In most cases, a driver/navigator team puts some work into creating a system: course notes, communications, and a driving strategy. In this case, however, the plan was short and sweet. I was set up with a pair of stopwatches, along with a time chart that indicated, based on the recorded time, whether we were going too fast of too slow in relation to our target time. As for communicating that to my driver...well, it was immediately obvious from the first time I fired up the CFH before the Mile Shootout that there would be no verbal communication. This thing, friends, gives loud a whole new meaning. If the chassis was NASCAR-inspired, even more so the open exhaust system. Instead, we would use hand signals, with me holding up a number of fingers for how much faster or slower we needed to go. Perhaps crude compared to some of the other competitors' setups, but effective nonetheless.
As race day dawned, our speed class selection actually gave us a little perk. Since we would be leaving last, we actually got to sleep in a bit. Preparation, at least for myself, was pretty simple--a shower, and a very light breakfast that I hoped I wouldn't end up wearing when things got bumpy. I met up with Peruto and Jones at a nearby hotel, and we made our way out to the staging area. It was a bit strange compared to my other outings, as all the other competitors had already made their way down the course. The only runners waiting were the hard-core set: 160-, 170-, and 180-mph racers, along with the pair on Unlimited runners. As the draw went, we were the third from the last car to leave. Not wanting to come up empty in the middle of the course, Jones refueled the CFH with 110-octane race gas (conveniently sold by an entrepreneurial type at the line), while I took the time to mount my camera on the rollbar and make sure it was aimed right.
As starting time approached, Peruto and I got our helmets and HANS devices into place and climbed into the car, a maneuver that I had finally figured out how to accomplish with a bit of grace. Jones strapped me in. I was expecting things to be tight, but I think my spine must have compressed an inch. We figured out a few other things on the spot--for instance, I had Jones tie my stopwatches to my wrists so that I couldn't drop them. And finally, we were in line, ready to roll.
It's sort of a strange experience, not like drag racing. The time starts when the green flag drops, not when the car begins moving, so there's no point in making a tire-burning launch. Instead, we shot smoothly off the line and quickly hit triple digits: 120, 130, 150. Knowing that we needed to build up a little time so that we could take it slower from the turns, known as the Narrows, I didn't waste time in signaling Peruto to pick it up to 165 or so. He complied, but that's where the monkey in the wrench came in. Anytime he exceeded 165 mph, the oil temperature gauge jumped up to 260 degrees F. And that would prove to be the fly in the ointment in an otherwise smooth-as-silk run.
The most common strategy is the Silver State is to build up some extra time before entering the Narrows, allowing the driver to take the turns easy. Once out of the twisties, it's back on the gas to make up the time. Unfortunately, we needed to run at 165 mph to make our target speed of 160 mph, but the oil temp kept us from picking up the pace. We finished, though, and according to my stopwatch we were six seconds slow--it's small consolation, but that's what the final results said as well, so at least I knew I was on the ball with the stopwatches.
By the time the big boys (the...
By the time the big boys (the Grand Sport Class) were in the staging area, everyone else had already made the trip down the course. This is a seriously dedicated group, almost a club unto itself. These may be street cars...but only barely.
Taking the navigator's seat...
Taking the navigator's seat next to driver Jim Peruto, there was nothing for me to do but hurry up and wait...and be glad that the temperature was moderate.
As navigator, it was my job...
As navigator, it was my job to keep driver Peruto on time to arrive with an average speed as close to 160 mph as possible. Event rookie liason Blue Offut supplied me with the necessary course time notes. I brought my stopwatches and had Bob Jones tie one to each wrist. One watch counted from zero until the end; the other watch, visible in my left hand, was set to count down from 33:45 to zero--the exact amount of time it takes to cover 90 miles at 160 mph. The red pen in my right hand enabled me to circle the recorded time on the chart, then signal Peruto to drive faster or slower.
Another starting line, another...
Another starting line, another miles-long stretch of open road. Although there is a flagman, the clock is actually started electronically. Cars are monitored by radar throughout the race to make sure no one exceeds his tech, or upper allowed, speed.
This race is all about going...
This race is all about going fast, so we made sure you could see it. The idea is to build up some extra time before going through the turn-laden section known as the Narrows. We're cranking 170 past one of the course checkpoints. Unfortunately, due to oil overheating, 170 was the fastest we saw.
And this is what it looks...
And this is what it looks like from the outside, blitzing through the rocky, rugged landscape. See the signpost just in front of the car? It's one of the county mile markers, which racers use as their primary navigational aid. Trying to pick up the marker, much less read the mile designation on it, then check the time on the stopwatch against the time on the course notes, is easier said than done.