Viper Nation

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RTTTTed On November - 22 - 2010

Revelstoke Mountain Rally

by Ted Hlokoff

Supercharged madness is sliding up a skinny two lane switch-backed mountain road, and it only took about 15 min for 13 Vipers to slide to the top of Revelstoke Mountain, BC.

 

My wife Deana and I own and operate Anahim Lake Trading General Store.   I received an email notifying us that the Viper Club was meeting for a weekend Mountain Climb in Revelstoke, BC.  I knew that it was time to try out my new ’01 Supercharged Viper GTS in competition against other Vipers.  Having various Musclecars parked in my garage along with a few Turbo cars I knew the Viper was King.  Not just a superfast streetcar (10.5@139mph on stock tires), but the Viper went extremely well around corners and stopped quickly with factory Brembo Calipers, Stop-tech lightweight slotted rotors clamped by ceramic pads.  A Mountain Rally against other Vipers sounded like a ‘learning experience”.  Deana and I had been looking into upgrading to a computerized scanner system for our General Store.  Blue River and Edgewater both had stores with the Kingcorp scanner system we had been investigating.  Since these General Stores were only a few hundred miles out of our way to Revelstoke it made good business sense to indulge a little of my “Car Craziness” while “taking care of business.”

 

Slightly North of Mt. Waddington is a plateau surrounded by 4 Mountain ranges called the West Chilcotin.  Within 50 miles I have 800 pristine lakes, the 3rd highest waterfall in the World and the steepest 16 miles of highway in North America, surrounding my lakeside Log House at Nimpo Lake, BC.  Leaving this scenery to drive to the scenic Monashee mountains was like going to the neighbors –  all of BC is beautiful.  I loaded our suitcases into the back of my GTS and headed East along the “Highway of Death” (hwy 20) to Bluewater Store, first stop of our trip across the province. 

 

We spoke with the owners of the Blueriver store, got their recommendation on the scanner system and back “on the road again.”   Spending the day in the driver’s seat is one of my favorite pastimes and we did arrive at the Log Entryway of the Hillcrest Hotel Coast Resort about 6:30pm.  We didn’t stop for dinner so that we could make the 7pm lounge meeting.  I checked into the Hotel and carried our suitcases to our room.  Douglas had gotten a discount for our room rates and even arranged parking security for our cars.

 

Arriving in the lounge at 7 we were welcomed by 18 Viper Club members including our hosts, Douglas French and his wife Deb from Calgary.  Most were eating so we quickly found seats and ordered dinner.  It was excellent and Deana enjoyed a glass of pricey red wine with Debbie.    Being our first event since joining the club we spent the evening meeting Club members from all over Western Canada.  The people were great and we had a good time in the lounge, but it had been a long day of driving so about midnight I asked the waitress for our bill.  “I’m sorry but it’s already been taken care of,” she told me.  I found Doug French and asked him what happened to my bill and he said, “Oh I took care of it.”  Wow, “Thanks, Doug and Debbie.”  The ‘party’ moved to the Hotel’s balconies and a few member rooms that were adjoining.  The itinerary called for all participating Vipers to be lined up at the Park gate, with their park passes on, before 8am the next morning.  I figured that meant to be in the parking lot by 7:15am.

 

I was the last guy to start his Viper at 7:15am.  Most others had cleaned their windows and were ready to go already.  I didn’t realize that Viper owners could party all night and be in such great shape so early in the morning … must be the crisp mountain air?  7:30am found all the Vipers lined up and leaving the Hotel’s parking lot.   Fred Kappler’s 99 Black GTS, Don’s Sapphire ’01 R/T10 and Ron’s Black 99 GTS all were equipped with Paxton superchargers and wives.  Although Sapphire Vipers are quite rare since only 239 were built I found that there were 3 Sapphire cars in the parking lot, mine included.   A Mercedes SLR55 was also hidden amongst the Viper lineup.  

 

When the Park ticket booths opened at 7:50am all 13 Vipers were lined up in both lanes.   After purchasing our Park pass we moved down the road a block or so to the Pipe gate and lined up there.  A safety car and the coffee SUV headed through the gate to take their stations along the road and at the finish line.  Radio contact let the starters know when our safeties were in place.  The most aggressive drivers lined up at the front to leave first, and the less aggressive drivers left later.  This being my first ever Viper competition and first Rally I decided that my supercharged Viper probably would do best in the middle and that’s where I lined up.  Every minute another Viper left the starting line on their way to the top of the 13 mile long narrow two lane road.  14 of the corners were switchbacks and the rally speed was to be 50mph.  I’d heard that there would be a radar gun checking speeds and anything past 50 was an instant lose.  I found out later that was to “promote honesty” for the speed limit.  The elevation change over this course is just less than 6,000 vertical feet.  The scenery is awesome as the parkway road travels through two different types of forest and various sub-alpine meadows, full of wildflowers, not that any of our competitors slowed to look.

 

Lined up I got out of my car and walked closer to the starting line to see others launch techniques.  Although I’d never competed in a Rally before, I’d raced drag strips for decades and always had that “bad boy” street driving style.  You can read that as to mean I had collected my share of tickets.  I was taking this seriously.  Watching as Lee Conrad and his wife pulled up to the starting line I began to see that things were not as serious as I’d thought.  Lee scratched 3rd gear rubber before the first corner.  A 3rd gear shift is about 96mph so he’d already disqualified himself.  It was obvious that he was having a blast in his stock ’06 Copperhead Viper and that’s what Vipers are all about, enjoying life.  Later a few people mentioned that it must be Lee driving as his wife was even faster.

 

I got back into my Viper and waited for my turn.  I asked Deana is she wanted to get out of the car and wait with the starting people.  She said, “We’ll see.”  It had been almost two months since I’d driven our 98 Red GTS under a Tractor-trailer during a rain storm.  This was the first time Deana had gotten into the new Viper.  She wasn’t exactly comfortable as this Viper had nearly 200hp more than the red one and was ten times as loud.  We’d survived the head-on collision with a Semi and I figured that it proved that we were invulnerable and a Viper can smash into a Semi and win.  Deana wasn’t so sure.

 

My turn at the starting line and Deana was still in the car.  She was staring off into the distance and I wasn’t about to interrupt her trance, it was our turn!  I blasted off in first, smoking the tires to 50mph, then shifting into second and merely holding the speed all the way to the first corner.  I downshifted and went into the corner too fast causing us to go into a high degree four wheel drift past the apex.  It was a perfect turn for a drifting competition, but not so great for rallying.   The passenger seat was quiet and that was a good thing.  Entering the next corner I downshifted into first, slightly slower entry speed and started to throttle at the apex causing a complete loss of traction for the rear tires.  We exited the corner sideways, again not  bad for a drift competition.  Still no screaming or other bad sounds from the passenger seat area so I concentrated on my driving.  The next corner and every corner after that was perfection.  Second gear was easiest to enter the corner and control the throttle coming out of the corners.  Flooring it after the corner exit I would fishtail to 50 mph just for the pure joy of the screaming tires and smell of burning rubber.  I’d figured out the speed the Pilot Sports and Eibach springs liked for the corners and I was attaining a 5 degree slippage all through the exits.  The rest of the rally was pure JOY.  All too soon I crossed the finish line and it was over.  Deana looked OK and I couldn’t see any “haunted look” or shaking so I pulled into the parking lot and asked her how she’d fared.

 

“I think I wore out the carpet where the passenger side brake pedal is supposed to be.”  She was smiling. Yah, I thought she was OK.  Getting out of the car I started to shiver because I hadn’t expected the crisp mountain air to be so cold even at this altitude.  There was a wildflower meadow at the parking lot so many of us got to view the scenery we’d missed on the way up.

 

After everyone showed up we headed down the mountain and a few of us were going to a car wash we’d passed on our way to the Park.  Noon was the time for meeting at 3 Valley Gap for lunch.  We washed, dried our cars while many locals, as well as tourists, stopped and enjoyed seeing our cars, took pics etc.

 

We drove the 10 min. to our lunch destination west of Revelstoke at 3 Valley Gap.  Beautiful winding mountain highway but there was some tourist traffic.  Special parking in the employee’s lot had been arranged by Douglas and we all parked behind the restaurant.  After an exceptional Cheeseburger our group wandered through the gift shops and once everyone was finished lunch we all wandered through the Ghost town.  Unique as most of the buildings (including a 2 story Hotel) had been moved to the site at 3 Valley Gap.  Each building was similar to a museum with antiques behind the Plexiglas walls.  The Saloon and Hotel had period dressed employees and we watched the “Old Cowboy Singer” performing in the Saloon for awhile.  There was an Antique car museum and the largest Canadian Railway Roundhouse complete with a Train museum.  The various railcars, cabooses and the Polished up Steam Locomotive were definitely worth the tour.

 

We met back at our Vipers around 3pm.  A ‘quick’ scenic drive to the Mica Damn was slated for us.  We followed the guys with the Passport Escort SRX radar detectors.    There was no traffic on highway 23 North and eventually we found ourselves in 2 groups, the “fast guys” and the “we’ll check the road for you group” that we never seemed to catch up to.  Using radios it turned out that our road checkers didn’t see any traffic at all.  The rest of us did see some wonderful scenery during out jaunt.  We stopped at a couple of scenic pull offs.  The highway was a well developed wide 2 laner with some passing lanes.  Since it follows a valley there were many corners and elevation changes. 

 

About 5pm we all headed back to the Hillcrest Hotel.  After our short, but spirited drive everyone looked fresh to me, but Deana said we needed refreshing anyway. 

 

At 7pm more than 30 people did a good job filling the Hotel’s Banquet room and we started the evening with a short chat from the VCA officers.  We were served Prime Rib and went right into the Rally awards.  Ernie and Dawn Sedola received 1st place with a time of 14:27, Deana and I placed 2nd, with Louie and Sharon Giestorfer coming in 3rd.  A lot of door prizes were handed out and Deana won a pink Dodge girls T shirt.  After dinner most of us retired to the lounge to carry on where we’d left off the night before.  Another good night and we made many new friends.

 

Sunday morning we met for Breakfast Buffet in the restaurant.  10am was checkout time for the Hotel and loaded up most of the Vipers left the parking lot headed South Highway 23 to enjoy lunch at Nakusp.  Another scenic drive along the man-made Arrow Lakes taking a free Ferry from Shelter Bay to Galena Bay. 

After our outdoor lunch many of our friends went back North heading home to Calgary and Edmonton.  Deana and I headed south to Edgewater to check another store scanner system on our way home.  We travelled with a half dozen Vipers heading towards Vancouver and Kelowna areas until the second Ferry where they continued along 23 South and we turned off to Edgewater.

 

This was a fantastic weekend.  No tickets, no breakdowns, no accidents, with friendly competition, 30 new friends, free food, awesome scenery and we even got business done …  it can’t get any better than it was this weekend. 

 

 

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