It won’t be long till Pikes Peak hears the roar of high-horsepowered engines struggling for air with its drivers losing focus as they race to the clouds. The world’s second oldest race, the 2012 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb will start for the 90th time this Sunday, but today is all about meeting the fans.
We’re now in downtown Colorado Springs, and a sizeable chunk of the city is closed. The reason – Fan Fest, an event that drums up the excitement by letting the fans get touchy feely with the cars and the drivers.
We are now standing in front of Mitsubishi Motors’ booth where the team’s drivers – Beccy Gordon and Hiroshi Masuoka are busy shaking hands, signing autographs and flashing smiles for the flash of the camera. It is nice to see the race drivers this close and personal with the fans, something that rarely happens back home unless you’re well connected.
Within the team’s portion of the festivities, we find the i-MiEV all dressed up and ready for race. But it stands there lonely, feeling the absence of the i-MiEV Evolution because it crashed during practice two days ago. Mitsubishi tells me that the car can be saved; is being saved. The team and their partners are up to the task with additional parts flying in from across the ocean.
Masuoka-san, driver of the i-MiEV Evo explains briefly that he went into a corner too hard and too fast, lost control during the slide and sent the car down into a two-metre ditch. Thankfully, the multiple Dakar Rally champ emerged unscathed.
One of the team’s partners, local fabricator Clarks Metal and Speed, adds that they have gone to work almost immediately, determined to get the car ready for Sunday. The i-MiEV Evo is mostly damaged at the front. This leaves the chassis and the engine healthy and getting the back on the road is just a matter of replacing the front bodywork. They’re succeeding.
We move on and notice a massive 4×4 truck with an equally large metal box resting on its bed. This is the Mobile EV Charging and Rescue Vehicle by Real Power and does exactly what its name says. Think of it as a marathon drink station for electric cars.
The truck carries a CHAdeMO 50 KW DC Fast Charger and two standard chargers. The vehicle is capable of fully charging the i-MiEV in 18 minutes and it takes 45 minutes to fully juice-up the i-MiEV Evo. The generator takes its power directly from the engine and needs only 3.5 litres of diesel to get the cars up to full level-three charge. Quite cool, really.
This is Mitsubishi Motors’ maiden race up Pikes Peak. Understandably, there is a sense of excitement that comes with the unknown and while they are well prepared, anything can still happen during the race. Drama has already unfolded during practice, however team morale remains high. But will it be enough to give the team a fairy-tale ending, a first win on the first time out? Answers will come on race day.