If you’ve ever gotten yourself into a bit of trouble, either behind the wheel of a car, or anywhere for that matter, then you’ve heard the term “pucker factor”. It’s that moment, and your body’s reaction to, when you realize you’re on the wrong side of the envelope. Things have gone horribly wrong, and you may or may not be able to recover.
To a man, the measure of your awesomeness is how gnarly the pucker factor of your breach of envelope, and then how well you escape the impending doom that awaits you. You can have all the pucker factor in the world, say, pucker the the Nth degree, but if you can’t recover, then you’re just another chump with a mangled vehicle who blew it at crunch time. Nobody wants to be that guy.
There are pucker factor instances that can buy you forgiveness of all future excursions outside the realm of relative safety. Those rare moments that have such a high pucker factor that they would seem impossible to recover from, but somehow you manage to keep the shiny side up. And they are, indeed, rare. You may only get one in a lifetime and when you do get one, you had better make it count.
Enter Jack Rogers of Evansville, Indiana. Jack was entered in the vintage class at the 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in his beautiful, white 1965 Ford Falcon. Don’t let the “Vintage” moniker fool you, either. This car is fast, and with Jack behind the wheel it gets up the hill in a mad hurry.
Jack had one of those moments. He was coming into the stretch below Devil’s Playground, the last lonely leg of the “W’s” before you’re on display for thousands of waiting fans at well over 12,000′ of elevation. Blazing through the same corner that sucked both Jeremy Foley and Bobby Register into the ether in prior years. Oil was leaking from Jack’s motor and had found its way under his rear tires, leaving him with no traction when it was needed most. As I looked through the lens of my camera I remember thinking to myself that there was no way he was going to recover. He was heading for the edge and it wasn’t looking good. Then the most amazing thing happened! Jack squared up the car and hit the accelerator to drove right out of what, to all who witnessed the nail-biting event, appeared to be certain disaster. The collective “whoa” was audible along the entire length of spectators and photographers peering over the edge at Devil’s Playground.
Was he ridiculously close to the edge, or hanging wheels over the precipice? No. But that doesn’t diminish the greatness that happened here. Jack was clearly on the edge of control, but had the skill and instinct to drive out of a potentially bad situation, and that’s pretty darn cool.
Here is a description of the event in Jack’s own words:
“The reason for the rather spectacular skid and recovery was that, due to an unknown crack in the cylinder-liner on a new engine. We were pumping out a lot more oil and water than the breather/overflow could handle. The overflow distributed itself just about directly on the right rear tire. Imagine my surprise going through a very familiar “blind” left-hand corner at Devil’s Playground sideways at what had previously been a very “safe” speed. Imagine seeing the back-slope of a mountain I had never seen before while fighting for control of the car! A new adventure.”
Jack is no stranger to going ridiculously fast, as evidenced by this video from Bonneville Speedway, where the miraculous mountain recover-er holds several records traveling at speeds in excess of 250 mph! A man of many racing talents, for sure.
Here’s Jack, and the photo sequence at Devil’s Playground.
Here is the sequence of Jack at “The Corner”.
Well done, Jack. Can’t wait to see you back on the hill in 2014.