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Pontiac Solstice GXP And Rhys Millen Ready For Assault On Pikes Peak High Elevation Testing Rhys Millen and his Red Bull Pontiac Solstice GXP are in the final preparation stages for his assault on the 85th running of the Pikes Peak International...

Pontiac Solstice GXP And Rhys Millen Ready For Assault On Pikes Peak High Elevation Testing

Rhys Millen and his Red Bull Pontiac Solstice GXP are in the final preparation stages for his assault on the 85th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The hill climb will take the green flag this Saturday, July 21.

The Formula Drift driver and 15-year veteran of The Race to the Clouds has done all of the homework to transition his Solstice GXP from a drift car to hill climb racer. This transition was accomplished in only 24-hours as Millen competed in round four of the Formula Drift championship just two days ago in Evergreen, Wash. He managed to finish ninth after experiencing some electrical problems.

"We qualified fifth at the Evergreen, Wash. round of the Formula Drift Championship," Millen said. "A two-point spread separated the top six competitors after qualifying. We lined up for top 16-elimination. We then dropped a cylinder at the start line. We had a line arcing out to one of the coils and that shut down the cylinder.

"We ended up ninth on the day. The top two guys in points hit the wall and went out. We went from third to fourth in the championship. Not the way we wanted to run, but we didn't lose too much ground. The team is making a new wiring harness and getting into hill climb mode."

The team is headed from Washington to Leadville airport in Leadville, Colo. to do some high elevation engine tuning. The Leadville airport boasts the highest elevation air strip in North America at 9,927-feet. Millen will be doing high speed runs to properly tune the 550-horsepower ECOTECH turbo-charged Solstice GXP power-plant for the Pikes Peak race. The car will then go to Colorado Springs where it will make its first run up the mountain on Tuesday morning as practice gets under way for the 85th running of this historic event.

"The engine tuning is critical," Millen said. "The thin air will rob three-percent of the horsepower from the engine per 1,000-feet of elevation.

"In addition to engine tuning other car preparations include mounting the same Bridgestone DOT tire that we use in drift competition. It is the same tread pattern we run in the drift series as well. We will also resize the turbo exhaust valves to help minimize turbo-lag. Other tuning includes a more aggressive wing angle to compensate for the thinner air and plant the rear-end in the turns."

"To get myself in tune with the terrain, I will be going up today and looking at the road to see if we need to adjust the ride height," Millen added. "This is also where 15-years of road knowledge comes into play. On Tuesday I will study the middle four-miles in preparation for Wednesday's practice run. I will drive it a half-a-dozen times and stop along the way to take a close look at the subtleties of the pavement or dirt. 80% of the run is now paved and even has some guard rail."

"We will be loading into Mike Shaw Pontiac GMC tonight," Millen continued. "The dealership is great; it is at the bottom of the hill and a great place to work for the week. It becomes an advantage as preparation is everything. And to do it in a nice clean professional setting is all the better. Spare parts just feet away is a racer's dream."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series Hillclimb
Drivers Rhys Millen