By on June 24, 2011

I’m skipping the Pacific Northworst 24 Hours of LeMons race, so that I can attend this weekend’s Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb. I headed over to the mountain earlier today to drive the course, scout out good camera spots, and check out teams wrenching on their cars in motel parking lots.

The day started out in true low-budget-racing fashion, with my Civic’s rusty muffler falling off. Turns out spending its first decade in Chicago had some long-lasting effects, though 200,000 miles on the original exhaust system isn’t bad. Cadillac Bob, captain of the Swiss-cheesed, 454-powered LeMons AMC Marlin team, was joining me, and he suggested that we just remove the offending muffler and drive with a straight pipe. I had some idea of buying a cheap glasspack at Autozone and attempting to quiet the car’s D15B7 that way, but Bob’s idea sounded much simpler.

The car was loud, but tolerable for a 45-minute highway drive from my home in Denver to the base of the 14,115-foot mountain. The drones, roars, and howls emitted during the climb up to the summit got to be pretty aggravating, though. By 14,000 feet, the D15’s alleged 102 horsepower felt like about 50. Still, we got there.

The course for Sunday’s race was quite picturesque at 25 MPH. At race velocities… well, you’d have to be totally out of your freakin’ mind to take this road at speed. Endless switchbacks, guard-rail-less stretches with thousand-foot sheer drops below, road surface ranging from nice asphalt to bad asphalt to dirt, and the higher you get the more the lack of oxygen messes with your brain functions. Oh, it’s gonna be great!

How about a little trip up the hill in Ari Vatanen’s Peugeot?

After we rolled back down the mountain, we cruised the main drag in nearby Manitou Springs. Pike’s Peak racers often set up shop in their motel parking lots, and this serious-looking Shelby GT350 was the first race car we spotted.

This may be the best tire/wheel setup I’ve ever seen on a vintage Mustang. This ’67 will be racing in the RMVR/Vintage class on Sunday, and I’m looking forward to seeing it in action.

Parked nearby was this 2010 Camaro, entered in the Time Attack division; the car had suffered some oil pan damage during practice this morning and had just returned from a local welding shop.

Just down the street, we spotted what I took to be a weirdly modified Suzuki SX4. The body looked wrong, but that big S must be a Suzuki logo, right?

Wrong! This is a 2005 Seat León Supercopa, which this sponsor-less team had flown over from Spain in order to take on the world’s top hillclimb event.

We’re dealing with some very serious racing addicts here, and they were kind enough to take a break from their wrenching/tuning frenzy to answer questions from a pair of American car guys geeking out on their never-seen-in-America race car. In fact, this is the first SEAT I’ve ever seen in North America, period.

The SEAT goes up against 20 very tough competitors in the Time Attack class on Sunday (here is a PDF of the entry lists), including the usual Evos and WRXs, so it will be interesting to see how Spanish steel fares against all that Japanese iron. Check in Sunday for the Pike’s Peak madness!

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