Whenever you go racing there are absolutely no guarantees. No matter how well you prepare, just like any other sport, the result is anything but certain, even for a driver as accomplished and talented as Dai Yoshihara. On June 30th, after months of preparation, Dai competed in the 98th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The result wasn't what anyone hoped for: a DNF—Did Not Finish, due to mechanical failure.
Pikes Peak is a world renown hill climb in Colorado that pits drivers against an unforgiving 12.42-mile mountain course that winds around 156 turns as it climbs 4,720-feet into the clouds. The pace Dai set on the sections he completed would have put him on the podium. Mike Chang, co-founder of Evasive Motorsports, explained, "[Dai] was on track for a sub-10-minute run ... This would have put him second or third place in the Time Attack 1 class, but you never know what will happen once the car leaves the starting line. There's always the possibility of something going wrong, no matter how much you prepare."
The 2011 Formula DRIFT champion drove a 2013 Toyota 86 (Scion FR-S) sponsored by ENEOS, Evasive Motorsports and Turn14 Distribution. The hill climb was a first for Dai as well as ENEOS, and was the fifth effort by Evasive Motorsports, who dropped in a bored-and-stroked 2JZ paired with a sequential transmission that was cranked up to 900hp on race day. Since their first attempt in 2013, when the car made only 750 hp, Evasive has been looking for a class win. The 86 driven by Dai is the same one campaigned by Evasive, which still holds a record for the fastest 86 to get up the hill.
During preparation for the event the team switched to a smaller turbocharger, which allowed the 2JZ to reach full boost faster, something invaluable on a course with an elevation change of nearly 5,000 feet. Dai was not only on-pace during practice runs, he qualified second in the Time Attack 1 class which is no minor feat. He was strong out of the gate and well on his way to what the team guessed would've been a 9:48-9:52 time when the rear differential gave out on him.
To give you an idea of how fast that is, the Flying Lizard Motorsports' McLaren 650S GT3 driven by 23-time Pikes Peak champion, Clint Vahsholtz placed second in the Time Attack 1 Class with a time of 9:48:716.
The preparations for the event, which paid off despite the mechanical issue, took the better part of the past few months. Dai spent time dialing the 86 in at Willow Springs Raceway, watched a ton of videos and practiced in an Asseto Corsa driving simulator. In the final weeks he flew to Colorado and drove a stock Toyota 86 up Pikes Peak to get his first feel for the course. "I split the course into sections and drove each one four to five times to burn the turns into my memory. When you drive the entire hill, it's difficult to remember specific corners, but by breaking it down into smaller chunks you seem to remember it better," Dai explained.
Despite the disappointing conclusion to 2019's effort, Dai is looking forward to the possibility of returning next year. He said, "Hopefully we get a chance to do this again, and next time reach the top!"
Full video recap here.