It’s almost worse when a great start precedes a bad ending than when the weekend is crummy start-to-finish. Randy Pobst’s trip to Pikes Peak this week could be described as such. His mistake in a modified Tesla 3 through one of the bumpier bends at Pikes Peak, “Bottomless Pit,” could’ve ended up far worse, but good luck and a brick wall prevented a plummet down the side of the 12,115-foot mountain.
Despite the disappointment, the lasting message supported by his times is that a modified Model 3 is, well, amazing. With a few choice modifications, the Unplugged Performance Tesla Model 3 is fast enough to top the time sheets—and it’s clear why. A compact frame, a low center of gravity, four-wheel drive, and no need for dense air to make power make this machine perfectly suited to Pikes Peak and its numerous hairpins.
The Right Stuff
Interestingly, the powerplant isn’t what Unplugged focused on; this caged, slick-shod vehicle is very much designed for cornering, though without the two aforementioned add-ons, it’d be a very civilized street car. By strengthening its footwork to sharpen its nose and better exploit its innate, enviable traction, the clever cats at Unplugged Performance have turned this Model 3 into a giant-killer. Compared to the Hellcat he drove here last year, it’s a different world of performance.
The modifications to this car are:
- UP Race Coilovers
- Adjustable Front Upper Control Arm
- Adjustable Billet Rear Toe Arms
- Adjustable Billet Rear Camber Arms
- Adjustable Sway Bars (rear uses competition spec)
- BFB Brake Kit
- Competition Brake Pads, Brake Lines, Motul 660 Fluid
- UP-03 Race Spec Wheels measuring 18×10.5-inch
- Yokohama A052R or used Pirelli slicks
- Ascension-R Racing Bucket Seat
- Ascension aero and widebody fenders
An Encouraging Start
The plan for the first day was to start slow and aim for their fastest time during their second run, knowing they likely wouldn’t have maximum power during their third run. The first run’s plan was to lift off on the straights to conserve battery for the second run, but that changed when Randy realized that the suspension and the car were already perfectly dialed in. Hollering, whooping, and brimming with confidence, Randy charged, and by the end of the day, he was the fastest on the lower half of the course with a 4:12 run.
That elation wasn’t to last. As he neared 12,000 feet the following day, Randy started rolling triple-digit speeds through the fast, sweeping, and very bumpy final section. One corner, “Bottomless Pit,” threw him for a loop—literally. Erosion and other entrants covering that stretch meant that one particularly large bump was a bit bigger than it was the previous year, and after mounting it at 100+ miles per hour, the resulting slide sent Randy into the hillside.
Even with its interior stripped, the Tesla is still a heavy car at ~3,300 pounds, so successfully correcting a slide of that magnitude was always going to be unlikely on such a narrow road. Fortunately, Randy walked away no more than shaken and frustrated, but that sleek Model 3 suffered serious damage.
Since tumbles down the hillside in that location usually end up worse, it almost seems fortunate that the Tesla collided with a stone bridge. After that, it bounced into the gravel ditch and slid for a total of 10 yards.
Currently, Unplugged Performance are scrambling to get back to the mountain with a working car by Sunday. It’s a matter of logistics at this point, but my feeling is that if the stars align and they can take a second stab at the Race to the Clouds, the driver will be even more capable than he was before. Randy might be pushing sixty-four, but a vegetarian diet and a life spent in racing cars has kept him as capable as someone half his age.