Thompson zigzags way to Lands End Hill Climb sportsman title
Larry Thompson kicked up clouds of dust and exhaust as he zigzagged up Grand Mesa.
The scene was reminiscent of “The Dukes of Hazard” as the Grand Junction resident scaled the 5.5-mile dirt track in a classic Camaro en route to wining the sportsman division of the Lands End Hill Climb on Sunday.
With a time of 5 minutes, 35.58 seconds during the first of two heats, Thompson sealed the championship despite the track crumbling under him. Two of the four competitors in the sportsman division either did not start or did not finish during the final day of the event.
“We got our practice runs in yesterday,” Thompson said. “We knew where the trouble spots were and kept it straight and on the road. The first three corners of the course were breaking up. The chloride they put down to keep the dirt together started to break up, and we were junking up on the corners.
“Our cars are a little heavier (than other classes) at 3,300 to 3,400 pounds, and we’re running with stock suspensions. We don’t have the full-on race suspensions some of these others guys have, and we’re running two-barrel carburetors, which can be tricky at elevation.”
Some carburetors, if not previously outfitted with specific gauges, perform poorly as elevation increases. In a 5.5-mile climb, that can cause problems for drivers in the sportsman class.
“You’re essentially going straight up the face of the mesa,” Thompson said. “You don’t have that on other courses in Colorado.”
Jim Olson won the only truck category in 5:12.56. Olson also won the open-wheel division with the only sub-five-minute runs of the day in any class. His 4:53.74 first run was the fastest on the day, beating his second-run time of 4:57.71.
After crashing during his first run, Scott Kolm topped the pro quad division with a time of 5:25.78. Jeff Regester, the current rally car points leader, won the all-wheel-drive class with a time of 5:12.85.
Lands End wants to expand
The Lands End Hill Climb is already the longest all-dirt hill climb in Colorado. If it was to expand to the top of the Mesa, a little more than 10 miles, it would be one of the longest all-dirt tracks in the country. The expansion would push further into Grand Mesa National Forest, and the idea has received a cool reception from the Forest Service, according to Colorado Hill Climb Association chief steward Wade Reneck.
For drivers, it would provide an all-dirt rival to Colorado’s world-class paved hill climb, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The “Race to the Clouds” is a 12.5-mile track west of Colorado Springs that climbs nearly 5,000 feet.
“If (the Lands End Hill Climb) were to expand, it’d be the premier all-dirt track in the country,” Thompson said.
Paul Dallenbach, who broke the Lands End record in 1994, added, “There’s issues with the Forest Service. For us, it’s mostly logistics, getting the manpower. If you extend it two miles, you get racers from Texas and California. If you run to the top, you’ll draw international competitors.”