The Virginia City Hillclimb (June 20-21, 1998)

(here with Rachel --how come I didn't get pitt crew member No 1 Jeffrey on any picture ? Damn)
I had a fantastic week-end at the Virginia City Hillclimb, in company of John Lefcoultre & his wife Jane McKenna and Bo Elgby.

This is an event greatly organized by the Audi Quattro Club of USA, and John and Bo told me it was fantastic so I decided to join them this year.  John and Jane were sharing their green/yellow Caterham De Dion which is truly beautiful (some of you have seen it in European Car Mag. of April or May) with tall FIA bar, vintage look aeroscreens, prisoner wheels, race seats, shaved Kumho tires, carbon exhaust (rear exit), and a throaty 155bhp Xflow.  Bo Elgby was there with a very nice set up too, black Caterham on R13 Yokos, 1700 Xflow, and a wonderfully shiny aluminium all around (nice job, Bo).  I was there with my De Dion 1996, that I drove all the way from San Francisco (240 miles).  More precisely, that my friend Jeffrey drove all the way from San Francisco, while I was trying to get some sleep in the Mazda of my girlfriend Rachel (as usual, I had some very short nights before going there).  When we arrived there, Jeffrey told me, a large grin on his face: ``man, you ruined it.''  ``-what ?'' ``-well, how can I possibly buy a different car now, the virus has been totally inoculated...''

I think he too got an okay time.  When I was not sleeping, I could look at him waiving through traffic, running around other cars, slowing down in the straights after Lake Tahoe on Hwy 50 just to be able to take the following twisties very, very fast...  This by the way gave me yet another enthusiasming perspective on my car.  The way it moves is so wonderful.   A week before the event, my tach broke (the spring in it), and I had to change it.  I took the opportunity to change also the oil gauge which was reading way too low and had way to slow reaction times (electric sender and probably a big low-pass filter in the gauge).  I put an Autometer tach and a mechanical Stewart & Warner oil pressure gauge, and of course the holes in the dashboard were too small...

Anyway, once there we met great people from all horizons, all coming there to confront The Hill.  This is a 5.2 miles course with 22 turns and 1210 feet of elevation.  There is a long straight where a guy with a radar gun takes your top speed.  Start and finish lines have a beam trigger to measure the times, but I had to use my own watch to get an idea of how I was doing, since they don't reveal the times until the Sunday night banquet, in order to prevent people from ``being too competitive''.
(map of the course 1.6MB).

I felt very much under-powered in the course, with my 130bhp xflow which was feeling more like 110 at this altitude (6200 feet).  There is a long straight where basically I was almost taking a nap with my right foot on the floor, waiting for the next turn.  Aside of that, the course is really fantastic and great fun to run.

My initial objective was to not look completely stupid out there, but still to go only for 75% or so of the capabilities of the car, since this is not a track course (there are cliffs here and there off which I would rather not fall).  As it turned out, I put the foot down and talked to her.  At some point on Saturday afternoon, I got brought back to the realities, and my enthusiasm got a bit tempered by a beautiful spin on exit of turn 4, which by luck I maintained on the road. There was no excuse for this, in my memory the turn was not as tight as it actually was, I went on power and apexed too early, unwound the steering also too early and then, ``oh sh*t, the turn continues!''  Put the foot down to get more traction and tried to steer more, but finally exited a little too wide (about 6 inches) in the gravel of the shoulder.  Since there was no run off space out there, I was not keen to have a little off-track excursion, so I tried to bring it back as much as I could.  As you all know, this usually results in a spin when the front wheel comes back on the track.  Start of spin on the left, counter lock, spin on the right. At some point, I was completely sideways and spinning but judged that the center of G was going straight on the road.  I then applied the advise that an old teacher gave me in Switzerland: ``more than 45 degrees of slip angle = no chance of recovery --> full brakes so that you continue straight and are predictable for the other cars, regardless of your spinning''. So did I (full brakes), and I went as expected straight on the road, spinning in a nice cloud of tire dust.  I stopped facing downhill, took the recommended 1/10 second to check that everything was okay with me and the car, and then started again after half a spin under throttle.  I had the satisfaction to observe the corner guy to get up from his chair, and finally I managed a 4:12 in that run...

After that, I was chicken and it took me until the next day to get again decent times (less than 4 minutes).  Bo Elgby came with me on Sunday morning (the poor chap broke his engine Saturday afternoon just while he was on the way to 3:50 !  Pity, because he was getting better and better times), and he gave me excellent advises about where to shave seconds here and there.  At some point on Sunday, I did my best time at around 3:56, though it was only my own timing so I'm not sure that is what they recorded.  [For the record, I learned later that it was 3:55.710, avg speed 79.42mph, top speed --radar-- 87.6mph; By comparison, the winner (David Beddor, driving a yellow Ruf CTR 2 Sport) did 3:20.909, avg speed 93.18mph, top speed 127.5mph].

Of course, the really competitive guys were much faster (best time from previous years around 3:25, I think), but they also had the power (and the money) to get probably around 120 mph in the straights, whereas our Sevens get less than 90 mph (at least according to the bicycle speedo I mounted in my car...)  I wonder what we could get with the QED engine (280 bhp) on that course...

Here are some other pictures taken by Tom Gerard, a photograph hired for the occasion by the Quattro Club:

When I came back from there, I had a couple of additional stickers on the body, plus a beautiful trace of leakage (oil, fuel ?)  from the carbs down the rear wheel arch (through the Virginia City Hillclimb yellow stickers, it was magnificent).  I didn't wash the car for at least two weeks because I loved the look of ``World War II veteran airplane'' just too much. Finally, Rachel washed the car while I was away...  Aughhh!  I need to go to the track soon to get back all the brake dust and high-speed insect deposits.

Back from the Virginia City Hillclimb, some pictures taken by John Edwards


Last modified: July 1998. Return to Pierre's homepage