I still haven’t totally accepted the fact that it’s 2012, let alone the fact that we are 1/12th through 2012.  January was a crazy busy month for the Fingers Crossed Racing Team… and it doesn’t look like things are going to be calming down at all anytime in the near future.

It has been very interesting following all of the updates from the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb directors and the other drivers.  Valentin and I are both very excited to have secured our entries into the event.  I think that there is no denying that the event is going to be very different this year, and with all of the anticipation of this year’s event, I just can’t wait to be on that mountain.  It’s good to see the event growing and gaining some of its much-deserved publicity.  As with all things in life, the event is changing, growing, and developing.  I’m excited to see so many new names on the entry list, and it will be good to see many of the Pikes Peak veterans on the hill again this year. For a while, I wondered if Tajima was going to enter…. I was relieved when he did because the event would not be the same without him or his bravado.  Seeing Texas Dave’s (Carpetyan) name on the entry list at the last minute definitely put a smile on my face too.  Conversations with Dave were part of the foundation of the Fingers Crossed Project, as he planted the seed of me building my own car for the event at the SEMA show back in November.

I have been going to Pikes Peak since 1997. I remember when the road in front of 8 mile (our annual stomping grounds) was dirt; and I remember when my father would lift me up to high five Mike Ryan in the truck.  To me, Pikes Peak is more than just one event a year.  That mountain shaped my childhood in so many ways.  The people on that mountain, the officials and drivers both, have become part of my family. I can’t ever see that changing, and I welcome all of the 2012 competitors into the family. It’s going to be a wild ride.

It has been so fun building the Fingers Crossed Racing team with Valentin.  I’m really, really excited about this project.  When we started Fingers Crossed, we weren’t entirely sure what the project was going to end up being.  It’s a living project, and I think that over the years it will continue to develop and bring new adventures. (Don’t forget to mail us postcards from all of your travels… I heard something about cookies and FCR swag being involved for winners…)

The car that I will be taking up to the summit of Pikes Peak this summer, Sergei, is coming along.  We are just about done with the roll cage.  This is my first time being involved with anything of this sort. As much as I loved Michele the MINI, I wasn’t a part of her build or development.  I’m amazed by how my connection to Sergei and my knowledge of the car continues to grow.  I still walk into the garage and look at that (almost) full roll cage, and I remember just a few months ago sitting in the car with a measuring tape helping Valentin with the cage designs.

I’ll be honest, laying underneath a car on the cold garage floor with a spray bottle that’s intended to keep the underbody of the car from igniting in flames, is something that I had never done before.  I have pieced together memories of helping my father with a welding project when I was younger, but aside from that, I had never been around a welding project.  When we had pieces cut and notched, we would tack them into the car with little welds.  It amazed me how much I could tug on those pieces, even before they were fully welded in.  It helped me to understand how sturdy a properly built roll cage can be.

In January we purchased a 20-valve turbo engine that will be Sergei’s new heart.  It was convenient that the engine came with such a nice carrying case that included wheels, a chassis, seats, and a trunk.  Okay, so maybe it was a whole car that we bought.  I insisted that we named the car after a person who was already deceased, I figured that way I would feel less bad about ripping out its organs to give to Sergei.  So, Elvis became part of the family. (For those of you keeping count on Val’s attempt to convert me from BMW’s… that does bring my total to two Audis and only one BMW…. Uh oh!)  We will begin the motor swap as soon as the cage is done.

We are still on target to have the car build completed come mid-March. That should leave us enough time to test the car and make sure everything is set for the Peak. But, knowing the racing world, it still won’t be enough time.

In addition to the car build, Valentin and I have still found some time for other adventures.  We have done a few events with Our Gang Ice Racing up on Georgetown Lake.  My parents have been competing with Our Gang for close to twenty-five years.  My folks are letting us share their 1964 CJ5 Willy’s Jeep for the weekends.  We do use the description loosely; the car is far from stock.  When we put the bolt tires on the Jeep it will haul some serious booty.  The inch and a half sharpened bolts in the tires have a way of providing a pretty satisfying amount of grip.  Also up in Georgetown, Valentin and I volunteered to instruct at the US Audi Club’s Winter Driving Skills Clinic.  It’s always a great time to give people the opportunity to learn more about their cars and how to drive them safely in winter driving conditions.

The last weekend in January, Valentin and I were forced to set the DVR to record the 24 Hours of Daytona while we headed north to Steamboat Springs, Colorado.  The US Audi Club had organized an event at the Bridgestone Winter Driving School.  I had heard about the school and site for years, and I was really looking forward to getting up there.  I opted to be a co-driver for the event, but I still had a blast riding with Val in his 1983 Audi Ur Quattro, Walter. (We don’t even really want to try to start a count of Val’s Audis….) After day one of the school we met with fellow Pikes Peak competitors Dave and Allison Kern.  Dave Kern is an instructor at the BWDS and Dave was kind enough to give us a little “demonstration” at the school.  I hadn’t seen the Kerns since Pikes Peak last June, so it was great to catch up with them.  Unfortunately, on Sunday, Walter’s engine had a very cold demise. And so we begin coupe project number two…

A quick lap around track 3 of the BWDS (Steamboat Springs, Colorado) in a 1983 Audi Ur Quattro, “Walter” with Valentin Ivanitski and Savannah Rickli.