- 2020 Toyota GR Supra project car logs 2,400 miles roundtrip to and from Pikes Peak to get a taste of what the iconic hill climb race is like.
- Pit stops in Las Vegas, Moab, Vail, Denver, and the 14,115 ft. summit of Pikes Peak provide unforgettable memories and photo ops.
- A90 Supra is modified and tuned with EVS Tuning aero, BBS LM wheels, Akrapovic exhaust, KW coilovers, and Sparco QRT Performance seats.
I’m a firm believer that if you consider yourself a genuine car enthusiast, then there’s at minimum a short list of automotive events that you must see before you die. Understandably, they differ from person to person depending on what sort of vehicles they’re into. Still, there’s a general consensus that every sports car fan should see a spectacle like a Formula One or IndyCar race, attend the annual SEMA Show convention in Las Vegas, NV, perhaps shoot for the moon and book a trip to an iconic endurance race like the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, Le Mans or Daytona, and last but not least, stand hillside at one of America’s oldest and most dangerous motorsport races, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC).
I’ve worked as a journalist in the aftermarket automotive industry for 15 years. It’s crazy for me to think that I haven’t stepped foot on Pikes Peak yet, especially since Colorado Springs is only a couple hours flight from Los Angeles. Growing up as a car-crazy kid, I can vividly remember Pikes Peak being one of the first races I fell in love with as soon as I figured out how to download videos off the internet (dial-up modem speeds at the time). I stumbled upon a film known as Climb Dance by Jean Louis Mourey that followed a Peugeot 405 T16 rally car up the 1988 race. No words, narration, or interviews, just raw in-car, fly-by, and aerial footage (well before GoPros or drones were invented). It was the sort of video that I’d watch a few times a week. Upon hearing that I would be reporting on the Evasive Motorsports x Turn 14 Distribution Tesla Model 3, it stirred up some special emotion and excitement within me even decades later. I wanted to celebrate and remember my first Pikes Peak experience for many years to come, so I thought, why not make my childhood dream come true and pilot my car up the mountain to see what the “race to the clouds” was actually like. That car just so happens to be my 2020 Toyota GR Supra…
RELIABILITY IS KEY
I apologize in advance, as many of you might be tired of seeing my Launch Edition Supra. It’s been put on display at the 2019 SEMA Show as well as brought to countless car meets in California and a handful of track events over the last two years, including Super Lap Battle at Buttonwillow Raceway. I thought I’d already be bored of the car as well and told myself I was going to sell or part out the A90 Supra after a year. The truth of the matter is that it’s still an absolute joy to get in and drive every time I get a chance. So, when deciding whether to fly or drive to Colorado Springs, CO, it didn’t take much convincing to start mapping out my road trip and routes.
The A90 Supra on long trips is as reliable as a Toyota should be. Last year, I finished a 1,200-mile adventure on the first Drivers Project with zero complaints. This year, I’d be doubling down for Pikes Peak with a 2,400-mile roundtrip journey through Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, then back to California. No sweat.
To some folks, a new Supra might not be the best candidate to travel cross country in. However, my project car remains all bolt-on performance, which gave me peace of mind knowing that I could go the distance without any headaches. The 3.0-liter B58 inline-six remains untouched as I opted to keep the stock turbo. Giving the car its extra punch is an Akrapovic titanium exhaust, AMS Performance downpipe, Eventuri carbon fiber intake, and protuningfreaks bootmod3 tune. On California’s 91-octane, it’s good for approximately 410whp.
FUNCTIONAL CHASSIS AND AERO
The chassis upgrades are minimal with off-the-shelf KW V3 coilovers, Brembo GT-S front big brakes, and 19-inch BBS LM wheels — which I had powder coated white and widened for flush fitment. Various tires have been tested on the car, but the current rubber of choice is Falken RT660s — a 200-treadwear tire that I’ve personally lapped around Buttonwillow Raceway with enjoyment.
On the outside, you’ll find EVS Tuning aero (designed and manufactured Evasive Motorsports), which include a carbon fiber front lip and splitter, side skirts, side mirrors, and fenders. The rear features a one-off duckbill spoiler and a Voltex rear wing proven to shave time on the road course and completes the “track look,” in my opinion. I’m often asked why I didn’t go widebody. The truth is that the car already looks like a widebody with very curvy and aggressive fenders, not to mention I can fit 305-series tires in the back; some A90 owners are even running 315s(!).
FIRST CLASS SEATS
The interior is where I felt inclined to improve upon before the journey to Pikes Peak. Since the SEMA Show two years ago, I’ve been rocking a set of Recaro Pro Racer Spa seats. These carbon-Kevlar buckets are undoubtedly some of the lightest and most attractive seats on the market. However, it was a very tight fit that wasn’t the easiest to get in and out of (terrible for daily driving), plus the side visibility was poor due to the head protector. Because of this, I reached out to Sparco, where they were able to outfit the Supra with a fresh pair of QRT Performance seats just days before the road trip.
My good friends at Auto Tuned aided with the installation, and the final product couldn’t have been any better. The QRT Performance seats come in black or red leather/Alcantara. I opted for red to match the Launch Edition Supra’s red interior accents; the seats are a slightly lighter color but still complement nicely. The quality of the material is top-notch and still hand-stitched inside Sparco’s Torino, Italy headquarters. The added width and comfort level compared to the Recaros was a night and day difference. An expected change coming from a full race bucket to more of a sport luxury seat, but I’m still getting an FIA-spec race shell that’s as light as a carbon seat. Winning.
THE SCENIC ROUTE
So enough about the whip, and let’s get to the road trip. Heading out to Pikes Peak, you can load up on enough Red Bulls to mash there in 16 hours straight (gulp). But that doesn’t like any fun to me, so I carefully mapped out a four-day adventure that would allow me enough time to rest each night, explore a little here and there, and appreciate the scenic roads ahead.
Day 1: Los Angeles to Las Vegas
The first leg from LA to Vegas was honestly a breeze as I’ve done the 300-mile cruise over a hundred times before. It’s four hours of straight highway, which doesn’t quite set the tone for the journey but allows me enough time to relax and say hello to some old friends outside of the new Allegiant Stadium – Ronne Medina (L’aunsport widebody Subaru WRX STI) and Jeff Nguyen (Acura NSX).
Day 2: Las Vegas to Moab
I’ve visited Moab twice in my lifetime, both for off-roading/overlanding excursions. It’s such a stunning place that it had long been a fantasy of mine to return to the small eastern Utah town with a fun car that I could enjoy the winding roads and red rocks that surrounded the region. As you can tell from the photos, it was truly a glorious visit. I got a chance to visit Arches National Park, home to more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches. Surprisingly, it was lowered-car-friendly, too! I thoroughly enjoyed rolling alongside the Colorado River on UT-128, a 44-mile perfectly paved oasis with nothing but cliffs on either side and absolutely zero traffic (maybe I was lucky).
Day 3: Moab to Denver
Continuing to Colorado proved to be just as impressive with epic canyon lookouts off the I-70 (I recommend stopping at the Spotted Wolf Canyon View Area near Green River, Utah). Upon entering the Rocky Mountains, you’re greeted with curvy highways and tunnels, which are a blast to drive as long as you don’t get caught up in traffic or construction zones.
I made a point to stop for lunch in Vail, which as a kid, I vaguely remember visiting. Now, as an adult, I could appreciate how grandiose and massive the ski resort was, surrounded by million-dollar cabins and condos as well as a central village that momentarily makes you feel like you’re set in the Swiss Alps.
From Vail to the state’s capital in Denver is a quick 100-mile drive, where I still had plenty of time to kill, allowing me to take a photo in front of Empower Field at Mile High and catch up with fellow Supra enthusiast Tyler Graff. Tyler owns every generation of Toyota Supra, and his Mk4 is quite extraordinary with a molded TRD widebody, Ridox front bumper, Trial rear bumper, and Top Secret rear wing — a combination that just seems to flow well together. It’s also decorated with copious amounts of titanium and painted the same Absolute Zero color as my A90.
Day 4: Denver to Pikes Peak
The final leg of my journey was a short one, a 70-mile stint south to Colorado Springs. There wasn’t much on the agenda this day except to pick up my media credentials, check-in to the Airbnb, and, oh yes, drive up Pikes Peak for the first time in my life!
Public access to the mountain basically closes at sunset, with the last person entering the gate at about 6:00PM, which is the time I arrived. Because of this, there weren’t many other tourists going up nor willing to pay the $15 per person fee to get in. This meant I had nothing but open road in front of me (evil grin). It was at this moment when I had finally reached the culmination of my road trip: 1,200 miles to drive 12.42-miles.
It was a dreamlike feeling just driving half-spiritedly up the narrow and twisty mountain road, a road designed for tourists but doubles as one of the most dangerous racetracks in the world that has crowned legendary drivers like Bobby Unser, Rod Millen, and “Monster” Tajima. I can only imagine how much more frightening PPIHC was when it was nothing but dirt and gravel (just like in the Climb Dance film I was once fascinated with).
I was able to gain a lot more appreciation for what race teams and their fearless drivers must endure. The hill climb is towering (9,390 feet to 14,115 feet), scary beyond belief (you can’t truly appreciate how steep the cliffs are until you’re there), and tiring. I found myself pulling over twice, not just to take photos of mountain goats but because of fatigue. There’s also unpredictable weather I encountered, which turned quickly from clear blue skies and 80-degrees to losing all visibility and a chilling 38-degrees at the summit, where I saw both snow and ice (this is June). Reaching the top of Pikes is pretty rewarding, though, as long as you can adjust to thin hair. There are donuts freshly baked at the Summit View House, served warm and delicious as both Dai Yoshihara and I ate more than our fair share. The peak also rewards you with an unforgettable view, unfortunately not of the roads that lead up the mountain, but of the surrounding lands. According to a tour guide, you can actually see Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Kansas on Pikes Peak’s clearest day.
Setting out from Los Angeles, passing through popular tourist destinations like Moab and Vail, and finishing off the four-day adventure at the 14,115-foot summit of Pikes Peak, just days before the 99th running of the hill climb race, was an experience I’ll never forget nor regret. Honestly speaking, all that driving does take a lot out of you physically and mentally (not to mention you still must drive home). But it’s still something I would honestly recommend any car enthusiast, and adventure-seeker try at least once and with their own (reliable) project car. You’ll have memories that will last a lifetime, and to me, there’s nothing that beats that.
Sam Du | 2020 Toyota GR Supra Launch Edition (A90)
|3.0-liter 24-valve B58 inline-six; Akrapovic titanium exhaust; AMS Performance 304 stainless 4.5" to 3.5" downpipe; Eventuri carbon fiber intake; Ignition Project Power coils; YMP carbon fiber engine cover; protuningfreaks bootmod3 stage 2 tune
|eight-speed ZF automatic transmission
|KW Variant 3 coilovers; RS-R EDC canceller
|Brembo GT-S front big brake kit featuring 380mm two-piece slotted rotors and six-piston hard-anodized calipers
|19x9.5-inch (front), 19x11-inch (rear) rebuilt BBS LM wheels with powder coated gloss white centers, high luster lips, stain black barrels, chrome hardware, red/chrome center caps, red/black stickers; 275/35R19 (front), 305/30R19 (rear) Toyo R888R tires
|EVS Tuning aerodynamics featuring carbon-fiber front lip, front splitter, fenders, side skirts, rear lip spoiler, and side mirrors; Voltex Type 10SN rear wing; IND painted front reflectors; XPEL full car paint protection and Prime window tint by Premier Auto Armor
|Sparco QRT Performance red leather/Alcantara seats; Cusco harness bar