Lands End Hill Climb Race Report
Lots of excitement during the Land End Hill Climb in Grand Junction this weekend. I finished 5th overall from around 60 entries! Having transformed the car back into dirt configuration, it took a couple of runs on the Saturday morning practice to get comfortable again sliding around and to be back up to speed on the dirt roads. The course is one of my favorite roads to race and is echoed by many a driver. The 5 mile road runs halfway up the Grand Mesa near Grand Junction and is truly a spectacle in its own right. The road conditions were really nice and throughout the weekend it kept getting better and better.
At the conclusion of Saturday, I sat in fourth place in my class and overall. I knew I had some work to do to catch up to sneak a spot on the podium. For my first of two runs on Sunday, my goal was to put in a steady, mistake free run to get a solid time to work off of. When I started going, the nerves got to me as I struggled to make the smooth line that I had planned on. Trying to shake it off, I was suddenly caught off guard by a safety worker waving the red flag at me indicating for me to stop. A driver up the road had an incident and the road was blocked, but most importantly he was ok.
Normally red flags can ruin a good run, but in my case, I welcomed it as I get to go back down and have a rerun. I got back down to the pits to let the motor cool. Once the road cleared, I got back in line to get my re-run in. This time things went according to plan. I was aggressive but steady and put in a 5:19, a personal best time. :) Still, however I sat in fourth place in my class with one run left, but the time difference was much closer. I have a chance to shake things up for the last run of the day.
The last run of the day came quickly and before I knew it I found myself on the starting block once again with a determined mindset. This time, I started out exactly how I wanted too, putting everything on the line. Then, a familiar site, at the same corner, a red flag being waved by the safety worker. This time, it wasn't so good to see it flying! :) Oh well, try to not let it affect me. No sooner than I turned around to start heading back down I felt a tire go down on the right rear side. Ok, blessing in disguise that I didn't happen when I was still running uphill. The other problem was my spare tires were on a set of Hoosier tires that were well worn and have very different feel. Oh well, I had no choice to make the quick turnaround at the line.
After changing tires, cooling down and getting to see the green flag again, I gave it my all and was using every bit of the road. I knew I was pushing hard as I could and used the ditches to slingshot around the turns and the dirt berms on the outside to kick me back onto the road. I felt like my time was going to be where I needed it to be. Right before one of the fastest parts of the road, I was attempting to setup a turn well by going wide on the outside. Then disaster struck! Going a little too wide, a rough patch grabbed the tire and sent the car spinning. At this point, I was along for the ride. Trying to counter-steer was useless. I hit a big patch of weeds on the outside of the turn that quickly slowed the car down in a controlled fashion. I felt lucky as to not feel any hard hits that would leave the car damaged. The motor cut off during the spin and wouldn't restart at first. I chalked it up as a DNF and knew there was no chance for the podium at that point. I ended up still in 4th place in class and 5th overall. I was fortunate to not damage the car any except to have to pull some weeds out from the under-tray!
What an adventure it was. I was happy of my effort and glad that I gave it my all. Congrats to Spencer Steele for "King of the Mountain" honors. Stay tuned for a November airing of the Lands End Hill Climb on MAVTV.
See you all next time as we get ready to conquer the Clifton Hill Climb over Labor Day weekend!
Cheers, Dan Novembre