Near Miss

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Starting time for the Unlimited Class is determined by the quickest qualifier on the lower section. They can opt to start the class at any time during the race day. All other racers start according to a preset order, with the slowest classes and bikes starting first. This year, with foul weather closing in on the top section, the fastest Unlimited qualifier chose to start the class runs early. Dumas, in his theoretically slower Time Attack Class Porsche, was scheduled much later. He was dismayed with this rule.He was used to track events where the starting order is dictated by overall qualifying times, regardless of class, with the fastest racers at the front of the grid. As a potential top-five contender he felt it was logical that he start soon after the Unlimiteds and, even more importantly, right in front of Millen in his class so they would essentially race in the same conditions. Millen starting nine spots behind Dumas (because of his 1.5-second-slower qualifying time) was actually a greater disadvantage, as it would put him right in the ever-worsening weather on the top section. But, as he wasn’t familiar with the mountain, Dumas was still concerned with what he considered unequal conditions.

As luck would have it, three of the fastest Unlimited qualifying contenders never made it to the top. As one of the quickest,Dallenbach took the green under ideal start conditions, but his engine suddenly went silent soon after the green flag, leaving those at the start line wondering what had happened. Blown engine? Crash? What? Dallenbach had suffered a stuck throttle and went wide-open off the left side of the fast lower section! The car was totaled, and Dallenbach was airlifted out. He was very lucky, suffering no serious injuries.When the road finally reopened, Tajima’s slick-looking electric proto smoked its motor part way up, leaving the fierce Japanese record holder greatly disappointed by the side of the road.When Dayraut’s Dacia, now the top-favored entrant, lost its brakes halfway up the mountain, it suddenly became evident that this year’s top time might be set by either Millen or Dumas! Now, the later Time Attack class start time became even more of an issue, but the rules were the rules.

Finally in position, Dumas charged off the line, the GT3 RS’s exhaust resonating off the mountain’s cliffs clear and crisp until the sound gradually faded in the altitude somewhere above the tree line. Dumas’s run was going perfectly, but as he approached the summit it began to spit rain. The colder temperatures on the wet surface made traction difficult, but he held on all the way to the top…and a new overall Peak record of 9:46.181. Dumas had achieved the impossible: an overall record time by a first-time entrant in a normally aspirated production car! It seemed inconceivable that a production-spec 911 road racer had achieved what had only been dreamed of by Unlimited Class racers just one year earlier.

Then it was Rhys Millen’s turn in the Hyundai. The veteran never made a mistake, using the turbo’s added power to gain slightly on Dumas’ newly set record time on the perilous top section. When he stopped the clock at the summit, Millen had beaten Dumas by 17/1000s of a second for a new overall record!

But for less than two-tenths of a second, Dumas would have been King of the Mountain, his name going down in racing history as an “impossible run.” Still, it had been an incredible achievement. Now Dumas will have 364 days to rerun the mountain in his mind, over and over,wondering where he might have gone just that millisecond faster…and, like hundreds of others before him, scheme for months, planning his next attack on the Peak.

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