Todd Cook Pikes Peak summary

TCE wins third Pikes Peak race! Todd Cook, owner of TCE Performance Products weathered the storm to bring home his third win at the Mountain. For the second time in the past three years the Pikes Peak Hill Climb ran a shortened event in part due...

TCE wins third Pikes Peak race!

Todd Cook, owner of TCE Performance Products weathered the storm to bring home his third win at the Mountain. For the second time in the past three years the Pikes Peak Hill Climb ran a shortened event in part due to swirling thunder clouds that poured rain, mist and snow on fans and competitors alike.

Cook arrived in Colorado Springs with one goal in mind; to reset the Mini Sprint class record on Pikes Peak held since 1997 by local hill climb expert Leonard Vahsholtz. "We had a chance at this record the past two years but weather in 2004 and my own mistake in 2005 prevented it from happening" Cook was quoted as saying to others who asked of his goals for 2006.

Day one pracite found the TCE/Wells Coyote working well but not to par as the team practiced on the upper half of the mountain. This years shortened schedule had teams running from 5am to 11am and trying to get in as many runs as possible. The long runs however combined with many new rookie competitors took their toll on the clock and the team logged in only four runs. That evening the car was gone over with some changes to the suspension being done to better get the car to 'set' and provide a more stable drive. "I made some changes to the shocks and ride height to get the car better balanced as I found it seem to bind up too much under compression" say Cook as he and Crew Chief Gene Pacheco readied the car for the second day.

Asked how the new pavement felt, Cook replied; "It's not too bad, the grip is higher but I'm leery of water on the road or ice in the morning. I think that we can pick up three to four seconds here no matter what." The water comment would prove to come back sooner than expected... On day two the team was to run from the start line to Glen Cove with all runs being timed. The best run would be the 'Qualifying time' for the class. While event officials felt the cars would get six or seven runs up the road, teams knew better and set out to get the most from their machines. Cook's warm up first run was a 5:18 and the report was that handling issues were behind them. However more problems were on the horizon as the team found the transmission input shaft seal was leaking (suspected on day one) and oiling the clutch. Cook confirmed this on run number two (a 5:02 and new record time) when he came back down insisting that they make the planned tire switch for the next run and not wait. "I told Gene that I wasn't sure how many runs we had left on the car and we needed to get the tires run one time to at least check the balance". Cook's comments proved spot on as not only did the clutch slippage become worse but teams found they were not going to get a fourth run!

The third run netted the team a 4:59 time and shaved a full seven seconds off the old qualifying record. "Last year Gene was upset at me because I told him the car was capable of a sub five minute time and I didn't bother to prove it. This year I had to do it just to prove it to him! The clutch was bad in third and fourth gears where I had to let off the throttle and feather it to hook up. We lost time. I'm certain we'd have been in the 57s with the thing working right."

That night the oil soaked disc was replaced and fingers crossed for the race as the reason for the leak was not going to be easily repaired. The team says that final repairs will be more time consuming and they just needed to get the car on the mountain for the race hoping it would hold out for the record run.

Race day found the event running behind again this year and as clouds rolled in all teams began to question the decisions of race officials and their own chances of getting to the top. Motorcycle records began to drop and everyone at the start line was rapidly losing hope of being given the same opportunities. The event went on 'HOLD' for about an hour and a half as weather moved in and out over the entire course. Just when it was clear on top the rain fell at half way, there was snow up at the summit, it just moved around from one extreme to another.

Finally at about 2:30pm the summit runs were scratched and racers told they were going to run to Devil's Playground. Being the first car on the line (all others before Cook, in other classes ran to the top) the road was still dry for as far as it was known and figured to be a safe drive. The green flag dropped and the TCE entry was on its way to the checkered flag. Cook later reported that the road was dry all the way to the end of the pavement but at about the Ski Area rain began to fall heavily and the road became slick.

"I got to the Cove and this was the first time any of us were on the new surface from there to Elk park. We had never run Cove Creek at speed. Let alone wet! I put it into the corners pretty hard and was surprised the car stuck as much as it did. That gave me some more confidence for the next few corners so we pushed on." The rain fell harder and surfaces went from predictable to mud in a hurry. The upper portion of the road beyond Double Cut was back to dirt and was going to present new problems.

Cook continues; "The dirt was just a mud hole. The car wanted to float on the road as water washed down ruts in the surface. In the back of my mind however I knew this was a good thing for me for overall time. The bigger horsepower cars were just not going to do anything but spin tires in these conditions."

Taking the checkered flag with a time of 8:43, Cook recorded his third win at Pikes Peak. The time was good enough to secure not only the division win but third quickest of all the Open Wheel class cars.

"I'm happy for the win of course, but we came with a mission. Now that mission is on hold again for another year".

A big THANKS to everyone; K&N, Discount Tire, Show Low Bluff, Goodyear, VP Fuels, Red Line and the entire crew for believing in my efforts. Looks like we'll be back at least one more time! - Todd

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Series Hillclimb