We love the stories that come from hillclimbers at the Dragon! Here’s a few we thought we’d share :
“In preparing for Chasing the Dragon II, I’d had quite the thrash during the week prior to the event. In my rush, there was a thing or two I failed to do. Between events, my car stays in the garage, along with our four cats. The cats love to lounge inside the racecar. In my rush to get to the event, I forgot to clean the cat fuzz out of the car. Actually, hadn’t thought about it. That is, until I was on my way up the hill. As the winds began to move about inside the car, I found myself inside a whirling torrent of cat fur, from single hairs to airborne clumps. I quickly found myself grabbing the chunks that I could as they came by and throwing the out the window as I made my way up the course. These are the moments a Go Pro is made for. I’d turned mine on….and failed to hit the record button.” – Scott Franklin
“Question: What’s better than driving up a two-lane mountain road as fast as you can?
Answer: Smiling inside your helmet and waving to the spectators on the way back down!
Although my first SCCA hillclimb, I was welcomed at registration and accepted as part of the “Chasing the Dragon” community of drivers, volunteers, and spectators. Then after seeing the real race cars, and speaking with the seasoned drivers, I felt somewhat outclassed with my daily driver. But after a few runs up the hill (and back down), the thought of being outclassed left my mind; spectators approached and asked about my MX-5 Miata and driving experience. I’m sure the unspoken thought was, “I have one of those and if you can do it, I can do it too!” The course workers were serious and professional about their work; safety was the focus for all involved. And volunteers (including my wife), made sure that young and old alike enjoyed their time during the event. Over the weekend, the people of Robbinsville, NC were hospitable, friendly, and supported the activities both in town and at the two-lane hillclimb site. In short, it’s hard to beat a racing weekend in the mountains, complete with a roadside Sunday service and BBQ lunch with friends. ” – Tim Olsen
“Hillclimbing is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. My parents are both from the Pocono Mtns. of Pennsylvania, which is the hillclimb Mecca of the U.S. So I grew up watching the hillclimbs up there and then Chimney Rock when I moved to Sc. It was a blast being a little kid and waiving to the racers as they came back down after their runs. So, for me, it was really special to be the driver waiving to those kids, and then later on meeting some and being asked to sign autographs for them. I had no doubt in my mind that participating in the hillclimb was gonna be great, as this is something that I wanted to do for years, but I can honestly say that it surpassed my expectations in every way and now I’m hooked.” – Scott Sipler
“It all started with a Facebook invitation to go hillclimbing from Ted Theodore, the event chair, offering that if I brought my own helmet he would put me in an IT-7 Mazda racecar. Quickly thinking, “I have always wanted to go hillclimbing and if I don’t do it now, I never will”!!! – I contacted my wife who simply said “Do It!” It was only two weeks before the event, and with the encouragement of family and a couple of coworkers, I contacted SCCA to obtain a novice Track Trial license (simply fill out the online forms for your application, including a medical history form – no exam is needed). I purchased a new helmet (a SA2005 or newer version is required), and packed up my remaining gear for the event. Ted had offered the car, but it needed a trailer to get to the mountain, so I went down to his home to pick up a lovely purple RX-7 affectionately known as the “Purple Haze”. After dragging it home, it became a lovely lawn ornament, much to the delight of my neighbors. As the hillclimb weekend approached I managed to convince two of my coworkers to come watch me play on the mountain. They both have now decided to join the hillclimbing ranks and are building cars of their own for this next event.
It all seemed at first as though it wouldn’t come together in time, but the SCCA had my license to me in a matter of days, I had the required driver safety gear (helmet, suit, gloves, shoes) and the car was on a trailer ready to go. We headed out early on Friday morning to get to Robbinsville, from Charlotte. Every time we stopped for fuel or food, we spent some time answering questions about the car, the event, and sportscar racing. North Carolina is famous for NASCAR and local short track racing, but it was interesting how many folks wanted to know more about road racing. We arrived in town and found our way to the registration site in downtown Robbinsville. This is a quaint town in the North Carolina mountains, and they are very supportive of the hillclimb participants and visitors. The car was sponsored by “Ride Robbinsville” and their support was very much appreciated! We enjoyed a day of food and fun during a summer festival held in town that weekend, and stayed at the “Smoky Mountain Mansion” outside of town. I attended an informative meeting Friday evening for novice drivers, to discuss specific issues with hillclimbing, driving recommendations, and safety requirements. I also had the chance to meet my co-driver, Marc Osgood, who would be sharing the “Purple Haze” with me during the event. The next morning we headed to the mountain, with friends in tow, to compete. After a drivers meeting to go over safety requirements, provide car/run groups, and introduce the event officials, we headed to our cars. One of the enjoyable experiences of the weekend was the participation of local high school automotive program students in a “junior crew chief” program. We had one involved with our car and he was both helpful and interested in our car and the sport.
Finally, it was time to go! After strapping into the car, and rolling up to the line, I was given the signal to start. As I started up the hill, my first thought was “don’t screw it up”, followed by go – go – go! I then realized that the tach had quit working in the car. Since I wasn’t sure what a rotary motor should sound like at speed, I just kept my foot in it and went through the gears till it sounded like it was pulling as hard as it could. The first run up was a blur of excitement. It felt fast, but I am sure it wasn’t as nearly as fast as it seemed at the time. Wow, that was a great feeling and one I wanted to do again, and again!!! It was like nothing else. After rolling back down the hill, Mark climbed in the car and went up the hill on his run. It sounded sporty as he pulled off the line and after the first turn you lose sight of the car. Sometime later, I heard this odd sound, similar to an old John Deere tractor, coming back down the hill. Only it wasn’t green, it was purple – the Purple Haze was sick! A fairly quick diagnosis told us that it had lost an engine seal, which would require a complete engine rebuild. Marc and I felt that our weekend was probably done – the car was broken and was only going to move on a trailer. Suddenly, Ted comes to the rescue and provides us with replacement cars!!! I shared a Mazda Miata with his son, TJ, and his co-driver Rick. Marc climbed in Ted’s own Jedi, a specialty hillclimb car. I had a blast! The Miata handled extremely well and was very tight with a lot of grip. What fun! However, I realized I needed to come back the next time with my own car, so I didn’t have to drive with the fear of damaging a car that someone else was relying upon for their weekend of sport. As it was, I was awarded a 1st place in the IT-7 class as I had the only complete run in that class up the hill. It was also great fun providing autographs to the kids who were simply excited to see the racecars and to talk to a driver of one of these machines – I am sure one of them will be a future champion.
So, after one of the best experiences of my life and certainly of my 40 years behind the wheel of a sportscar, I have spent the last 2 months building up an old Corvette to compete in “Chasing the Dragon III”. Come to the Dragon, to see the next chapter of the story as I compete along with the best hillclimbers in the country!” – Shane Findlan
“The week before the dragon II was filled with the usual car prep, loading of tires, tools,etc. Both Ray and I were excited to get on the mountain. We decided to hook up the trailer and load the car the night before, as we wanted to get to Robbinsville early so we could leave the car on display. Seemed like a good idea at the time. I won’t bore you with the details except to say I had a little trouble with the neighbors dog; so after getting picked up off the pavement I realized I had a big problem. I couldn’t stand on my left leg. Now what? I decided to stay off of it and apply ice, maybe luck would be on my side and it would be better in the morning…There was no way I was going to miss the event. We decided to go ahead after much debate. I knew that I couldn’t drive, but I also knew that Ray wouldn’t have gone without me. However the event was not a total loss. Being on the sidelines gave me an unique prespective as a spectator. Watching faces as drivers launch off the start line, hearing the cheers as they urge drivers to go faster. Young men asking someone about their car, kids begging for autographs and playing with the “Dragon” Simply amazing how the people of Robbinsville have made all of us feel like a part of their community in such a short time, I know from talking to my fellow racers that all of us are truly grateful to have such a great event. Sadly I will have to miss dragon III as well as I will be getting my knee replacement at that time but, rest assured I will be at the next one!” – Sheila Cockrell ESP 66 Mustang Cobra II
AS you can see, a lot of great drivers are having a lot of FUN at the Dragon Hillclimb! September 29 & 30 is coming fast so sign up and join us! You’ll never forget your first hillclimb… actually, you’ll never forget the last one you ran either!