This article was written by Amir Rosenbaum, the founder of racing auto parts manufacturer Spectre Performance.
Mark Gillies, Car & Driver Executive Editor and accomplished race car driver extraordinaire looked me in the eye and murmured something to the effect of: "You know, they lose at least one a week at the Nurburgring... "
No, I didn't know that.
Was that supposed to be comforting?
It was 4:45 pm. Our First Spectre 341 Challenge had just finished and the last two cars were up on the course. The paramedics and fire truck crews stationed at the top and bottom of the hill had packed up their stuff and were ready to pull out and go home when the call came in on the radio "... car over the side..."
The Spectre 341 Challenge is a very unique happening in that it is very real. It is all about reality. And I'm not talking about reality TV, which is anything but real. Reality consists of intangibles. The human condition consists of intangibles. We are all irrational, illogical creatures trying to act rational and logical. But we can't. We live in a super high tech world where we try to break everything down into precisely defined measurements using micro-metrics and nano-bytes. And while we are able to measure just about everything, the most important stuff, the intangible stuff, can't be contained within any sort of metric.
We can't even describe it.
Intangible: adj. - impalpable, untouchable, incorporeal, abstract, elusive, indefinable, ethereal, ghostly, spectral.
The Spectre 341 Challenge is a 5.2 mile mountain road with 22 (or so) turns and is most emphatically not a race track. It wasn't designed by a race track designer, it was built to conform organically to the side of a mountain so that ore carts, and later, trucks, could bring their deposits to a place where they could be processed.
It is as real a road as you will ever encounter anywhere, other than probably the Nurburgring. None of the turns are the same. The camber of the roadway changes radically, for no rhyme or reason. From afar, some of the straight sections of roadway look like a long piece of orange Hot Wheels track, twisting back and forth. Never straight or flat. A "correct" line here means avoiding the snow markers, which are sometimes positioned right where you would want to apex a corner. And sometimes not. And they get replaced every few years with new ones that crop up in different spots.
There are very few guardrails. None where you think they should be. There are no run-off areas, no tire walls, no hay bales, no berms, no nothing. The drop offs are everywhere and they are unforgiving.
It certainly wasn't an easy event to put on. On our first day, just as we were scheduled to start running it started to rain. That's right, in the Nevada desert. In June! Are you kidding me? This cannot be happening. Rain? Really? Or, I guess, reality.
And then it stops raining, and we are about to flag our first car on the course when the paramedic van and fire truck pull out, sirens blaring and lights flashing. WTF? Turns out that if there is a highway emergency nearby, and they are the closest, they get the call. And of course reality dictates that a highway emergency will occur just when you are about to start. But we paid for them to be here! For us! Doesn't matter, someone needs them more than we do, and so off they go. And we don't go. Man, this reality is starting to suck.
After only 20 minutes or so the fire truck and paramedic van returned and we finally got going. By Saturday afternoon we had logged 204 runs. That is truly amazing and a testament to all the time, hard work and professionalism invested by our crew at Spectre Performance and the terrific organizers we hired: Jimi Day and Wally Olczac of FM3 Marketing.
2010 Spectre 341 ChallengeEnlarge Photo
In 2002, after 13 years of running the hill, I set an all time record of 3:10 in my not so highly modified Ferrari F40. Everyone thought it was highly modified. OK, we ran a cheater hose from the waste gates to fool them into thinking the car was at sea level, which increased the boost a little. That's about it. The secret to running so fast? It's all in the intangibles...