The haul to Kelowna for the Leavitt Machinery Knox Mountain Hill Climb was incredible. This is my second time along this route and the scenery is simply astounding. This trip was also a hillclimb – leaving my home which rests at about 38 meters above sea level to the height of 1244 meters (4081 feet) in the Coquihalla Pass with literally kilometer long stretches of 8.5° climbs. I should mention that the Coquihalla Pass could be considered one of the lower passes here in British Columbia; there are more than a dozen highway passes that are higher. Needless to say, experience has taught me that running up grades like this for hours at a time, my RV likes to drink 89 octane fuel and I wait for flat running before I switch back to 87. Around the 1000 meter mark, there were visible signs of snow and, a bit higher, snow banks in the roadside ditches. Literally a week prior to my trip this section of highway had been hit by a May snowstorm. Once at the top, it was coasting down to the Okanagan Valley which, from an elevation perspective, was almost 900 meters below the highway's high point.
Kelowna is located on the shores of Okanagan Lake about 4 hours east of Vancouver, 7 hours west of Calgary, Alberta, 1.5 hours north of Area 27, and 5 hours north of Spokane, WA. Nestled in a valley with mountains all around, base elevation of about 344 meters and climbs to about 589 meters to the top of the hill climb course. That is about 800 feet with an average incline of 6.7%. Do not be deceived by these numbers or by the video. This course is challenging and more than one car was hauled off of the course with what might have been mortal wounds. Pride was the only human injury to the best of my knowledge during this weekend.
Arriving at Knox Mountain Park late Thursday evening, I found that the park was already in the process of being turned into a hill climb course. At the base of the mountain, there were a 'herd' of haulers, cars, and RVs already gathering. With drivers from across B.C., Alberta, and a few from the North Western States, it was setting up to be quite an event. Being as it was the 60th running of this annual event, the car population had increased with a number of novice entries plus a few drivers/cars from the past pulled out all of the stops to participate in this historic event.
Early Friday morning, I walked the course. After the first 400 meters, I realized that this was going to be quite a climb. The next realization was how narrow the road actually was. The pavement itself was in relatively good shape, and it did not appear that the heavy spring rains and run-off had caused any significant challenges to the course. At lake level, Kelowna was in the midst of severe flooding with large sections of our camping area cordoned off because there was still standing water from flooding that occured the previous weekend. The walk and the area surrounding Knox Mountain are very picturesque. Local wildlife was evident – including wild deer which vanished before I could get my camera ready.
For this event, I had the alignment completed at Dale's Auto, a shop that deals with performance setups in addition to your everyday mom and dad car. They did a superb job of following Can-Alignments' suggestions for setup as we based it upon my track setup in Ontario. Now that I am comfortable with their work, I will not be double checking their specs, but as it was my first time having them work on my car the specs needed to be within my comfort level.
AES Auto spent a lot of time on the dyno with the NX to ensure that the car was set up and ready to go. As the shop usually tunes Hondata and EMU systems, throwing the Haltech into the mix added a bit of a curve, but Paulo took it all in stride. AES took the time and effort to go over every aspect and get it set up. Additionally, they had to cope with many unknown aspects of the engine swap. I have to say that I give top marks to AES Auto for taking on a long term project without knowing much about me nor ever having see the car run. To top off their shop work, they let me know that they were coming to the mountain to support and watch the effort. Talk about team support! AES Auto is gradually getting used to my close proximity when the NX GTi-R is involved. That is a polite way of me saying that I question everything – and can be a bit of a pain until one gets to know me. The thing is, I know this car and this build is moving it closer to the dream image that I have for it. I have to be involved. Without any time for a shakedown of any type, the car was entered into the event. Tech inspection occured on Friday with the car and driver's safety gear all being inspected. I needed to place my car numbers (they were still in the RV) and tape up the positive lead on the battery. Just added precaution in addition to the plastic cover already in place. With the CACC sticker on the windshield and helmet, everything was a green light.
On Day One, we got one practice run, and I think three timed runs completed. There were times when the course was shut down for cars with mechanical failures and track incidents. None of the incidents involved driver injury but car injury certainly took place. This was a challenge as we waited in the hot pits, baking in the beautifully hot summer sun all the while wearing our firesuits and safety gear.