I don’t mind admitting the top section of Pikes Peak spooks me. Super fast, all dirt and lined with fearsome drops, it’s the biggest challenge of the course in my humble and slightly overwhelmed opinion.
There’s no time to ease yourself into the run, for from the start you charge flat-out through the gears towards a blind left-hander with nothing but blue sky on the outside. I’m a wimp on my first run and not much better on my second, but I finally manage to plunge into the turn with my foot a-l-m-o-s-t flat to the boards, thanks in part to a spanking new pair of Goodyear Pikes Peak Blue Streaks, which really dig into the dirt. It feels good.
For the last mile and half the course gets appreciably steeper, which accentuates the intimidating effect of the drop. I’m also uncertain where sections of the course goes, and manage to out-brake myself into the tight Cog Cut corner. For a moment I think I’m going to tip over the side with brakes locked, but the deeper gravel helps slow me down, and I emerge relieved but in completely the wrong gear…
By the end of the session I feel happier to attack as the car is handling beautifully. Unfortunately it has also developed a fuelling problem and is running far too rich for the thin air at 4000m, which kills low rev throttle response and ultimately harms top end power too. The Dallenbach racing crew – Kevin Kidwell and his children Corey, Jason and Kellie – work hard to swap the Holley carburettor in time to give me a fourth run, and while better the motor still isn’t running clean. It’ll be sorted for tomorrow, thanks to the Kidwell family’s efforts.
It has been a much better morning for my team-mate, Paul Dallenbach, who had to miss most of the middle section practice session yesterday (Weds), also thanks to a fuel system problem. He’s made up for lost time this morning, methodically working down to a strong 3min11sec run, with plenty to come. Monster Tajima managed a 2min57sec run, which is some 10sec down on last year, thanks to the work to prepare the top section of the course for paving, which has effectively narrowed the road by the best part of a metre.
I’ve managed a best of 3min20sec, and though memory fails me as to my time last year, I know I’m driving with much more commitment through the blind fourth and fifth gear curves, and reckon I’ve found a good 10 to 15 seconds. I’m still lifting in two key sections though, which is costing me bundles of time against the hardened Peak veterans, but at least I know where most of the time could be found. Whether I can summon the balls required to find it is another thing entirely.
We’re doing the bottom section tomorrow (Fri), which happens to be my favourite part of the course. It also counts as qualifying for Sunday’s Race to the Clouds, and while start position isn’t as crucial here as you might imagine, honour is at stake. So is the princely sum of $1, for it’s a Dallenbach Racing tradition to bet on your qualifying time. Paul is extremely rapid through this section, so if I can get within 20sec of him I’ll be ecstatic. Watch this space…