DRAGON 7 – Weekend in Robbinsville to Remember!

20140914_091631SCCA’s Central Carolina Region hosted another great event in Robbinsville at the 7th Chasing the Dragon Hillclimb presented by TOYO!  Although weather played a role in keeping our drivers from records being set, the competition was close in many classes. Over 2400 spectators came to watch the event and enjoy hamburgers, BBQ and funnelcakes  while watching cars and drivers compete for trophies and cash on the 2.2 mile course. The range of cars went from rally cars, a vintage MGA, Porsche GT3 RSR , Evo, Ariel Atom, Brunton Staker, FFR Daytonas, chump cars and many street prepped cars. We had great attendance of drivers along with many first timers at our hill. We also welcomed back Cory Friedman, our current overall record holder and the first winner of the Dragonslayer sword at the very first Dragon Hillclimb in 2011.

The event began earlier in the week with Ted Theodore, George Bowland and others that came to prep the hill, cleaning, mowing and weed-eating the worker and spectators areas. Hay bales were wrapped in white plastic and placed along the course. We owe a big thanks to all who came, worked, towed trailers and helped set up and take down the mountain. Rolling out 2 miles of wire from the back of a truck is a lot of work but necessary for timing and scoring. The hardest part is at the end of day Sunday, rolling it all back up! (Thanks Scott Sipler for staying and helping). Friday, registration was held downtown at The Hub before drivers took their places in the paddock and set up for the weekend. First timers on the hill met Friday night at Microtel to go over the course, the danger areas, protocols and event flow with an instructor and mentors.

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Saturday morning went smoothly with our Launch tire and dragon in the air and course green. The damp course was a challenge for our drivers and some did get bit by the dragon. The saying “Saturday is for wreckers and Sunday is for checkers” is never more true than at a hillclimb! In spite of the occasional rain, the competition heated up in many classes and put on a great show for our spectators and course workers. We were honored to have Area 12 Director Tere Pulliam running her first hillclimb in a CSP Miata! Thanks to her and her husband Larry for coming and running with us! I suspect we will see them on the hill next year in THEIR car! We were also pleased to have Thach take a run up the mountain again in Elvira. Thach is a NC Highway Patrolman who is well known in the area… and if we can get him a car, whatever class he is in will have a new contender!

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The Saturday night dinner at the Huddle House was enjoyed by workers and drivers. Steak night has now become Steak AND Hat night with prizes for best hats.

Sunday was some slight rain on and off during the day and the course never did completely dry out. While this made record setting runs impossible, it created extra challenge in the competition to get the most out of their cars while making safe runs. Our drivers did a fine job and the crowd cheered on our drivers with cowbells. The younger spectators had plenty to do meeting drivers, getting autographs and playing with dragons! One driver who hoped to make this year’s hillclimb had started a car build specifically for this event and tracked his progress through a blog. He was unable to chase away all the gremlins and decided to leave his car home and come watch. One of our drivers, Rocco Bocchiccio offered his BMW to allow Perry Boykin to make his dream of a hillclimb run! THIS is the sportsmanship and fun we see all see and enjoy! You can expect Perry and his wife, Jamie will be joining us at Dragon 8 in their own car! Another driver and long time hillclimber, Ray Cockerel from Black Mountain, NC began a build of his F500 well over a year ago. He completed the car and with support from his wife Sheila was able to debut his car at the Dragon! We look forward to having Sheila back running with us next year. Another driver, Roy Erickson, bought a Miata 2 years ago with the dream of building it up specifically for time trial and hillclimb. His car known as Breester was finished a week before the event and he fulfilled his goal of competing. Two other drivers Nate Wimbrow and Bill Hightower were co-driving Nate’s  Spec Miata and had the differential pop on their first run on Saturday. This was disappointing as Nate brought family down from New Hampshire just to run this event. A few phone calls later, Henry and Joe Bryan Payne with HP Motors in Pelzer, SC  offered their ITA Miata  on loan to Nate. Nate spent all day Saturday taking his car back to Greenville, picking up the ITA so he could run Sunday! All went well with their Sunday runs and the weekend was not lost. Thanks to Joe Bryan and Henry for their help!

At the close of the event, we brought our drivers, crews, event staff and many spectators that stayed for the trophy presentation. Tabitha arranged for Miss Black Knight to assist our Dragon (Julius Binninger) with awarding the trophies and money! There were too many outstanding drives : First timer Ned Neuhaus did amazingly well in his Brunton Stalker. Matt Brandenburg and Sebastian Kokoszka in their first run at the Dragon were fearless in their rally cars! Gage Gregory is always fast on the edge in his car… another great run! Another first time, Allen Skillcorn in the LeGrand DSR was 3rd overall in his first event! Cameron Lane with a 4th place was hoping for a better finish but 4th overall is excellent. With some new findings after the event, Cameron may have found a little some extra to show up with at the Dragon 8!  George Bowland, Robert Martai and Robert McManus finished in 5th, 6th and 7th with awesome runs especially considering the weather. In the end, no ladies were close to Vicki Lanning Eckerich as she captured ANOTHER Dragonslayer sword for Queen of the Hill. For King of the Hill, it was Heikki Rinta-Koski  in his Locost 7 and Cory Friedman in his Porsche GT3 RSR. Both turned in incredibly fast runs on the damp course… with Heikki turning in a 117.510 (just 2.5 seconds slower than his best time ever of 115.091) and Cory running a 116.487. Cory took the King of the Hill honors for the second time and now is the owner of TWO Dragonslayer swords. Heikki still owns four swords and will be back in the Spring, ready to do battle with the Dragon again!

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We owe many thanks to our sponsors, TOYO Tires, Appalachian Tire, Greg and The Hub, Brent and Shelly Hyperformance, Grassroots Motorsports, Darryl and Lori of Killboy.com, HeadHeldHigh.com, Tabitha, Steven, Meghan, Jessica and Nikita  from Graham County Travel & Tourism. Also thanks to our event staff, Don Drennon and his F&C workers, Rich and his Timing and Scoring Staff (Eric, Nancy, Lea, Julius). Thanks to Mark Wall who sweated away all weekend to be our on course Sasquatch! Rick Mitchell, Lance, Barbara, Robert, our grid/starters and stewards did an awesome job! A Special thanks to Mark Eversoll … excellent job on communications and control. Steve Eckerich in the CCR Board members who all stepped up to help! AND a thanks to all the first time workers like Jaime and Amanda Honeycutt. We appreciate greatly the sponsors and support from Graham County : Tabitha with Travel & Tourism, Terinda and Charlie with US Forest Services, NC. DOT, Juanita at GC Transit, Matt and Amanda at  Huddle House and Lary and the Graham County EMS and Rescue Squad. Thank you ALL for your help and support! We will see you again in the Spring when we wake the Dragon for Dragon 8!      FULL RESULTS :   chasing the dragon 7_fin_ chasing the dragon 7_raw_

Hillclimbers – Why do they do it?

Over the last 10 years, I have heard many people asking the question :

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WHY HILLCLIMB?

What creates the desire to take the risk of running a race car flat out up a wild mountain road? Why take a perfectly good street car and put in a 4 point cage and belts so you can roar through the woods and up those hills? Adrenalin junkies?  Death defying daredevils? OR… are these hillclimbers just “a few fries short of a Happy Meal?” I know what drives my passion but what is it for others?  I asked and here is what I found.

“It’s not about just racing up the hill.” – It’s selecting a car that fits your style, speed and budget. For many, it begins with a daily driver street car. You begin visualizing how it will look and what it will take to convert it to a competitive car in the class you’d like to run. Ordering the parts and… while shuffling a job, school, family and other responsibilities… finding time to do the build. Finding the resources to do what you can’t and doing what you can the way YOU want it done.  Enjoying the feel of a car seat, steering wheel, pedal layout… custom built to your body. Painting, striping, numbering and decaling to give the look YOU want. It’s building the very personal TOOL for the job of climbing that hill.IMG_1578

“It’s about the road.” – On a race track, we make endless cycles of the course… learning turn in points, braking zones, squeezing out that tenth here and there. We run the same track 3 to 8 times a year in many cases. For road racers, that perfect line for qualifying is seldom seen in a race due to traffic, passing and yellow flags. On a Hillclimb – you see the road once or twice a year. There are no other cars or obstructions and turns are mostly blind. You can’t see through the mountain. Changing surfaces,  weather conditions, going from sunlight to tree covered shade patches,  driving reactively to what you see in a 2 minute all-out burst… this is a challenge to get the max out of your car,  tires and set up… finding the golden line for the fastest time you and the car can make that day.

“It’s about the other drivers.” –  Hillclimb is more social than many other forms of racing. When you climb out of your car at the top, there are 20 other drivers all standing around talking that just experienced the same thing you did. They are friendly, open… willing to help with tools and advice . Many great friendships begin on a hill. On the occasion of a mechanical problem, drivers frequently offer their car to a competitor for some runs. Twice at the Dragon, that driver beat them in their own car. More and more women are competing and the “Danica Patrick” advantage (less weight / less testosterone) is showing in the results.  Six of the Dragon Hillclimb class records were set by drivers over 65 years old and four records are held by drivers under 25.IMG_0347

“It’s about the crowd.” – Spectators come from all over to watch these cars go up the hill and talk to the drivers in the pits. To kids, these drivers are heroes and give them something to aspire to. For adults, they are a source of memories of motorsports events past, of cars they remember and would loved to have driven and a chance to enjoy motorsports competition. The kids seeking autographs and ringing the cowbells to encourage drivers to go faster…  they don’t want to just watch cars go by at speed. They want to take part in the event, touch the cars, meet the drivers and enjoy the beautiful natural surrounding you find on a mountain. The view from the Observation Deck at the Top of the Dragon Hillclimb is incredible.

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“It’s about the event staff” –  So many people come together to make a Hillclimb happen. All volunteers who donate their time to come be a part of a unique motorsports spectacle.  They receive training so they can be there in a time of need when a car goes off… but their joy comes from a ringside seat for a safe event. The Saturday night social/steak dinner is a great time for workers and drivers to talk and tell stories.  Many of the greatest moments a driver will experience on a hillclimb are shared only by the driver and a few lucky course workers that were there watching over them.

“It’s about the feeling” – You don’t have to race a carbon fiber winged monster to enjoy driving a Hillclimb. You don’t have to win a trophy or set a record for your class. It’s about the feeling of being at the line belted in, feeling the vibration of your engine, looking up at that giant tire arch looming ahead. Watching the starter count down and checking your gauges for last seconds “all systems go.”  Seeing the view from inside your helmet, inside your car with only the first 50 yards of the asphalt visible and after that…nothing.  Remembering where it goes and trusting your memory, your car, your tires, the workers that the course is clean and safe so you can give it all you have and …GO! You don’t see signs, you don’t see workers, you don’t see trees… you see green blur on the sides and a ribbon of gray road as it is revealed to you. In 2 minutes time (that feels like 10), you see the finish line and your heartbeat and breathing begin to return to normal.  It’s a rush… and you will do it 10 to 16 times over the course of the weekend. Each run, turns begin linking together in your memory and you carry more speed and brake later. If you do it right, the last run is the fastest as it all comes together. If you do it wrong, any run can be your last run of the weekend.

I guess the bottom line is HILLCLIMBERS ARE NOT DRIVERS. Hillclimbers are the drivers, the workers and the spectators who all come to take part in making the event special. They all come together to compete,  fellowship and bond with their friends and their cars at the non-denominational church called NATURE.

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Yes, some of us hillclimbers might be a few fries short of a Happy Meal…

but we are also some of the happiest people I know.     

                                                        

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Article by Ted Theodore – The Southern Driver (7/14) . Thanks to Darryl Cannon for pictures and support from Day 1 to make the Dragon Hillclimb a reality!   See more of his work at www.killboy.com                

REGISTRATION is Open !!! SIGN UP NOW!

SCCA Central Carolinas Region is proud to announce registration is now open for the 2012 Chasing the Dragon II Hillclimb in Robbinsville, NC JUNE 23-24th!

DRIVERS –     REGISTER HERE!
We look forward to a great weekend in Robbinsville, NC and a lot of fun at the DRAGON! You will be entered in a drawing for a set of HOOSIERS and a set of TOYOS from one of our sponsors APPALACHIAN TIRE to be awarded at the awards presentation Sunday at 4:30… MUST BE PRESENT TO WIN! Please let our sponsors know we appreciate their support  of hillclimbing in the Southeast!     www.racetire.com

WORKERS : THANK YOU FOR VOLUNTEERING!
Please email Name, email address, phone, and specialty to vickieckerich@att.net  This will save you having to fill out all unnecessary entry questions.  Also please add if you need lodging for the weekend and the name of the person you would like to room with. (Breakfast and lunch is provided Saturday and Sunday and your dinner at our Saturday party downtown is covered by Graham County!)  We appreciate you and you will be well taken care of… some surprises are in store for you! We will recognize two more workers with the coveted ORDER of the Maroon Dragon in appreciation for their service this weekend.

 

How to Ready YOUR Solo Car for Time Trials and Hillclimbs

ENTERING THE TIME TRIAL RANKS? Been doing a lot of SOLO? Thinking it would be great to get your car on a race track and see what you and it can do? Want more seat time than you can get in SOLO? It is not as difficult or as expensive as you might think. You do not have to have a road race prepared car to participate. My daily driver Miata is still used for SOLO, Hill Climbs and Track Trials. Read more