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2013 Nevada Open Road Challenge: 200 mph down old Route 318

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2013 Nevada Open Road Challenge: 200 mph down old Route 318

by Ray Alexander

The timed event goes from Lund, Nevada to Hiko, Nevada. Now, where exactly is that?

The road has been renamed "The Silver State Classic Challenge Highway," but maps are going to show it as NV 318 for quite some time. The highway was built as a north/south shortcut for US 93; it removes 30 miles of hills and turns into US 6. Most of the racers are going to Ely. The highway is closed for the Nevada events two days per year. The course covers 90 miles in three counties. The event is never postponed; rain, shine, sleet, or snow.

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The Nevada Highway Patrol (NHP) has generated a lot of revenue during race week along the route to the starting point, Route I-15 to US 93; it is not heavily traveled, and has long straight sections. On one of the days, all oversize loads are routed off I-15 and onto US 93, a two-lane highway. In passing some of the loads and their accumulated entourage, I had gotten well over 100 mph. I was within twenty miles of the 318 turnoff when I came around a bend and there was a Nevada Highway Patrol officer coming toward me in my lane, with all warning lights on. My immediate thought was that they got me with a plane. I pulled off the road and the officer stopped and said, "Stay off the road, there is a load coming that needs the entire road." That was better than Alka Seltzer.

These events are popular with Canadians. The first one that I met this year at rookie school was Doug Seal, who drove a 2010 Dodge Viper ACR black with a red racing stripe. His son Brent was his navigator (probably slave labor). As a rookie 110 mph is the top speed class in which you may compete and that is the one they chose. Seal owns a Chrysler dealership near Vancouver, BC. I believe it is actually located in Stanley. Seal said, "There is a lot of Mopar and other car activity in the area." There was another rookie Canadian driving a 2009 ZR1 Corvette, the driver was Darren Graham and the navigator was Jacqui Rae Micka.

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All rookie drivers must go to Las Vegas for the driver school on Thursday. Many veterans also attend to get their vehicle and safety equipment technically approved. The most interesting car at rookie school was a Ford Falcon with all the paint removed by a power wheel, leaving circular tracks on the entire surface; then the car was clear coated. I am sure that was the first Falcon that I ever took a photo of.

Lirel Holt, the winner of the 135 class in Texas, had to attend rookie school because he was disqualified the last time he raced in Nevada.

There was a GT3 Porsche there with several stickers proclaiming "rookie." The young guy, 77 years old, was the navigator. It looked like another father and son team and his pay was probably similar to Brent's.

The Mopar guys were able to put together a team named "Mopar Maniacs." Ted Hlokoff was likely instrumental in forming this team; Hlokoff has multiple Vipers, as does his navigator John Vittone. Hlokoff is Canadian and Vittone just gets wet a lot, he lives in the Seattle area.

Ted Hlokoff has a web site for Vipers, Viper Nation [appeared defunct in 2015]. He warns all Corvette owners about the possibility of being bitten by a snake if you go there; and he provided the photos that accompany this article.

It seems that Hlokoff and his wife were going to a lake out in the country, but had to take separate vehicles. She left first in some type of SUV, likely taking kids, dogs, and who knows what else. Hlokoff came along later in one of his Vipers. The wife got on him about driving a vehicle with poor fuel economy. Ted scratched his head and said, "So, you drove this behemoth that gets 16 mpg and I came out in this small car that gets 22 mpg. Exactly which one of us is being wasteful of fuel?"

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There are several Canadians that drive 1965-1972 Mustangs; one of these vintage machines suffered a malfunction on the trip from Canada. Most are driven to the race and back home again. Considering the to/from distance and the race I would not call one that was trailered here a garage queen. Past events have generated some tall tales about obstacles overcome in getting to the event.

Jim Webster is a guy you can count on. He has a 1994 Porsche 911T, black with the whale tail. He ran in the 140 mph class with a rookie navigator, Nicholas Gushaty, a very likeable young fellow. He taught me a little bit about craps. Webster stores the car in Las Vegas and it has Nevada plates. He just ran Texas with a female navigator from Russia. I had enough trouble with Nick's last name, hers would have been worse. I believe Jim works for Conoco Phillips. On an aside, is the world going to hate us even more when North America becomes a large exporter of petroleum?

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The weather was unsettled; it rained several small showers. There is a lot of mining around Ely, and if it is dry your car will be dusty after one trip down the main drag. The rain made it look really bad. I wasn't going to wash mine, knowing I was not going to win anything. I finally gave in just before the car show.

Joel Highsmith won the Hookers' Choice award. He has a new Challenger that mimics the old Dodge Daytona, with the pointed nose and a big wing on the rear quarter. Highsmith ran the car in the standing mile. He just installed a new engine aiming at 225 mph. He uses the same tuner that I do and he had a tune specifically for this event, so the car would not exceed 121 mph. It has a Kenne Bell blower and is somewhere in the 800 to 900 rwhp range. Someone scared the crap out of him about exceeding tech speed of 124 mph for his class. If the car was set up for drag racing, it would hit 124 in about 9 seconds.

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When I got to my car on race day, everything was wet. After leaving Ely, it was reported to have started raining again. Then, as the first cars were being put on course it began snowing and the snow was moving toward the race course. The officials reduced the time between cars to 30 seconds. The guy behind me was going to make one speedrun to about 160. I did see him once; never saw the car in front of me. In less than 42 minutes you have devoured the 90 miles and your freedom is taken away. Parked cars and vehicles with red and blue lights are ample warning. We left the rain and snow in Ely; it never made it to the course.

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At the awards ceremony Kelly Gibbs is in charge of laughter. During the ceremony, he noted the large number of awards that went to Canada. He also postulated, "If we don't take steps to stem this outflow, it will likely get worse."

Charlie Friend blew a rear tire at 200 mph in his hand-built Corvair. Friend survived nicely; I can't say the same for the car. I am glad Ralph Nader buried that unsafe automobile.

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