Since my last piece on Texas Rally Sport, I keep finding myself unsure of what I’m getting myself into but I’m totally excited with the results. For example, I was offered the chance to run crew for friend Brianne Corn, otherwise known as TRS’s ‘mad woman’ from Rallycross. She’s also the 2011 Pikes Peak 4WD Time-Attack champion, and has a laundry list of different SCCA and Rally America wins and championships.
Still, this was a tall order for me. You see, this Texan has never been north of Dallas. I’ve always wanted to attend the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, but I’ve never had the opportunity. I’ve also never had the time to make the trip. Things changed, however, during one late-night session spent wrenching on one of the many project cars in her shop. Brianne asked me why I wasn’t going to Pikes with the gang;
“Money. I can’t afford it. Hotels, flying, tickets, all that mess.”
“Well… Do you mind sleeping on hotel floors?”
“I want you with us at Pikes Peak.”
It really wasn’t until the Friday before we left when I fully realized what was happening. Here is this great goal in life, one of the few actual “bucket list” items I have, and I get the chance to take it on in the most wicked way possible by actually being a part of it. There really is no better way to go through this adventure, some of the strangest stuff has happened to me that that could never happen again. For instance, how often do you get to ‘race’ down the mountain, while it’s a closed road, behind open wheel cars in a rental Ford Focus? Shit-eating-grin doesn’t even begin to describe that experience. At the same time, I have seen first-hand the dangers of racing at this level, with an accident involving a few friends close to myself and the team.
But first, we have to get there. I was in Austin, the car was in Dallas, and 900 miles beyond that was Colorado.
It was midnight on Saturday night. I wound up leaving work very late and then met up with my friend (also on crew) to carpool up to Dallas for the first leg of the trip. The original plan was to bring the Rallycross Subaru to the mountain, but it was hit while driving home from a race. So instead, my steed for this great adventure was a red Focus, not unlike the “Cosworth” rental from TRS event #1. Just to note, by now, the car has so much racing pedigree that I should be paid for this rental… ahem. We loaded it up to the brim with spare parts and luggage.
Beyond the decision to carpool, there was no real “plan”. We had hoped to meet up with the shop that was doing the final work on the car and sleep inside. However, that idea never actually relayed to the guys inside, and they happened to leave 30 minutes before we arrived. Camp time! The co-driver setup a cot, and I some how found a Tetris-grade position which seemed comfortable in the Focus. We crashed outside the shop for the night.
Vorshlag, one of the car’s builders, has best described the massive thrash to get the car out the door on sunday, and their article is well worth the read. Jason McDaniel (Peter Solberg calls him Papa) of Vorshlag was our Crew-Chief, and mastermind. After we rolled the car out of the shop, Brianne hopped in to do little test driving. I hopped into the passenger side soon after. Riding along with her in a 100-horsepower Subaru Impreza is fun enough, but this 600-horsepower STi was wicked with its steam-roller sized tires, lots of aero work, and insane turbo power. To paraphras Doc, “When this baby hits 5,000 rpm, you’re going to see some serious shit.” Joy rides aside, it was time to get on the road. We loaded up, and left at sunset.
The drive through out the night was long and boring. Exhaustion wasn’t my enemy, but the hundreds of miles of black and empty highway. Leaving Texas was more than half of the trip, and all of it was a blur. At one point, we pull off in a rail yard for a “20 minute nap.” Two hours later, we groan into motion and over to a local diner for much needed food.
Some coffee, eggs, and bacon later, the convoy is back in motion flying towards the Texas border. New Mexico wasn’t worth noting, but the border to Colorado has the grandest entrance I’ve seen for a state. Post cards can’t even look this perfect.
We get into Colorado Springs early on Monday, and setup shop at a motel. We’ve been given graces to take up a third of the parking lot with our goose neck trailer, a small trailer for actually hauling the car up the mountain, and our eventual fleet of rental Fords (very strange coincidence), as well as work space for everything we were doing on the car. Can’t thank Garden of the Gods Motel enough for their generosity while we setup shop.
Brianne and I start running around Colorado Springs to handle some various errands. We needed posters made, my camera batteries dropped off to be charged (Both ended up dying on the drive), and we needed to pick up a gas-drum pump. Brianne had a friend at a local speedshop, so we headed that way.
When got there, the Lanier’s Speed Shop was closed for lunch. At the same time, this couple was walking up to the door as well. We started talking to them for a bit. The gentleman happily announced he was from Seguin, Texas, and was a former racer. He was also friends with Lanier, and happened to be in for Pikes Peak. His wife was from Tyler, Texas. In her own Texas manner, she knew the days, hours and minutes they had been in Colorado, and jokingly said, “There’s just too much sky for me here.” We talked for a bit, and then left to go run a few other things while waiting for Lanier’s to open. When we got back, the couple was inside talking to Bob.
Lanier’s is my kind of shop. The BLOWER sits right in the middle of the room. 409, Firepower, 383, B16 turbo, tunnel rams, 6-71; every nut, bolt, stud, filter, cam, gasket, intake, and go-fast goody was present in the little ‘show room’ in front of the counter. I was bouncing around the shop like a gnat on meth looking at all the goodness.
While I was distracted looking at shiny go-fast bits, Brianne had struck up a conversation with Bob and The Gentleman from Seguin. He was an old-school racer who has been up Pike’s Peak many times. Through conversation, Brianne told him about her first time racing up the mountain. She had loaded her motorcycle (which she built), and trailered it behind her little Subaru from San Marcos, Texas to Pike’s Peak to race the mountain for the first time. While she was annihilated on the mountain, it drove her to push harder and go further in racing. Her motivation has been to see that if a person puts all of their efforts into on area of life, what are the results? How far can she go with absolute dedication? The Gentleman from Seguin mentioned that he was a part of a group of motivational thinkers called the Super Intenders. He spoke at length about it, how it drove him through his racing career, and asked us to hold put while he grabbed something from the car.
He came back with a poster in hand, and wrote his name and number on the back. The front held a quote, “When you develop yourself to the point where your belief in yourself is so strong that you know you can do anything you put your mind to, your future will be unlimited.” A sentiment so strongly reflected in Brianne, “Aw, y’all are going to make me cry.” The Gentleman from Seguin’s last name was Sage. It’s hard to put into words how perfect of a moment it was. The simple meeting of some Texans at a speed shop in Colorado turned into a pretty fantastic moment of emotion, life perspective. When we got in the car, we were just amazed at the how the whole experience turned out. One of those events that reminds you that there are still great people hovering around, and they appear at the most unsuspecting moments.
The rest of the day was spent relaxing, showing off the car to passing families in the hotel parking lot, and taking in the massive presence that is the mountain. Tuesday was tech inspection, and tonight was our last night of real sleep.