in a hurry at Buffalo Peak in Colorado.
Racing is a passionate sport, but we seldom
seem to intermarry.
It’s almost as though we live in
separate worlds – one for sports cars, one for Indy, for NASCAR,
sprint cars, drag racing, and the like.
It’s a shame, because
we all really are of the same species. A racer is a racer. Case in
point: Todd Cook.
Todd is the personable proprietor of TCE
Performance in Tempe, AZ. One busy guy, he makes masterful
aftermarket braking systems of all flavors, does race car prep and
fabrication, and travels widely giving performance-driving
He knows his stuff and he’s spent his time
beneath the belts. He’s raced Formula Mazda, been the shop manager
for both Bob Bondurant and Jim Russell Schools, and served as tech
inspector to the Star Mazda Series. But for the last dozen years he
has also been master of the mountain – one of the country’s most
admired hill climbers, working with his wife Chris, a limited crew,
and a very limited budget.
We should all pay more heed to the
hill climb space. After all, it is one of the most time-honored
forms of racing, the first recorded event being held in France in
1897. Today various events are sprinkled across our nation with
dates such as the Giants’ Despair Climb in Pennsylvania, the Mount
Equinox in Vermont, and likely the most famous, “The Hill’,
Colorado’s Pikes Peak. It’s racy stuff.
Todd’s hot rod will
grab you with just the sideways glance. The pretty little
all-aluminum flyweight TCE/Coyote was originally built by John Wells
in 2000. Powered by a 3.5L stroked V6 SHO (Ford/Yamaha), it scales
in at 1470 pounds, all wet, with Todd aboard.
at Land’s End in Colorado. (Photo Cook Collection)
And a little closer look will tell you how
trick it really it. The workmanship is beautiful and the ideas
behind it thought-provoking. The car is modular with three sections:
a crush structure up front, the driver’s capsule, and the engine
section in back. And it’s all held together with hose clamps!
comes apart. (Photo Dick Berggren)
Todd, meanwhile, is the epitome of
a driver. He thought nothing of traveling cross-country last
summer to take on Mt Washington, that treacherously narrow
guitar string of a road up a mountain known worldwide for
its violently unpredictable weather. After just a couple of
practice runs, he quickened the Coyote’s gait by 27 seconds.
Check out this video….
Note the amazing speed he carries and monitor the
suspension stability by watching that front wing. He was the
fastest open-wheel car there ever in “the Climb to the
Clouds” and fastest two-wheel-drive car ever as well.
Todd’s comments afterwards were a tad understated. “I
could have gone faster. With the wet up top beyond that tree
line, visibility was my challenge. I felt my way the last
couple of miles. I knew there was a road up there
Like many other hill climbers, Todd and
Chris will be focused on Pikes Peak this summer. Scheduled
for July 8, the event is definitely amped up for 2012. For
the 90th annual running, the course, as recently as 2000 all
dirt, will be completely paved. Entries are way up. Todd is
psyched. He knows he will be underpowered relative to some
of the wealthier open-wheel teams, but don’t for a minute
count him out. He already has four wins there and holds both
the Qualifying and Race Records in the retired Mini Sprint
class for which the car was originally built.
“Racing on Pikes Peak really is a challenge.
There’s very limited practice, and it might be even more
limited this year with all the new activity.
approach to driving there is different from other racing.
It’s just not a 100-lapper or even 30 laps. It’s like you’re
qualifying EVERY lap. It used to be more of sprint car style
than a late-apex asphalt approach, but I suspect that will
change now, too, with the pavement.”
is not with other competitors. It’s racing against the road.
Sure, you want each time to be your flyer, but you just
cannot make a mistake. People do go off the cliff. I sure
“So, I guess in some ways it’s the same as any
other form of motorsports. There’s that balance. Your first
mindset is to finish the run, but how much do you push that
envelope? The mentality to finish gets blunted by the desire
to finish quickly.”
Is that classic racer speak or
what? We’re all the same.
and Chris. (Photo Cook Collection)
© 2012 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181