Editor’s note: Colorado native Tommy Boileau will be competing in his first Pikes Peak International Hill Climb later this year. This blog is the second of a series detailing Tommy’s journey to—and up—the mountain.
As I sit here writing this most recent blog post, we’re less that three weeks out from the big day up on the big hill, and I’m absolutely ecstatic. Our car builder, Jim Leithauser, and everyone else involved with this project has been working tirelessly to get to the point that we’re at. We knew coming into this that it was a monumental task to take the Chevy SS NASCAR designed for competing in the NASCAR circuit and turn it into the absolute monster of a PPIHC car that it is today.
I’m so incredibly excited that we now have a complete car. We fired the car up for the first time a little over a week ago, and I have not been able to wipe the smile off of my face. The vicious growl of the V8, combined with the thrilling whistle of the turbo, can bring out the kid in any car enthusiast. The excitement doesn’t stop with the sound of the car either. We added a big 70” carbon fiber wing to the rear of the car to help keep the rear end settled down at high speed, but it also just looks plain cool. You can definitely still tell that it is a NASCAR, but you know it’s something special when you see all the small, well thought out additions. The car is absolutely perfect!
The interior of the car, or “my office,” has been completely customized to fit my every need. It’s a cozy little space with a crazy looking full containment carbon fiber seat that has been custom molded to fit my body perfectly. The shift lever has been perfectly placed to make sure I have no issues rowing through the gears of our T56 transmission coming off of each of the tight hairpins of the infamous “W’s” up on the mountain. Jim even let me pick what colors I want each of our little LED switch panel lights to be. It truly feels like home.
We have started our testing and shock setup on the car, and I am 100% confident that we will be ready to leave it all on the road come race week. The first day for us up on the mountain is June 26th, the first day of official race practice. The practice format for this race is very unique, as you never get to make a full run up the road until it counts on race day. Instead, they break the road into three separate sections and drivers make numerous runs up these sections on their designated days. As a rookie, it is required that I make at least on complete clean run through each of the sections on the practice days before I can make my full run on race day.
The bottom section of the hill runs from start line up to the mid-point known as Glen Cove. This is the “qualifying section” of the mountain, so it is extremely critical to get through this as fast as possible to ensure a good run time on race day. The second section runs from Glen Cove up to the 16 Mile point known as Devil’s Playground (which is the most beautiful place in the world to watch the sunrise). The third and final section runs from Devil’s Playground to the finish line, and is probably the most intimidating part of the whole mountain. You’re well above the tree line at this point, so the outside of every corner is just blue skies with cliffs at the edge of the road. Oh, and our trap speed going into the “bottomless pit” corner should be somewhere around 150 mph. There is absolutely no room for error up at the top.
I’m mentally and physically ready for the challenge that lies ahead. The car is just as ludicrous as we had hoped, and now it just comes down to 156 corners spanning 12.42 miles up one of the most beautiful roads in the world. LET’S DO THIS!
Words and images via Tommy Boileau