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How Dai’s Pikes Peak Tesla Model 3 Evolved to Top the Time Charts in Just One Year
BY Mike Maravilla //
June 21, 2023
@openinanewtab
Photography: Larry Chen
@larry_chen_foto
  • Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) is a treacherous, race that spans 12.42 miles and 156 turns, culminating at the 14,115 ft. finish line.
  • The Turn 14 Distribution x Evasive Motorsports Tesla Model 3 challenged PPIHC with pro driver Dai Yoshihara for two consecutive years — 2021 and 2022.
  • Despite qualifying 2nd in class during its first effort, the Evasive Motorsports team opted for extensive upgrades for 2022 to ensure pace and reliability were measured equally.
  • The Turn 14 Distribution x Evasive Motorsports Tesla Model 3 proved that EVs provide a viable racing platform as our world straddles a transition away from conventional fuels.

The first rollercoaster I’d ever been on was Space Mountain and it combined three very dreadful things for an eight-year-old: darkness, stomach-curdling descents, and the unknown. Disney refers to this terror as an “inky blackness” and, amongst “wayward comets and migrant meteors”, urges riders to “feel the pull of gravity as you’re drawn into a swirling wormhole” — the likes of which are still considered to be intriguing, yet fearful mysteries amongst our most advanced scientists.

The point is this: I’ve had a “thing” about mountains ever since. So when I had the opportunity to attend the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC), I’d be lying if I told you it didn’t conjure up a little fear. Unlike the Disney variant which ends after a scant 3-minute journey, Pikes Peak is a winding 12.42-mile hill climb comprised of 156 turns. There aren’t migrant meteors here, but spontaneous lightning, errant wildlife, and inclement weather add additional variables to a course that is, admittedly, never the same twice. Its ascent literally takes you above the clouds and requires every participant to inhale supplementary oxygen just to complete the run. 

It sounds like an absolutely insane place to race, but it’s a place that Evasive Motorsports, an eight-time veteran of the effort, calls home virtually every June.

A HISTORY OF RACING

Evasive Motorsports was established in 2002 as a hub to provide the aftermarket’s best components with equally diligent service. As its experience grew, so too did its interest in motorsport; they were amongst the first specialty tuner shops to directly convert its business into racing, especially at Pikes Peak.

With Dai Yoshihara at the helm, Evasive earned Unlimited Class’s 1st place in 2020 with its Toyota 86, clocking a 10:05.006 time at the finish. While Evasive could have easily checked Pikes off of its motorsport achievements list, the SoCal outfit set its sights on an entirely new platform for 2021: the Tesla Model 3.

A LEARNING LESSON

Evasive’s first Pikes Peak EV adventure began with high hopes. Before its more radical Pikes Peak transformation, Dai managed to set the Buttonwillow lap record in the Model 3. It proved that the Tesla’s all-out pace was definitely there — even without a multi-page powertrain mod list — but it was obvious that battery power, and the cooling to it, along the 12+ mile route up Pikes Peak would prove challenging.

We went crazy after Evasive Motorsports unveiled the Model 3 in Pikes Peak trim. All of its street car modesty had been discarded in pursuit of all-out pace; the car’s new aesthetic — Artisan Spirits widebody, bigger Voltex wing, side mirror delete, and all — had evolved as a direct response to the data gathered from exhaustive test sessions at California’s proving grounds. You can’t see it underneath the livery, but a majority of the car was now carbon fiber; the roof and Evasive’s (EVS Tuning) splitter and rear diffuser are the only giveaways that the skin was different. But as we mentioned before, cooling and battery power would be the crux of the build. CSF had fashioned a unique system to provide adequate support up the mountain.

The car continued to evolve even after its debut. Once the car arrived in Colorado Springs for practice, the front bumper wore a GT3-esque duct on the front bumper as well as a pronounced Gurney flap across the hood’s main vent. Both late modifications helped create additional downforce for the front end to improve overall grip and turn-in.

Despite a small glitch in the TC system during qualifying, Dai managed to put the Turn 14 Distribution x Evasive Motorsports Tesla Model 3 in an impressively competitive spot: 2nd in class (behind Randy Pobst in a modified Tesla Model S Plaid) and 11th overall.

Measuring the car’s success on its race results alone would be an injustice. Although an unexpected bug put the car in limp mode for the run, the learning lessons and data that Evasive Motorsports walked away with would prove valuable for next year’s effort and its street-going customers back home. This doesn’t mean that the experience wasn’t emotional, but 2021 certainly added fuel to an already growing flame under Evasive Motorsports’ cap.

BACK WITH A VENGEANCE

As I mentioned before, Evasive is no stranger to Pikes Peak. But what I didn’t say is that it also isn’t new to bouncing back. They are, after all, supremely competitive. While Evasive could have easily returned to the mountain with the same car, they chose to improve upon an already impressive recipe.

First to go were the headlights. Although functional in poor visibility situations, they added unnecessary weight and were replaced with carbon fiber covers. The front fascia and hood were totally reimagined under the EVS Tuning moniker, the “smoother” combination of which offered a much more effective downforce and battery cooling package than the year prior. “In stock trim, our data showed power limits being applied before even finishing one lap in testing,” revealed Kelvin of Evasive Motorsports. “There was no single cause that we could find, but we could tell it was a relationship between the ambient temperature, battery temp, powertrain temp, and current draw.  Because of our time constraints, we upgrading the cooling capacity for nearly all of the powertrain and battery systems. The upgrades included additional coolers from CSF for the battery system, oil coolers for the front and rear powertrains as well as specialized gear lubricants from ENEOS oil.”

That treatment was applied to the rear as well; the wing position was lowered/moved forward and the diffuser was reconfigured to better manage the flow transition from underneath the car and back into the ambient air, which added valuable downforce, but also crucially reduced parasitic drag. “During testing at COTA, we brought a multi-position wing stand that let us test the wing in various heights and positions fore and aft,” Kelvin continued, “we clawed back about 3~4mph without any lost downforce which was valuable since the Tesla’s top speed was ~8mph faster at Buttonwillow with no aero and street tires.”

Underneath, a switch to new, narrower Yokohama ADVAN A005/A0006 tires (dry and wet respectively) would further reduce drag. KW Suspensions reworked the damper and spring combination to help the car cope with the mountain’s bumpier sections and mesh with Evasive’s new aero program. As a result, the car proved more stable, predictable, and altogether better to drive through each vastly different sector.

Long story short, the car had quantitatively changed quite a bit even though it had, from 10 feet away, looked rather similar. Nevertheless, all of these changes, coupled with Dai’s innate desire for competition, meant everyone was eager to take on the mountain.

As ever, the mountain had something to say. It brought its entire menu of weather to the table: an aperitif of cool, misty gloom on the grid, followed by a main course of dry tarmac with blaring sunshine, and capitalized with falling snow and iced-over switchbacks for a dramatic finish. While his nearest competitors faltered under Pikes Peak’s challenges — including Pobst whose Plaid windshield literally iced over — Dai and the Turn 14 Distribution x Evasive Motorsports Tesla Model 3 were ready for every challenge.

Indeed, Dai’s drive was nothing short of impressive. The conditions were among the worst the hillclimb had ever seen, preventing eight of the 71 entries from even crossing the finish line. In the end, Dai was able to claim the title of the fastest EV and achieve valuable reprisal. Our motorsport star drove the car back down the mountain to massive fanfare and a well-deserved showering of champagne. What a way to celebrate the 100th year.

THE NEXT CHAPTER

Even after all this, Evasive Motorsports yearned for more. It’d extracted plenty of knowledge from the Model 3 with enough proof that motorsports will live on should electric power prove the way forward. With that potential future on the horizon, Evasive decided that its 2023 Pikes Peak campaign would actually go backward.

At first read that might seem like an odd thing to say, but I don’t mean backward from progress. No, Evasive’s crowing achievements at Pikes afforded them the luxury to look retrospectively at their portfolio of work and land squarely on one of its most beloved platforms: the S2000.

Evasive Motorsports’ target to break into the sub-10-minute club at Pikes Peak this year is no small feat. It called upon its trusty workhorse — one that has been a mainstay at Evasive since 2004 — for the mission. “I’m really looking forward to racing the S2000 up the mountain,” said Dai Yoshihara. “It’ll be cool to do it driving an independently built race car, unlike some of the factory machines that were designed to achieve top times there.” Its evolution to its Pikes Peak form has earned it the name “S2000RS” and we’ll all be tuning in to see if it, Dai, and the Evasive Motorsports squad can add one more Pikes Peak achievement to its trophy case.


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