Chapter 299   April 2022


Bucket: Meet list

Those of you that know me, you know I’ve always wanted to do a hillclimb. Always. ALL-WAYZ! Sure, I’ve been fortunate enough to do big fast autocrosses ("SOLO1"), off-road stage rally, road racing in many forms (TT, sprint, endurance, crapcan) and some asphalt circle track, and heck, I’ve even done a demolition derby (which I won, w00t)…but I’ve always wanted to race up a hill. Changing pavement, camber, track temp, visibility…..this always seemed like a sandbox I want to play in. Like many of you, I feel pretty darn alive when my complete and total focus is being absorbed and my mental processing speed is max'ed out. So I was pretty sure this would do it. 

Big tahrs... SLJHMR on left, Scratcher on right (!!!). Plus a quick Ruckus kickstand fix prior to loadout!

Short answer: I love this motorsports playground. And the ages-old bet is that if I actually get to do a climb, I’ll love it too. 

Short backstory: Louis and I took SLJHMR to the COTA GridLife event and looked at doing NCM as well and the weekend after Bowling Green was a hillclimb a few more hours east. Sadly, the plan crumbled because we did not have time to optimize the 200TW setup prior to the NCM event. In our post-COTA debrief (where we did “ok”, but certainly the car was not optimized and we left podiums on the table) we decided to *not* run another event unless we were prepared, and we stayed the course. However, we did have a full day the week before the Pine Mountain Hillclimb and so we said that if we got a handle on the ‘old’ setup (335F/345R A7s) then I’d load it and go. We had the tires and brake let's see if we can do this!

So we did. I went up Saturday in the rig and we did a few sessions and quickly SLJHMR was dialed in. We will need more time to do a square (same size front and rear tire) setup for streets and GridLife for next time, but Louis’ head is already full of how to setup SJLHMR for big hoohoos (2xNatWins on them) and it was simply a matter of spilling it back out.

After the test, SLJHMR got slid in the rig and I headed home, where she came right back out of the rig to get a new outfit…which Louis hates. LOL (He wanted black graphics….*yawn*). I’m more of a first-ball-fast-ball hitter.


Above: Dakota bracing the front splitter incase I kiss a rock/tree and below, Chase touching up the hood while toonerz do their thing...

Thankfully my buddy Robert (building an S10-LSX street truck!!!) came over and helped me several times to get everything ready to load as (shocker, I know) I was running behind by juuuuuust a bit. Fast forward to Wednesday evening and the car is back in the rig, spares loaded and tools loaded, fab boxes filled and all my gear/cams/clothes are in there as well. There are many nice things about the rig, but certainly one really good feature is that it has room for a lot. In the back the car is loaded up top, so the bottom shop area is free for “stuff”. I take lots of stuff.<foreshadowing....yes....yes I think this is foreshadowing...>

Could those wheels BE any more gorgeous???? /Chandler

Friday is setup day and I’m there a little before lunch. Paddock is split between a lower parking lot at the beginning of the stage (where the race up the hill start line is) and another parking lot a few hundred yards up the mountain. The upper paddock will be closed when the course is hot, with short breaks between run groups to get cars out and back in. I pinged the parking guy and due to the rig size got approval to pit in the lower paddock and I took that as a good omen so when I rolled in they slotted me in the middle section of the lower paddock with a big long RV and enclosed sliding in next to me a few minutes later. Inside was a BRZ but it was Kswapped and it looked pretty slick.

Below: My neighbors....two brothers with a K-BRZ and a tube-truck sporting big slicks and srsbzns power!

I got Sledge unloaded and began checking things over and getting the pit spot squared away. Next was registration and up there was a group from Pennsylvania who were really nice and answered all my n00b questions. In fact, (sidenote here) everyone was really nice. There were zero attitudes (other than good) and everyone was genuinely interested in helping folks get all their ducks in a row to race up the mountain in the morning. Registration was easy and they gave me a few more stickers to put on and tech was roving, which was cool. They didn’t quite get to me but said they’d look at it at town square later that day and get me done. Yay! With a short break, I took SLJHMR at street speeds up and down the hill twice. Not sure it helped, but I took video to watch later.

A bit later the paddock folks announce we’re heading down the hill in a bit (police escort, y0) and later we all line up to go down. I’m careful to move the car and shut it down since I have no cooling fan. “Race cars don’t have fans” ~ Louis Gigliotti. Heh…I told him maybe hillclimb cars should have them, LOL.

Town square was awesome. Got there around 5pm and stayed two hours or so. I’d met Tracy G back in Daytona last summer and she’s a GSpeed customer with a bronze C6 and at the event I again met Jim Greenleaf from Summit (who also was at TX2K). At the downtown event they setup live music, had food stuffs and lots of close restaurants and it was really small-town-cool. Tracy, her crew and Jim and I all grabbed some pizza and had a good motorsports talk. Later the tech guy blessed SLJHMR with a sticker after seeing a GT2 logbook and a few quick checks and we were good to race. We hung out, talked to a ton of folks and then headed back to the mountain to finish the last punchlist of things to do before the ‘big day’. Just before dark I took the Ruckus up the hill twice more to try and get some sense of rhythm and order to all the corners.


Above: The car show in town Friday night, plus a RHD Soup parked in front of our pizza place!

Slept solid, woke early and felt pretty damn calm. Sadly, Anna and the kiddos didn’t make it…we had air travel all arranged and it cratered last minute and we could not figure a workable solution quick enough so I’d be doing my first climb solo. Thankfully I have a hell of a network quickly accessible and so I’d make do. Plus, the rig is good sized and I’m kindof a “spares guy”, so I have that going for me. <foreshadowing?>

Above: Coming down the hill on a Friday recon run....the glare from the silver is insane

Below: A man with a roll of gaffe tape can do a lot of things....(mostly he can upset Louis...). It helped a ton!


Saturday morning was a quick drivers’ meeting and it went smooth and then group 1 lined up. There were four groups and SLJHMR and I were in group 4. I’d met my neighbors on both sides: A tube frame truck in my class (carb’d small block, 2speed and big slicks, and then a kswap BRZ on the other side with 200tw tires in group 2. Half of the cars were in our paddock (lower paddock) and half were in the upper paddock which necessitated them coming down between run groups to stage since their paddock was closed when competition runs were happening.


QUICK driver's meeting hit the high points nicely. #Skycamo #IsItInFashionAgain? Plus the course map showing the 1.8mi climb

First off, we don’t have a radiator fan. “This is a race car”. I did fine going to the town Friday night as we kept moving for the most part, but I can’t sit still long. This is the same with Scratcher but I oversized the cooling on Scratcher more and it has a *bit* more tolerance. FYI, for our next hillclimb, we’ll have a fan. Heh.

Hillclimb classes are a mix of autocross and road race classes so they clump us into 8 general classes and while you compete in those 8, you also compete in your actual road race or autocross class for track records. I knew we were not prepared to the limit in Modified Unlimited, but that was fine. First event, just show up and have fun and see if I like this stuff. The GT2 record was a 2:01.x and watching a lot of vids from last year, breaking the 2min barrier was not common. Hmmmm…. I thought about bolting on wipers to get us into the Sport Unlimited class but in the end I didn’t want to mess with anything. I was bringing a knife to a gunfight (production chassis vs tube frame cars…..DOT legal tires vs pure radial slicks....etc) but in the end, I can handle a knife pretty well and considering what was about to happen, I was incredibly at peace. #ClimbThatMountain

Above: Sweet MII that I helped fix the carb on (sbf) and those glorious Finspeeds over APs....

Finally they call Group 4 and it is show time. I suit up, and get in line, which thankfully ran downhill so I could let SLJHMR coast down to the starting area. (Rain? It's about time to meet the parade!). So I get up there and pull up to the start line at about a 10-15 degree angle (nose up) and the two starters glance over the car (again….they had a team doing the same thing 5 cars back to check hood pins, helmet straps, etc) and put a small chock on a rope to hold the car so I don’t have to hold the brake and this….this is where the excrement hits the rotary oscillator.

As I’m waiting for the car in front of me to clear T4 the throttle goes wonky. I can give it gas but nothing happens, or it revs lazily with zero power. Uh….whiskey-tango-foxtrot? The starter says go and SLJHMR says ‘nah…I don’t think so’. My cussing goes from inside my head to out of my mouth as the car refuses. I try and rev and it won’t and as the clutch comes out a kiss, it dies. I quickly hit the button and she starts and I stabilize the idle, try and rev again and as I come off the clutch a bit and load the engine…..dies again. Expletives. Loudly. I came this far for this crap? This time I power the MoTec down, and as I turn it on, I hit the starter and as soon as it catches I zing that baby and come off the clutch and away we go….both me and SLJ pissed off.

So, like autocross, you want to launch with the first few corners locked into your head and my head was now a scrambled mess of mad-at-the-car, happy-to-be-moving and what-the-heck-was-that, all topped off with hey-the-damn-thing-is-running-great-now and I’m going really fast into the unknown where forward visibility is lacking. Ooof. So it took me a few corners to get my head back in the game and optimize exit speed and anticipate corners and after T5 totally crushed my dreams (I screwed it up that badly), I really did the top of the course pretty good with the big A7 tires working hard and me getting ahead of the car and in about 7 blinks of an eye, the run was done. Wow. I’m typically a very situationally-aware driver but the scrambled launch got me. So at the top of the hill I go further down the road, turn around and get in line to come down when all the runs for our group are done. I’m elated about the driving experience, deflated about the launch issue and excited to get to do this for the next two days. Wh00p.

In line to come back down the hill...workers handed out water which was much appreciated!!

I pull out my phone and glance at the timing app and see a 1:59. Damn. That’s cool, already under the record and I left a TON of time on the mountain. Only later did I look at it clearly and see it was actually a 1:55! Even more cool! Maybe I can crack under a 1:50!! After another handful of cars we all get to go down the mountain. My motor is pretty hot so I get moving and then kill the engine and coast down. Heh. I refire at the botton of the hill to scoot over to the paddock spot and start blowing up Louis’ and the toonerz phones with what happened on the launch. Best guess is out of fuel but without a MoTec glance (I don’t have the software) we’re guessing. Still, it’s a good guess. So I dump 5 gallons of fuel in and wait. Surely this will fix it and life will be back to wholesome LS-power goodness. Right?

No. No it did not fix it as evidenced by my expletives and SLJHMR’s cheeky shenanigans again at the start line. Oof. Again, after it died, I shut the MoTec down and then powered it back up and instantly hit the starter and came off the clutch as soon as the motor caught and off I went. Again angry, I was driving it like I see it and again, T5 slapped the crap outta me. Still, I dropped time down to a 1:50 by doing the rest of the course a good bit better.

Dis car? Dis car fast car....way more power than SLJHMR plus a sequential!!! #WellSorted #ManyClimbs

This is the only production based car that beat SLJHMR and I was happy to finish with under a 1 second gap to it! 

Third run and the team hadn’t figured anything and remoting in was a joke. Mountains in ultra-rural Kentucky are not known for the cell service or *gasp* wifi connectivity. We were fairly certain it was the launch control and the nose-up launch location was fooling the MoTec accelerometer. I made another run with the same rushed start procedure and T5 was still not optimal and I took too big a bite in another spot and put in another 1:50. Ug. There is several seconds on the table if I’ll just put it all together.

With the day done, it was time to sort this launch issue. I downloaded the run file and emailed it (ooohhhh….sooooo….sloooowly) out to the GSpeed braintrust. Soon enough I had a call and connected my laptop to SLJHMR and get on the phone. Lee was looking at his screen and talked me through what all to do. After about 10 minutes of “and go to this screen and tell me what XYZ line says…..ok change that to OFF….now go to this screen and…”, Lee said it was fixed. I was skeptical, but Lee said he was 99% sure it was fixed and we’d deal with it another way if it wasn’t. Sadly there was no way for me to test it, short of going to the line, but SLJHMR is not exactly a quiet car and darkness was falling, so I focused on getting everything else done to get ready for the next day: mostly watching incar vids and running a checklist on SLJHMR and helping a few folks in the paddock.

As I laid down to sleep and recapped the day, this hillclimb stuff is freaking awesome. It is like a big autocross with limited sight lines and bigger penalty for errors. The reward, however, is freaking amazing. Flying around those blind corners and analyzing the road and knowing where to put the car and what speed to carry and the dozens of other mission critical things happening in a very compressed moment of time is amazing. Even with the car issues, I know that I completely love this sport and can easily see why folks are attracted to it. 

The Pennsylvania folks were commenting on how long this course was...most of theirs are about a mile and end up around a minute or so, while this one is close to 2 miles with the corresponding length in run time. I do know when I did longer and bigger autocrosses, I liked it more, so maybe I just got lucky this is the first one I've done. 

Oh yes....this will be a poster on the shop wall....

Sidenote: When you bring a good sized rig to a race, you’re sort of a magnet for “would you happen to have a….?”. This event was no exception. My neighbor-in-the-same-class with the tube frame 2-speed small block “truck” was having throttle issues and used my vise and random items from my spares bin to get it sorted. My neighbor across the way in a really sweet Mustang II was having holley carb issues. He walked up, looking at SLJHMR with the hood off in all her EFI glory and said ‘I’m sure you don’t have any holley parts but…”, to which I said “oh yeah….rebuild kits, trick kits, gaskets…what do you need?” as I pulled out the bins of Scratcher’s carb boxes (and his eyes lit up!). Long story short, he used my stuff (and a bit of my carb-tuning advice), got the leaking/stumbling fixed and freaking won his class! I helped another Corvette with a fault issue (thanks to Louis, I speak entry-level corvette) and then the sweet RB26-240z used my vise and grinding stuff (“why yes I have a freakingbig hammer…”) to swap studs in a stub axle to get them going again (and win their class!!). Saving the best for last, the kswap BRZ next to me (also a hillclimb n00b like me) had some teething issues as well, so my bins got used again as we fixed a fueling issue and did a quickie trailer-ramp alignment to help fix rear power issues as well as some wiring upgrades too. In return they fed me nicely from their grill (dinner and breakfast!) so I didn’t have to eat fresh-from-the-package power bars and they made sure I was good-to-go for my sessions, helping with cameras, window nets, etc. #PaddockBros


The hill can bite back. Below is the transponder table. It was empty on Saturday, but these are the ones that didn't get picked back up for Sunday (mechanical or wreck). Ooof. 



Sunday dawns and I had again slept really well in the cool crisp mountain springtime air and woke up ready to race. The race groups were a touch smaller due to attrition so they joined the first two and the second two just for simplicities sake and that worked really well. I helped the Kswappers next door sort some issues and it was time to play. Going up to the line, half of me was really hoping the issue was fixed and the other part was preparing for a solid drive even if I had problems. Thankfully, the problem WAS fixed and I launched clean..but with a bit more wheelspin than I wanted and so I would have to work on that next run. I pushed hard right away and STILL borked T5 a bit…I did brake earlier but I was also arriving at a much higher speed since I’d done the part leading up to T5 much quicker. Oy. The rest of the run was solid and I pushed to a 1:49 knowing there was still a good chunk of time I was leaving on the mountain.

The event was running even smoother today and we got our second run before lunch and I was fully ready for it. I got a better launch and kept it tidy at first, then started to push once a bit of heat got into the tires. I finally did T5 really well and actually felt pretty good about the run and was rewarded with a 1:47! Coasting back down the hill I was feeling pretty darn good and content. Glancing at results, nobody else in my class had cracked out of the 1:50s so maybe I could pull of a win here. #Hopeful 


Back in the paddock my BRZ neighbors needed some help and I was thinking about the end of the day, awards and potential leave time since I had a pretty darn good haul to get back to Texas. I decided I’d done enough and started prepping to load SLJHMR…yes there was a bit more time on the mountain, but I had a long way to go and a lot to do prior to leaving so in between helping folks I started squaring away the rig to load so I could head out as soon as awards were done. We had a bit of a thrash on the BRZ to get a fuel pressure problem solved and eyeball some alignment changes, but in the end, he got one more run and dropped even more time! He ended up just outside the trophies, but he was the highest finishing 200tw car in his class….the others were all on hoosiers! #VictoryInItselt

The KswapBRZ owner (Seth) has a great story here:



 SLJHMR loaded for the trip home and a triple turbo diesel radical. Apparently the turbos were "buy 2 get one free" or something...

The last groups ran as I got SLJHMR slid in the upper deck (THANKS Micah!!) of the rig and got most everything squared away for the run back to Texas. As I was putting things away and strapping things down the word spread quickly of “trophy time” and we headed down to the start line for that. I ended up winning the class and re-setting the GT2 class record. I didn’t realize it till now, but last year the fastest time in my class was a 1:46 so maybe I should have done one more run to snag that? Oh well, that gives me reason to come back next year, right?

Top four in Mod-Unlimited, I was blessed to drive SLJHMR to the win!

Honestly, I don’t need more reasons. This event is freaking epic and I’ll do my best to come back for sure. I’d love to potentially take Scratcher but I’d have to alter the steering for sure to make a few of the tighter corners! Also, I’m not sure how fast even the softest roadrace slicks would “come in” and be ready to throwdown fast lap times, because the clock starts as soon as your rear bumper crosses the timing loop (about a second after you’re moving!). Maybe Louis will let me take SLJHMR again….

To see a TON more pics and lots of vid clips, check out the "Pine Mountain Hill Climb" on facebook. Tons of good stuff there!

THANK YOU Louis for letting me take SLJHMR, to all the GSpeed folks who pitch in to make her such a my pitbros Micah and Seth for the help and my fam who could not make it but did so much before and sending positive vibes during!!

The extent of my "working" on the car: Checking and setting air pressure. Torquing lugs (never pulled a wheel). Cleaning. Rigging cameras. Updating the MoTec (~10 min). So. Darn. Nice. GSpeed build FTW!!!

Thank you Finspeed (best. wheels. ever.), Essex-AP for the best stopping on the mountain, Penske for the control that gave me confidence to go so darn fast, and of course the Hoosier purplecrack(tm) that did great on the mountain. GSpeed partners with the best for sure!!!

Thank you SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT...with their biggest depo in nearby DFW, GSpeed uses them a lot!!!