There are many racers out there who believe that the Pikes Peak Hill Climb is one of the toughest races in the world. A team must be mentally, physically, and emotionally prepared. Unless someone experiences the event from a team’s perspective, they will never know how tough it really is.
Team owner of Rally Ready, Dave Carapetyan, has been building his race team from the ground up for almost 7 years. They have competed in numerous stage rally events across the country, and at Pikes Peak since 2005. Along the way, Dave has proved he is a fantastic driver, winning at Pikes Peak in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Dave built his stage rally cars by himself, with the help of just a few other volunteers who share the love for rally racing.
After 3 wins in a row at Pikes Peak, the team decided to step up to the big league Unlimited class for 2011. They would use the same Mitsubishi Evolution 8 campaigned in the past, but with more than a few “modifications” to make it the Evo 959. The list could go on and on, but this might explain what the whole plan was better:
I, and hundreds of other people, had been following the build from day one. Everyone was excited to see this grassroots team go up against the million dollar operations in the Unlimited Class. So many people loved what Dave was trying to accomplish, that he had over 100 shops offer to help in the final weeks of the build.
The days until race day become closer and closer, and Dave had yet to receive many crucial parts to make the program click. Parts were lost by UPS, and some never arrived. He kept pushing on however, with the help of Grid One Motorsports in Denver, and Rally Ready Engineer, Josh Chang. Many people didn’t believe there was any way the car would be done in time. There were a few of us though, that couldn’t see Dave giving up on something he had spent this much time and effort on.
The Rally Ready squad barely got the car completed before tech inspection. I’m sure there were more than a few tense moments while the team waited to see if they had passed. The car passed, and another obstacle was over, but many more were to come.
As soon as I rolled into the Rocky Top Campground Wednesday night, I ran up the hill to check out the status of the Evo 959. Upon entering the pit, I finally was able to meet the wonderful people who had been cranking away on this car for months. Dave was kind enough to show me in and around the car, and everyone made me feel welcome. Seeing the car in person made me think, “Wow, this really is a work of art.” Not the kind of art you stare at because of its beauty, but art that has a definitive function and purpose.
Everyone working together really made the whole group feel like a family. I wanted to help, even if it was a tiny detail. Before I knew it, I was untying zip ties, cleaning dust off the huge carbon spoiler, and cutting brake duct holes in the bumper. Even though these were all small things, I was having a blast working with and around these guys. No matter what got in their way, they never stopped looking for a solution.
The team stayed up almost all night long, trying to figure out head gasket problems during the practice days of the hill climb. On the last day of practice, the team thought everything was going to be ok. They fired up the car in the pit area, only to find the car had blown another head gasket. They worked continuously the whole morning, but there just wasn’t enough time to fix the issue. The whole team was shot. Most hadn’t showered in days, had bloodshot eyes, and yet still wanted to continue.
The next day, Saturday, the team fixed the head gasket AGAIN, and went out to test at PPIR. They then dynoed the car, and everything seemed to be coming together to at least make it past the starting line on Sunday.
Come race day, I decided on a spot near Cove Creek on the mountain. It was a huge sweeping uphill left turn, and the cars would be directly eye level with me. Fans gathered all over the hillside like ants, and there was the usual antics along with it. Race day was clear and beautiful; not a cloud could be seen in the sky. The race was plagued with delays from numerous wrecks and offs. Since the Evo 959 wasn’t finished until the last minute, most of the general public had not seen it. As I was talking about it to some guys around me, they didn’t believe the car existed. Would Dave make it this far?!
The Unlimited class started, and Tajima was setting an incredibly fast time. When he came through Cove Creek, the sound and speed was like a rocket ship on land. Tajima couldn’t have drove a better line, and his race was perfect. A few may argue, but his time of 9:51 was still very impressive even with the extra tarmac. With winds reaching 60mph sweeping gravel on the course, and the road now 5 feet narrower, Tajima earned his time.
The other Unlimited competitors of Millen, and Dayraut flew by, and word got out that Dallenbach had broken at the startline. Something told me Dave would make it much farther than that.
Everyone watched and waited to see if this so-called Evo 959 was a myth or a real beast. Then, the sound of an uncorked Mitsubishi could be heard. The sound wasn’t normal though, but I didn’t care. Dave’s car came around the bend with smoke and liquid spraying everywhere. I couldn’t believe it.
Of all the spots on the 12.42 mile road, Dave had broken down at Cove Creek! Here he was, with of hundreds of people, who were as amazed as I, to see the car smoldering right in front of them. Dave hopped out, took a wave at the crowd, and began to peel the “special” black tape away from the smoking hot hood.
As I walked towards the car, Dave turned around and was just as surprised to see me, as I was to see him. The crowd gathered around Dave’s car, some in awe, some with thousands of questions, and some who just loved seeing a car blow up. Texas Dave’s blown engine, sucks! [HD] It was a sight to see. Dave said the reason he stopped was, “It was getting a little hot and juicy in there”. Greg Trachy just happened to go off at the same spot on his Ducati, and Dave was right there to greet his fellow competitor and share each other’s story.
The fan interest alone should be enough to make Dave and the whole Rally Ready crew want to come back next year, with a much better engine, and maybe less tape. 😉 It’s stories like these that make the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, America’s last great race. It will always be David vs Goliath. – Colin Brandt
I would like to thank everyone I met and hung out with this year for making it one of the best experiences of my life….. AT SPEED. Thank you.