(continued from above)
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The cage in Millen's drift car, shown above. Those skinny bars are 1" tubes, the "big" ones are 1.5". This car had one of the weakest cages in a professionally built car I've ever seen - it wouldn't pass a NASA or SCCA tech inspection for a club level race, but it still met the minimum requirements for PPIHC (which are based on Drift cage rules). I crawled all over this car during Friday practice looking at the cage, but of course didn't have my camera. The tubing sizes and layout were staggering to me - I wish I could share that here, now. It uses 1.5" diameter tubing for the main structures and 1" tubing for large parts of the car. At PPIHC tech, this car weighed 2999 lbs with him in it. Sure, this minimalist cage is good enough for doing the driftoro thing in a parking lot, but if he had gone tumbling down the mountain or into the trees, Rhys would be one of the least protected driver's on the mountain. Well, maybe the 2nd least protected...
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I was scrolling through Matt's pictures from FanFest, trying to find better pics of Millen's cage and stumbled upon this gem. This is another random competitor in Time Attack Class, above and below. This 5th gen Camaro had a supercharged engine, some blingy 20" wheels and a wrap, but was almost a totally stock street car. Remember: This car passed PIHC tech
, checked off as "safe" to drive up the most dangerous hill climb in the world. This is the 2nd year it has entered and run PPIHC. What is wrong with this picture????
That wiggle in the down bar is bad enough, as is the bolt-in nature of the cage, but the front down bar doesn't even go to the floor! It also has little dune buggy seats. The PPIHC tech folks looked at this, two years in a row, and said, yes, this cage is good enough to withstand a potential crash like the EvoD car encountered. Riiiiiiight....
Even seasoned PPIHC veterans suffered big crashes, like Paul Dallenbach's huge off. What was noteworthy here was how close this car, traveling 130 mph off course, came to a pack of spectators standing on the outside of this turn. When I saw this on the video it made me think: "Was this a race in Mexico
or the USA?!" How they get event insurance coverage is a complete mystery. Allowing people to stand on the outside of turns was ludicrous, and it stopped right
after some of the key crashes happened that day - I know this first hand, because I had to move from where I was taking pictures near the start line. I don't care that it "has worked for 90 years", allowing spectators to wander willy-nilly around the race course under green flag conditions obviously wasn't working then. From what we heard, a little girl was injured after the boulder she was standing on top of was hit by a car, but she was released from the hospital the next day. Stuff happens here that doesn't happen elsewhere.
Dallenbach's crash was pretty massive. 1400 whp, going 130 mph in 5th gear, throttle stuck wide open, off into the trees, barely missing spectators
As many have reported there were too many crashes at this event; I've heard that this event had more than ever before. After driving up and down the mountain a couple of times, once in the rain, I can see why. Personally, I now have zero aspirations to ever drive this course in anger. You have to be a little nuts to race up this mountain. ZERO room for error - you go off, you are probably going to go tumbling down the mountain or blasting through the trees like Dallenbach
While I have respect for anyone that races at Pikes Peak... I still think they are all
bat **** crazy. Nice folks, but just a bit nuts.
This event was by far the most dangerous thing I've ever seen. As harsh as I have been in my critique here, I do respect hill climbs, as this sport involves the short term intensity of autocross with the biggest dangers in all of motorsports, rally. It is a unique type of event and Pikes Peak is unique among hill climbs. Yes, mistakes were made, but they can be fixed. The number one issue still lies in the number of entrants they allowed to run the course on race day. 170 drivers (the entire amount left of the 211 that signed up) took to the mountain, which was about 50% too many. This was after qualifying had whittled the field down to 100 entrants. At the last minute the event organizers caved to political pressure from many entrants (possibly rightfully so) and changed their stance Saturday morning at 8am to allow all
entrants to race, two hours before a protest hearing. This allowed too many entrants to fit in the allotted race period and allowed some entrants that honestly were not qualified to race on this mountain. One of the Unlimited class drivers had never done any sort of competition driving... not even an autocross. Nothing. Crashed twice in practice
, banged up his co-driver a (edited), and was still allowed to race. These things don't need to happen.
In years past, the attendance from cars at this event had dropped so low that the organizers were bending over backwards to allow just about anything, creating new classes to attract Drift racers, rally racers, and more. They adopted their existing safety regulations, to try to entice them to come without having to modify their cars. Last year they had about 70 racers make it to race day. This year they had 170 racers and ran very late, with many racers running in the predictably bad late afternoon weather, causing more crashes and delays. Now that the mountain is fully paved and they have an over abundance of entrants, these safety concessions need to be readdressed. I know of several racers that are already sending letters to the PPIHC board to ask them to tighten up safety requirements, reinstate vetting of some kind to try to reduce the number of inexperienced racers (and car builders), and to make the event safer for both racers and spectators.
Come Watch before you Race
One thing that anyone contemplating running a PPIHC event should do is go and work crew for a team one year. If that is the only thing you take away from this post, then at least it was worth writing. Coming from a time trial, road racing or other W2W background, some things you see here will seem foreign, disorganized and very different to you - as they do me. But if you talk to enough experienced competitors you will likely get an understanding of why
things are done differently, and how the minimum rules aren't always the best way to do things. I'm still processing all of the data I learned at this event, almost a week later, and at least I know more than I did before going to this event.
This event has been run for 90 years so the organizers might not be amiable to change anything. If the safety regulations do not get a big update next year, future PPIHC entrants will have a choice - do they built super light cars & cages and skimp on safety, just run the safety regulations from whatever racing series they are coming from, or do they follow rally safety regulations and build a car with a proper cage/nets/seats that can survive a crash on this mountain? I hope, after reading this and seeing these pictures, they give it a second thought.
I did meet a lot of really dedicated racers, great car builders, and saw lots of insanely cool machinery - which I will share and explore in a future post. Between me, Matt, and Brandon, we have tons of pictures that we will likely be cropping for days. Brianne's car arrived back at our shop early Tuesday morning so hopefully we can have the in-car video up later this week. Again, I am barely scratching the surface of the team's race experiences at PPIHC 2012. I just wanted to vent this insanity out first, then go back and talk about her car and experiences.
Thanks for reading.
Terry Fair @ Vorshlag