Monday, September 26, 2011 08:00
It was a worthy effort—and a close call as well. Aaron Pfadt was hell-bent on getting into the 341 Club, an elite group of drivers who have scaled the 5.2-mile Geiger Grade between Virginia City and the Comstock Lode area in 3:41 or less.
The 2011 Spectre 341 Challenge Hill Climb was Pfadt’s first run up the mountain and, technically, was a way to showcase his Salt Lake City company’s—Pfadt Racing—new suspension system for Camaros. The driver knew his car and the suspension; what he had to learn quickly was the tricky 22-turn closed course.
Pfadt is a veteran of performance street driving and road courses. His criteria for participating in racing events was the degree in which they were unusual. The Spectre 341 Challenge made the cut.
He and his 2010 Chevy Camaro SS were well on their way to cracking the code of the winding, treacherous Nevada highway. With a full tank of gas, a passenger and an approximate two-ton weight, he’d managed a 3:56 on the first run and knew the goal time was within reach.
He’d also managed to whack a full second off each consecutive run, breaking the 3:41 time by two seconds at the end of the first day and dropping another four seconds on the second day.
On the final run, at turn 19, the Camaro lost grip on a dirt-covered section of asphalt and tried to get to the top of the mountain cross country style. And it nearly headed back over the cliff. Once the beast was pulled off the road (after a near-miss by the eventual winner Lou Gigliotti), the actual damage wasn’t as bad as first suspected. But none of that mattered: Pfadt and the Camaro had their eighth spot with 3:31.1. Best estimate: Pfadt was doing 90 mph before he lost grip and 60 when the Camaro tried to crawl uphill.
So what does a suspension expert do to his Camaro to get it Geiger-Grade ready? Or more modestly to showcase what an everyday driver can do with his Camaro? The key is to reduce the sway to make his muscle car more predictable and precise. Assuming the road isn’t off-camber, gravelly, and suffering from two days’ worth of high performance cars. In terms of driving, Pfadt said the challenge was figuring out when to push. The right-hand corners were not the place to push—considering the 500-foot drop if you pushed too much.
Despite the dramatic end to Pfadt’s run, he, like all of this year’s top ten, intend to come back in 2012. Real Car Guys looks forward to covering the next ‘climb.