Making more memories

Thompson, Ford family will renew rivalry at Lands End Hill Climb

Some of the cars that will race in this weekend’s Land’s End Hill Climb are lined up during a party for the race on Friday at Mesa Mall. Larry Thompson and Jimmy Ford IV are two of the drivers who will compete in the race, one of five on the Colorado Hill Climb Association’s schedule.

A youngster drives a race simulator on Friday during a party in the Mesa Mall parking lot to kick off this weekend’s Land’s End Hill Climb. Racers in 11 classes will drive as fast as possible up the side of Grand Mesa beginning Saturday.


LAND’S END Hill Climb

When: 8 a.m. today and 9 a.m. on Sunday

Where: Land’s End Road, Whitewater

Admission: $12 for both days at the gate; $10 Sunday only

About the race: Event was run for the first time in 1941 but has had some intermittent stops over its history. It’s the fourth of five races held this year by the Colorado Hill Climb Association.

CHCA Classes: Super Sprint, Open Wheel, Rally AWD, Rally 2WD, Super Stock Truck, Comp Truck, Exhibition Class, Stock Car, Champ Sportsman, Pro Quad and Motorcycle.

Larry Thompson and the Ford family have a history at the Lands End Hill Climb, the fast-as-possible drive up the side of Grand Mesa.

All parties involved have embraced the chance to race against each other.

“We love it,” said Jimmy Ford, who raced against Thompson for years on the Colorado Hill Climb Association circuit. “We’ve had some great memories coming here because of that.”

Ford has since relinquished the driver’s seat to his son, 28-year-old Jimmy Ford IV, who today will race in the same 1977 Pontiac Firebird his dad once drove against Thompson. Racing starts today and Sunday on Lands End Road not far from Whitewater.

Thompson, a 1984 graduate of Central High School, has made quite a few memories since he started racing at Lands End in the early 1990s. They include when he won the Champ Sportsman season points title and when he set the track record.

That track record (which has since been broken, Thompson said) came in 2004, in part because the moisture the Grand Valley had gotten that year made traction on the dirt road more stable. And breaking that record meant the world to Thompson, who embraced the race long before he first drove to the starting line.

“The main reason I built this car was to race here (at Land’s End),” said the 51-year-old Thompson of the 1978 Chevy Camaro he’ll drive today. “It took a little time, but racing here led to something a lot bigger and better.”

Thompson also won a season points title in 2001. Thompson’s history with the elder Jimmy Ford began before that.

They developed a friendly rivalry in 2000, finishing tied atop the CHCA points standings after the final race of the season in Divide.

“I looked at him and said, ‘How about this?’ ” Ford said. ” ‘I’ll make one more run and you’ll make one more run for the championship, winner take all!’

“And he looked at me and said, ‘I’m OK with a tie,’ ” Ford continued. “I stopped and I said, ‘Well, I guess I am too.’ “

Today, the younger Ford, coming off a victory at Monarch Pass last month, will drive the same car his dad raced in against Thompson and many others. The younger Ford has picked up a few pointers from his dad — he has a comfortable lead in the Sportsman and Stock Car points standings and will compete in both classifications this weekend.

“I used to joke around with him that I’ve won more championships than he’s won races,” the elder Ford said of his son, who owns a home in Grand Junction but lives in the Denver area. “I don’t think that’s the case anymore. I think he surpassed me this year. He’s a good kid.”

This weekend’s race is the longest of the CHCA’s five stops. The other races are two stops in Deer Trail, one in Cañon City and the mid-July jaunt up Monarch Pass. The Lands End Hill Climb winds up Lands End Road with two tight turns at the Bob’s Knob and Eagle’s Nest spectator areas, finishing not far from Wildhorse Trail head. The finish line is also within a short drive of the Lands End Observatory on top of Grand Mesa.

The Ford family and Thompson aren’t the only longtime drivers at Lands End. Paul Dallenbach has been driving on the CHCA circuit since 1991. Spencer Steele, who heads into this weekend as the points leader in the Open Wheel class, first raced on the circuit in 1999.


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