Elbowed In The Gut – Giants Despair Hill Climb


This is my recap for the Giants Despair Hill Climb, one of the toughest events I’ve done.  The ghosts of crashes past were still in the air, but I knew I needed to get back out there.  The weather on Saturday was erratic. It started out ideal then showers slowed the total number of  runs down. Then the road dried quickly and we were back at it. Then heavy downpours. Then a little sun and wind. Something for everyone.  The correct tire choice was changing hourly, never the best but I was here to do it, so here I went!

Giants Despair…First Run.

Turn 1, leading up to ‘The Elbow’

The mile or so course starts out as a rolling straight to a full throttle left turn sweeper..and.. then THE ELBOW. You can’t see THE ELBOW over the last rise. It’s a 110 degree steep incline right leading  to a short straight section. My wife said I was flying through the sweeper , then slowed down too much. After careful GO PRO review (not published…), it seems I lost all nerve approaching THE ELBOW and hit the brakes and downshifted too early. Lost seconds. My son reprimanded me. “Dad, the radar gun had you at 85 mph through the first turn. What happened.? You slowed down!” The only answer I could come up with was “Yep.”

Second run

Once again I failed again to stay in and go deeper. To make matters worse I couldn’t find second gear and drifted up THE ELBOW cursing. By the time I managed to get it into second I could hear a rowdy spectator yelling “COME ON!! At least I was spared the cheering that’s reserved for those that crash. Tough course. Tougher crowd.

So during the rain delay I had a few pit mates with far better driving skills evaluate my in car video. They said my lines “weren’t bad” and suggested a few minor turn in spot corrections. The video was choppy for some reason and they couldn’t see my total lack of speed through the THE ELBOW and THE ESSES  (the scary/fun parts of the run). Just as well they didn’t see that. You can correct a line but it’s much harder to overcome the tendency to slow down and survive.

The Mini goes past in the video above at 0:56

The rest of the weekend.

Sunday the weather was ideal, but there were several blown engine events that took some time to clean up. One blow up was on the 22 degree incline section to the finish line. We were told “Stay to the left when you get up there to the finish.” Nice! Just what I needed. That was the one part of the run I was good at. You just keep it floored , steer, and wait. The Mini Cooper’s 1.6 liters of displacement are only going up that hill so fast. I topped out at 80-85 mph. Turns out the detour around the oil spill wasn’t so bad,  as long as you were ready for the ”road camber effect” as you crossed the yellow center line.  Oh, I forgot to mention that. You either use the cambers on this hill to your advantage, or they use you and redirect you .. wherever.  Note to self-Make sure your tire pressures are correct (low) if you intend to stay in “camber control.”  Otherwise they can bounce you right off the course.

I finished last ( again) out of 7 in the SMF class. Gary Reider and Eli Sharp’s SAAB soundly thrashed me. And Gary’s Green 900 S that he sold to Mike Daley,( also a 2 driver car) beat me. I’ll stop there. I ended up with a 58 .something seconds as my best effort. Pretty much the same time I ran in 2013, before all the performance enhancements. At least I wasn’t going slower than 2013(as I’d managed to do quite well at Weatherly and Pagoda).

As my son said “Well Dad, it sounds good.”

The bright side is I live to compete again. Intact, humbled , and eager to improve.

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