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Silver State Classic Challenge Race: Time to Fly
Project Silver State Competes and Completes the Grueling 90-mile Race
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Two words come to mind when describing the experience of this past Septembers Silver State Classic Challenge race: Adrenaline rush.
It's probably the most exciting, nerve-racking, thrilling, death-defying, legal act of driving you can do without being a professional race-car driver. It's hard to explain the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach as you near the starting line. You think you're prepared with the countless hours you studied the course, thought out your game plan, and convinced yourself you were ready for this challenge. But as you near the starting line your heart starts beating so fast it could run the race for you, and win. You double- and triple-check everything: glove check, helmet check, goggle check, fire-extinguisher check, cars vitals check, and you reassure yourself that you've made the right decisions and have done everything possible to prepare.
Starting-line officials give a last look inside the car to make sure safety equipment is where it should be and that there are no loose items floating around the back seat. The official gives you a thumbs up, a pat on the helmet, and says, "Good luck, we'll see you at the finish line," trying to calm you a little as he hands you your timesheet which confirms the exact time you left the starting line. It's the same piece of paper you will hand to the finish-line officials who will mark the exact time you cross the line 90 miles down the road.
The moment of truth is upon you, and it's show-it-or-blow-it time. The green flag is raised, and as soon as the previous car has been given the appropriate 30 seconds lead-off time, the flag drops. At this point you have to forget your worries and nerves and let your brain, hands, and feet take over the vehicle. You're on your way, racing in America's best-known open-road race. It doesn't get any better than this.
If it sounds like we're getting a little too dramatic, it's all for good reason. Its the best way we can describe the feeling of racing in an event like this. Imagine what it must be like for the guys and gals running in the Unlimited division, going upward of 210 mph! From the outset of our Silver State project, we knew it would be a thrill from start to finish and that's exactly what we got. We had heard stories from guys who had competed in these open-road races before, and it sounded really exciting to be able to run your car as fast as you wanted on a closed highway in the middle of nowhere. But words don't do this experience justice, doing it does. And that's one of the reasons we decided to work on Project Silver State-to show everyone that drag wars and SCCA events aren't the only fish in the sea.
This was the biggest Silver State Classic turnout in the history of the event, and of the 212 entrants more than 50 percent of them were first-timers. There were a total of 24 Mustangs in the entire field, ranging from a '68 to a '98 Cobra. Unfortunately, no '99s showed up this year, but we wouldnt be surprised if a handful show up for the race in May 2000.
The race weekend started in Las Vegas on Thursday morning for the rookies. Every rookie must attend the driving school class, held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Class is followed by some hot laps around the speedway in your own car. At the end of the day an instructor rides a couple of laps with you, making sure you know what you're doing out there and don't decide to light up a cigarette during turn three.
On Friday morning there was a caravan up to the city of Ely, roughly 220 miles north of Vegas. It's during this caravan that the rookies branch off from the rest of the pack to be given a slow drive along the actual highway where the race takes place, Highway 305.
Participants spend Friday and Saturday in Ely. Then comes Sunday morning. Race day. It comes a lot quicker than you expect, and you try and remember why the heck you decided to enter this race. There's no backing out now, so we took a deep breath, sucked in our stomachs, and made our way out to the meetingplace, a local truck stop. Fuel tanks full, safety gear in check, we were ready and so was Project Silver State. Because of the altitude, everyone is reminded to air up their tires to compensate for the change in altitude from the starting line to the finish line. The start of the race is about 6,200 feet above sea level and the cars definitely feel a little sluggish. At the finish line, altitude drops about 1,200 feet and your tires' air contracts considerably. Many mistakes and accidents have been caused by the tires, which are the most important part of your car in a race like this. Whether it's about speed rating or air pressure, tires can be your best friend or worst enemy out there.
The race was a huge success. No one was hurt and no cars were damaged, which says a lot about today's safety equipment, tires, technology, and driver capabilities. Project Silver State handled herself beautifully out there, and we wouldn't be surprised if the '92 LX could easily compete in the 135-mph class as is. The suspension was tight and predictable at high speeds, and the tires and wheels were excellent. The only thing we would like to improve upon is the power. At an altitude of 6,200 feet, there is definitely a loss of power. About 8 pounds of boost would really wake up the engine. But there's always next year.