King of the Mountain

Right after Cisco Live I packed the car and headed out for Colorado. I loaded up the tent, sleeping bag, backpack, and general provisions for driving a 30+ year old car a long distance. Honestly I’m pretty impressed that RubySu and I made it all the way out to Pike’s Peak and back. When driving an old and somewhat sketchy car your expectations and plans have to be pretty flexible. You’re encouraged to pull off to the side to take in the scenery…while the car cools down for a bit. You learn to get out of life’s fast lane and take it all in…because in this car there is no fast lane. It’s a bit of a trip back in time; in my case to the time before the invention of A/C. I think our parents and grandparents had a lot more reason to hate driving across Kansas than any of us do today. 100+ degree temperatures in a metal box scooting across the prairie can make even nun want to kick the habit. As Calvin’s dad would say, “It helps build character”. In these circumstances you learn how to react to emergencies and inconveniences with a much cooler head. Now I know what to do when my car is billowing smoke out the exhaust when coming down a few thousand feet of elevation…nothing. That makes the car guy in me cringe, but in this situation I just had to hope it stopped when I hit Kansas. It did and she ran like a top all the rest of the way home. (I just found out today that someone from JHA actually saw me somewhere near Colorado Springs tending to my car.)

I drove to Pike’s Peak for the chance of a lifetime. I went to see one thing; Sebastian Loeb become King of the Mountain. I truly think you’d have a hard time finding someone better suited to take on the Peak. Seb is the ultimate rally driver, he knows how to push his cars to the absolute limit of control and no further. He’s been perfecting his skills for years in the WRC and he out performs everyone in both speed and consistency. He especially excels on tarmac courses and is backed by a company extremely motivated to take back the mountain. One of the attributes I like about drivers in the WRC is that there is an air of humility about them. I think it’s because each of them know that at any moment the slightest mistake or mechanical failure could cost them the race. Rally races are as much about endurance as they are about speed. Knowing when to push and when to pull back. This is why Seb is uniquely prepared for this race. It’s a different type of race than we traditionally see in the states and so we don’t have home grown competitors able to compete at the same level. If we devoted more time and interest to this sort of racing it’s not unreasonable to think that we could produce a few top notch drivers to compete. However, even then I think it’s unlikely that we’ll see a driver better suited for this challenge than Monsieur Loeb.

And he did it. Loeb conquered the mountain in an amazing 8 minutes and 13 seconds. It’s hard to find a frame of reference for how amazing this feat truly is when looking at past races. Making comparisons between years isn’t particularly fruitful because the race course has evolved slowly from all gravel to all tarmac. Each year as more tarmac is added times naturally improve. Comparisons should only be made between years when the course has been the same. 2012 and 2013 are the first two years entirely on paved roads. However, you also have to consider weather conditions. Last year I heard there was rain near the top which resulted in slower times. So the full minute and a half difference between this year and the last isn’t quite the full story. For a better perspective Pike’s Peak 2012 record setting driver Rhys Millen had an impressive run this year at 9:02, but was still a full 49 seconds behind Loeb.

It’s hard to say how long Loeb’s time will stand and allow him to retain the king’s crown. I’d like to think a very long time, but I’m pretty biased because of my love for rally racing. Who knows, maybe it’ll stand until I race Sweet Pea up the mountain to claim the crown.

I’ve also got a few pictures from my adventures at Gatorland. We went there one evening during Cisco Live.