, at PPIR and get the car on the scales to start corner balancing. The car needs a lot of adjustment but has limited means so the work is tough. After a few hours of wrenching, driving, wrenching and driving and burning through a whole set of Bf Goodrich R1 race tires, we're satisfied enough to call it a day. The car isn't perfect but it's at least got a reasonable baseline from which we can tune. We head back to the campsite to button up the last few things we need to do before heading to Tech Inspection and Registration in the morning. During the last few minutes of testing, Ryan pulls me aside to let me know he has some conflicts that will prevent him from performing at 100% and that we should begin the hunt for a new co-driver. We discuss it more over the campfire that evening as well as a game plan for tomorrow before getting some sleep.

Tuesday July 14, 2009
The madness starts today. Tech Inspection and registration.. I forgot my Rally license which I needed to be exempt from the medical exam. Bob at Rally America was nice enough to fax over a copy and that problem was solved, car went through tech quick and without a hitch, everything was ready to go. Myself and the co-driver went to the peak to do our first reconnaissance, the engineers stayed behind as well to check out the course and get ideas for setup. Adjusting our notes from the previous years, Ryan and myself made quick work of the mountain while scaring the pants off Cody and James who had never been on the infamous Pikes Peak Highway. A lot was discussed and some new ideas were presented for suspension and aero setup.

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew was in Denver at Mac Autosport getting the engine tuned for the new altitude. Nick and the guys at Mac are always the utmost professionals and a real pleasure to work with, especially when they up our engine to 575hp and 500 lbs of torque... at the wheels!

The dyno crew headed back excited about the car having fixed a few more small issues while the engineers at camp were hard at work with new ideas but also with a big to-do list on the car before the following morning's practice on the middle section of the mountain.

Meanwhile, Ryan and I went to the drivers meeting before meeting up with the new co-driver, Adam Kneipp and briefed him on the race, rules and our program.

Soon enough, the crew from Denver was back and the car was quickly pulled and parked and a team meeting put everyone into a frenzied stressful craze as we had to remove half the bodywork and cut large parts of the car that were rubbing on the wider tires. The time was 9pm and as good neighbors we can't be cutting, grinding and hammering in our campsite past 10pm. In addition, there was a lot of suspension work and repair to be done in the same time frame and on the same part of the car. The cutting and hammering was done just after 10 and the crew loaded the truck and trailer while the driver tried to get some sleep before the 3am wake up call.
Day 1 practice is complete, blog of the day's events to come.