The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) is a grueling, week-long event. Out of bed at 3:00 am to get up the mountain for a practice session that starts at 5:15 am, back down the mountain by 10:00 am to spend the remainder of the day and well into the evening sorting out any bugs encountered during test runs. Repeat twice. Then pray to the racing gods it all comes together when you get your one shot on race day. And thats just the logistical side of things the road itself is a hairpin haven, half dirt half asphalt road with 156 turns stretching from 9,400 feet to a final elevation of 14,110 feet. The drop-offs are serious, the guard rails are few and far between. When you see the mountain road the Kerns are willing to navigate a high-powered race car up, youll re-think your definition of extreme sport.
As the PPIHC Race Director is so fond of saying, were all at the mercy of the mountain come race day. Truer words were never spoken for this the 87th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill climb. Rain, lightning, and even snow peppered the day. The less than ideal conditions and arduous nature of the race humbled even the most distinguished racers in attendance like Marcus Grönholm and Nobuhiro Monster Tajima.
Final Pre Race Preparations with just a week before the 2009 PPIHC the team made the decision to go for some additional power, and a Forced Performance HTA 35R was fitted to the AMS V-band turbo kit. To make it plug-and-play, a TiAL 0.63 stainless steel exhaust housing was used. During initial tuning on the dyno, the fuel system was found to be inadequate. Just a day before the event, a second Walbro pump was added to the system, necessitating a re-tune. With Martin from AMS Performance arriving in Colorado mid-afternoon on Tuesday, he was put straight to work adjusting the fueling curves.
Friday night before the race marked the official Fan Fast and the NOS Energy Drink crew came out to man the event with 1000’s of cans of tasty NOS and a 30 foot spread including pictures of the entire NOS Energy Drink Team drivers lineup. The AMS / NOS Energy Drink Hill Climb Evo was parked out front, and whenever crowds started to dwindle, wed treat the crowd to the sounds of 20psi and launch control. Huge crowds would form almost instantly, but once dark, the car spitting flames drew the attention of law enforcement too, and that was that. Over the course of the 5 hour event, many kids (and even a few adults) hopped into the car to imagine what itd be like piloting the car up The Mountain. Dave spent most of the evening answering questions about the car to passersby.
The run order for 2009 was reversed from the last couple years, with the motorcycles and quads heading to the start line first. The Unlimited division always gets to choose when to run, and Monster Tajima decided it would be best to run early in the day to take advantage of the cooler temperatures. Summer on Pikes Peak can mean rain, hail, or snow, sometimes all in one day. As fast qualifier we were given the choice to start 1st or last in our class, and based on some rain about 20 minutes before our class was set to run, Dave opted to start last to give the road a chance to dry. It looked like the correct decision up until a red flag brought the race to a halt for 20 minutes, forcing the two fastest cars in class to take the starting flag under a cold rain.
Concerned about not overly spinning the tires, Dave backed off on the launch, but didnt take off cleanly. A second quick launch and the Evo was off. It was immediately apparent that something was wrong. Instead of 30psi on the boost needle, it was registering 8psi. In addition to the boost leak issue the team was also battling a gearbox wear problem which was causing random 3rd gear disengagement. Dave decided to hold every gear in to minimize the chance of forgetting to hold 3rd gear in and having it pop out at an inopportune time. With all these challenges the team knew a shot at the record was out the window, but knowing anything can happen, they pressed on hoping to salvage a class win. But given the circumstances, Dave and Allison set a very respectable time of 12 minutes and 10.335 seconds , garnering them 2nd place in class and a mere 40 seconds off Grönholm and the factory Ford team. Although rumor has it Grönho lm had his own turbo issues to contend with. Just goes to show, even with immense preparation and loads of talent, Pikes Peak can bring any racer to his knees.
The teams next event will be the Lands End Hill Climb in Grand Junction Colorado on August 8th & 9th, where they look to defend their win and lower the record they set in 2008.
Dave & Allison would like to thank the following sponsors for their help:
* NOS Energy Drink http://www.drinknos.com
* AMS Performance http://www.amsperformance.com
* Exedy Racing Clutches http://www.exedyusa.com
* AEM Performance Electronics http://www.aempower.com
* TiAL Sport http://www.tialsport.com
* DHP Composites http://www.flickr.com/photos/dhp_composites/
* Spark Tech Ignitions http://www.sparktechignitions.net
* Forced Performance http://www.forcedperformance.com
* Salta Motorsports http://www.saltamotorsports.com
* Check Point Racing http://www.cp-racing.com
Please visit our official 2009 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Gallery for more images from the event.
Stay tuned for videos from the event.