Weather no match for Lands End racers

Mike Magee’s car sprays a cloud of dust and gravel as it skids around a corner during the sportsman class race of the Lands End Hill Climb on Sunday. Magee took first place in the class.

The moniker given to the famous world-class Pike’s Peak Hill Climb is “The Race to the Clouds.”

For a couple hours mid-day Sunday at the Lands End Hill Climb up the western face of Grand Mesa, Lands End could have swiped that nickname.

Low clouds hung over an already soaked track, causing race officials to shorten the normally 5.5-mile course to 2.5 miles. 

The rain from Saturday night had turned most of the course into a sludge-filled mess, with mud and grass caked on tires and wheel wells.

But around 1 p.m., the sun split through the clouds and turned the nearly unusable track into some of the better track conditions 20-year Lands End Hill Climb veteran Larry Thompson has seen.

Compared to last year, Thompson said, when track conditions were so dry that it was difficult to keep cars on the track, the tackiness of this year’s track gave driver’s superior handling under ideal conditions.

“It sure didn’t look like it this morning, but when the sun came out it was perfect conditions,” Thompson said. “It was super tacky on corners, and we thought the straightaways would be soupy but everything strung together. Been getting great traction all the way up.”

Thompson rode that traction to a third place finish in the sportsman class with a shortened-run time of 3 minutes, 8.78 seconds.

Palisade racer Mike Magee won the sportsman class with a time of 3:04.06.

Magee and Thompson were delayed when one of many cars suffering from tire troubles stopped halfway up the track.

Magee said that the shortened course put a little more emphasis on technical skill and also put stress on different areas of the car than on a full climb.

“It’s a lot of curves in a short time,” Magee said. “On a normal year, with a full course, it gets a lot straighter on the top part and it opens up. Here is a lot more challenging. You’re also racing to where all the fans are up there, and that gives them a cool sight too.”

Magee also said the smoothness of his run was due to focus and the racing surface, which came as a pleasant surprise.

“It’s a lot easier when it’s tacky like this,” Magee said. “The car stays where it needs to be and not sliding out on the corners and stuff. When it’s wet like this everyone wants to run on it. It makes everybody faster and hooked up and the car has a lot more bit on the track.

“The sun came out and dried the track down so everything worked out.”


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