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Loose nut behind the wheel
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First off, I want to thank my team. Mary, Deb, Mark, Todd and Jeff went above and beyond the call in making sure that we were prepared for the challenge that the mountain and our competition would provide. Secondly, I want to thank everyone involved in making the 2003 running of the Pike's Peak International Hill Climb a success.

We had a blast. I can assure you that we took all the mountain had to give and then some. While we are disappointed at out ultimate result, we are satisfied that we could have challenged for the Group N win except for two glaring driving errors on my part.

Practice on Friday (the only day of practice for GN and 2WD) went well and uneventful for our team. We tried a couple of set-ups and were satisfied that we had a good package for race day.

Saturday dawned and it was obvious we were in for a beautiful day. I won't bore you with details but let's say that finding your assigned paddock space is a bit of a challenge at Pike's Peak. Once we were set up, it was just anxious anticipation of the event and the driver's meeting in the way of our run. Jeff and I did find time for a photo op with the Pirelli girls prior to our run.

We had qualified in the middle of the GN field and felt that we could finish better as we had saved the "race" tires for the actual run. The wait to take your run at the hill is a very anxious time. There are hundreds of people milling about and offering words of encouragement. We finally were at the start line and ready to take our run.

The green flag drops and we launch. Not the greatest I've ever done but then again, I was trying to make sure we didn't break at the start line. The first section of the hill is new tarmac. I don't know exactly how long that section is but I would guess a little over a mile. I lifted once the entire paved section. Yea baby, we are hooked up.

Once on the gravel, it is obvious that we are much better set up than we were last year. The car is drifting nicely and easily controlled. We set the fastest GN trap speed at the Picnic Grounds straight. I notice that the engine temp is starting to climb so I turn on the heater full blast to try and get some temp out of the motor. It is now REALLY hot in the car.

The first true hairpin of the mountain is the location of my first big error for our run. Last year we were very loose coming into this corner. It is a fairly fast left into an immediate hairpin right. This year, I let the back end of the car get too far off the line and into the marbles and around we went. We finally stopped with the front bumper hanging off the mountain and the engine stalled. We restart and reverse away from the edge of the road to resume our run up the mountain. I know that we just lost the possibility of a win but figure we can still salvage a decent finish.

The middle section went well and we were using all of the road. We were really flying when we went through Glen Cove and the W's were fast and uneventful. Past Devil's Playground and hundreds more spectators.

For those that haven't been to Pike's Peak there are two very fast downhill sections on your way up the hill. Both of them lead to long, sweeping, right hand bends. This year, we do them both flat in fifth. I realize that the engine temp has come down so I turn off the heater. By now we are in the thin air and the combination of the heater being on, driving harder than I can ever remember and the altitude, I am fighting to catch my breath. I know that we are almost to the top and fight to stay sharp to the end.

On the last tight hairpin on the mountain, I loose the handle again. It is a left this time. I set up perfectly for the turn and we back in, well set to power to the summit. Unfortunately, I overestimated the grip (or underestimated the marbles) and it becomes clear that we have carried too much speed into the corner. When we finally stopped the back of the car has dropped off the mountain and we are at a sharp enough angle that I can't see the road in front of us. Thankfully, I didn't stall the engine this time. Foot to the floor, build the revs and dump the clutch. Presto, we are back on the road. The beauty of all wheel drive (sorry, I couldn't resist)!

The long left leading to the finish line is a welcomed sight and we have made it. Two hair-raising moments, bucketfuls of adrenaline, and 14,400 feet of altitude make for an extreme rush that cannot be described. We end up fourth in class, six seconds behind Mitchell/Donnelly and 25 odd seconds behind Gubelman/Pace and the winners, Hoeck/Lin. Without the spins, who knows, but I didn't lose for lack of trying.

Mark Utecht

P.S. Lunch at the summit was great but I'll let someone else tell that story.
 

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The heck with the spins. Nice job anyway Mark! Thanks for posting the story too. One of these years I'm going to have to get out there for the event.

Regards,
Brian Johnson
 

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50 L3/CR 70 Yump 200
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Ahhh Lunch (after our jelly donut breakfast of course).
Much thanks to all who contributed to the ProRally Pikes Peak potluck last saturday....

Wolfgang & Julie for the carrot sticks
John Dillon for the healthy stuff (power bars & trail mix)
Cindy & Doug for the salad and Italian dressing.
JB and big Al for dessert (twinkies)
Mark and I had the entree; gyro meat, pita bread and of course, taziki sauce, all courtesy of Jake & Tellies restaurant in Old Co. Springs. (Where we again had a fantastic meal on Friday night).

See the RallyAmerica website for a photo of the spread on the "tea tray" of our WRX.

I am sorry for all the yellow shirts, as there were no leftovers.

- next year, gotta get the ProDrive guys to bring up a blender for the drinks
 

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<<Jeff and I did find time for a photo op with the Pirelli girls <<prior to our run.

That's as good a reason as any to run that hill in my book.
Hmmm, mebbe I'll haveta find my way over there next year.

-Dave LaFavor
#532
 
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