Without our drive for knowledge, cars wouldn’t have superseded the horse-drawn carriage. The thing is, driving from Point A to Point B is far from offering any sort of pleasure. If we were wired this way, then we would all be thrilled to commute to work and back home. You see, there’s only one way of getting a dopamine surge from driving a car. And that, my friend, is to drive it hard, to drive it like you mean it.
Against the clock, against others, with the purpose of breaking records or just for the hell of it, racing is one of the most fulfilling activities that human beings can engage in because competition is in our DNA. The brave men and women who tackled the Pikes Peak Hill Climb know it all too well.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the second oldest motorsport event in America. Few titles in the realm of motorsport compare to the status of King of the Mountain, which is why some peeps are willing to duke it out on full attack mode on the 12.42-mile course. Blake Fuller is one of them.
Blake Fuller, the chief executive officer and founder of wearable power solutions company GO PUCK, first had his sight on the summit in 1999, when he was 18 years old. He walked away from his first-ever Race to the Clouds with the Rookie of the Year award in his hands, an accolade that resolved Blake to have another go and to push himself even further. In 2002, when Blake was 22, he won the prestigious Open Class.
Many racing experiences after those two highlight moments, Fuller decided to return to Pikes Peak in 2016 behind the wheel of a Tesla Model S P90D. Whereas internal combustion engines are robbed of 30 percent of their power at the summit, an electric car is unfazed by the thinner air available at high altitudes. However, racing a full-size electric sedan from 9,390 to 14,115 feet is not as simple as some might imagine.
Bearing in mind that Fuller is gunning for a record in the Electric Production class, preparations had to be made before Blake and his Tesla Model S racing car will try to conquer the summit on June 26, 2016.
We had a chat with Blake and this is the interview that resulted.autoevolution:
You’ve first taken on the challenge of climbing up that hill when you were 18 years old. What convinced you to return to Pikes Peak?Blake Fuller:
After winning Rookie of the Year at 18, I returned each year after to seek a win at Pikes. In my 4th year, at the age of 22, I was able to win the race, for the first time for Honda North America and the first win in a front-wheel-drive car in the Open Class. After that win, I was blessed with many opportunities in my racing career, in my business, and my personal life.
Racing World Challenge, IMSA, Formula D and Pro Rally kept me busy behind the wheel, and the growth of Braille Battery from a racing-inspired idea to a full-fledged supplier to racing organizations around the world provided plenty of distraction from returning. However, after receiving an invite for the 100th anniversary of PPIHC and knowing the road had changed, it felt the perfect time to bring a very special production car to the mountain to hopefully make history again.
We also have other alignments and unique technologies being debuted on this 100th running within our program.ae:
What were you thinking when you’ve chosen the Model S? After all, it’s a full-size sedan that weighs 4,608 pounds in 70D form. That’s a rather heavy car to drive on a course that climbs 4,725 feet from the start line, on grades averaging 7.2 percent. BF:
I wish it weighs 4,608 pounds stock! My vehicle actually started late, tipping the scales at over 5,300 pounds, between luxury items, seven seats, and full panoramic roof. Not to mention it having dual motors and enough batteries to build thousands of GO PUCKS!
ae: According to the PPIHC rule book, any car entered in the Electric Production class must be equipped with an audio warning system, roll cage, and a battery that may or may not be the one provided by the manufacturer. Tell us what mods have you done to your EV of choice.BF:
One can tell how new the class for Production EV happens to be by how few modification allowances are within this class. As a “production class,” one must look at the spirit of the class: what can someone go buy today from a dealer, make safe and then go racing.
The production class for cars like Porsche, BMW, and Audi are always “open to interpretation” as these vehicles offer so many customer-specific ordering or performance packages, either factory direct or at local “performance-minded” dealers. For example, a Porsche could literally be ordered from the factory painted with a full racing livery, full race cage and a host of modifications giving 10, 20 or even 50 percent better performance in some aspects than a standard model.
At this point, Tesla’s dealer network is still being grown and the main goal is to serve the ever-increasing demand for these advanced technology vehicles. What Tesla has done is very impressive for a company only about 10 years old! We have taken the spirit of advancement of Tesla and chosen our modifications to be within the rules, from the Tesla parts bin and using the minds of some of the greatest problem solvers in the industry to first and foremost meet the safety rules of the class and also stay well within the spirit of the production class.
To sum it up, less weight, more efficiency and a focus on completing what is a very challenging task of building the very first Tesla Race Car. We are establishing a new era, a new baseline, and discovering a world of areas of innovation along the way!ae:
Your company, GO PUCK, is specialized in wearable power solutions. Are there any technological similarities between the battery in your race-ready Tesla Model S P90D and the one that charges your mobile phone?BF:
Surprisingly, there are a lot of technology alignments, both on the Macro level as well on the supply chain and methodology of the two companies – Tesla & GO PUCK:
* Both the Tesla and GO PUCK have personnel responsible for patents in the Tesla, racing series like IndyCar and, of course, the line of products from GO PUCK.
* The current lithium-ion chemistries in the GO PUCK and the Tesla are the same. Hence, developments in software, hardware, and progressions in learning from competition benefit the GO PUCK products we make today and future products. In fact, the GO PUCK is the most efficient form of transporting energy from a power grid or renewable source for your devices, allowing you to capture, store, and transport information on your device. In the same way, the Tesla is the most efficient in storing and releasing energy in production today for the benefit of human transportation. The main difference is that there are more devices needing charging and power than humans needing transport. Hence, on a Macro level the benefits we will see from this racing program will possibly affect our day-to-day use of devices more than just human transportation.
* From an engineering standpoint, both companies focus on next-level safety, speed, and usability. No doubt, both transportation and energy are commodities. What Tesla and GO PUCK do is redefine these commodities.
ae: The driver to beat is Roy Richards and the car to outgun is a Honda Fit EV that finished the hill climb in 12 minutes and 55 seconds. How are you feeling about your chances of setting a new best-in-class record?BF:
As mentioned, my last win was in a Honda, so I have conflicted emotions about challenging a Honda’s record. The time of 12m 55s should be easily achieved, IF all systems are functioning AND road conditions allow. Pikes Peak is one of the most difficult courses to predict. In testing, we had snow and ice on the road, on race day we may have 90-degree heat on the start line, rain in the middle and snow up top.
All of these present challenges for tires, setup, and, of course, batteries! From testing, I can definitely say we have the ability to break the record. But the race day will be very exciting to see if we just beat the record, come up short or shatter it to a whole new level!ae:
What car do you use as a daily driver these days?BF:
All of these rotate and see about the same amount of use, but the BMW is the one that gets the most mileage monthly :). I am fortunate to have a few different cars, as I am a car geek. Let’s just say all of the cars are either nostalgic or are admired for being the best of their time or pure driving pleasure:
* BMW F80 M3 – modified to about 550 HP
* 1998 Acura NSX with Pop-Up Headlights, 1 of 5 Comptech full package cars, DOT Comp tires on road
* 1998 Acura Integra Type R – Gutted, Lighted, All Motor, DOT Comp tires on road
* Classic Mini Cooper S 1275 RHD British Racing Green
* 2007 Nissan Altima Hybrid Race Car
* My 2002 Pikes Peak-winning Honda Civicae:
What dream car would you buy, money no object?BF:
Ferrari F40LM in white with carbon wheels, cranked up boost, Ti Exhausts, and yes, I would track it and drive it on the street!ae:
Automakers are pouring more money than ever into electrification, even though gas is cheap. Do you think that electric vehicles, such as the upcoming Tesla Model 3, are the future of personal transportation?BF:
Is gas cheap? I guess everything is relative… How far in future are you thinking? In the next 5 years, the future of transport will be lead by the challenge of owning a car in larger and larger regions. Just past that it will be challenged by who is driving: the human or the computer.
And in 10 years, even the Model S will seem a car ahead of its time, but still outdated (that is unless the owner has done the software, firmware, and battery pack updates)… But even if gas is $50/gallon, the F40 will be a great place to hear the dead dinosaurs roar again!P.S.:
A special thank you goes to Kim Livengood of The Eclipse Agency for making this interview happen.