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Nevada Speed Week September, 2001
 Jan & Jay O'Brien

We won TWO second place trophies!

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Speed Week
September 2001 was a new experience. SSCC decided to hold two races, a week apart, and to have activities for those of us who stayed in Ely, Nevada the week between the races. What follows is our story and pictures from Speed Week.


This web page you are looking at is BIG. There are a LOT of pictures, which hopefully will load for you while you are reading this text. Patience is the key word, especially if you are accessing this via a dial-up Internet connection!

Sign Up

The sign-up package arrived in the mail from SSCC on July 19, 2001. It took $2.64 postage! We filled everything out and returned it to Bunny Hill, as directed. Bunny is in charge of registration and deals with all of the participants. Bunny has a smile for everyone, is absolutely on top of the registration process, and somehow seems to be "everywhere". Bunny can also be found at the race finish line.

Ely and Eureka

After registration on Friday, Sept. 14, the parade through Ely and the welcome reception at the Bristlecone Convention Center in Ely, the next event was the technical inspection and Car Show on Saturday at Broadbent Park. That's when we met the other Mercedes entrants and swapped stories about race timing, previous races, and when we added new data to our spreadsheets about the courses. We ate an early dinner (there's many great places to eat in Ely) and attended the mandatory Drivers meeting, where we learned that the caravan for Eureka and the Gold Rush Challenge would leave at 5 AM Sunday! It was quite an experience, covering the 77 miles to Eureka at speeds up to [censored] MPH in a caravan!

Ready to Race

We are placed in "grid order" before the race. This is the sequence of cars that are run through the race. While waiting to be called up to the start line, we discuss our "game plans" with the cars that will be started 30 seconds before and after us, so we can be prepared for and accommodate passing if necessary.

Gold Rush Challenge, BBQ, dessert

The Gold Rush Challenge was the first race ever on Nevada Highway 278. The start line (south to north) was at mile marker 4 north of US 50. The first leg of the race was 55 miles to the north, to a point 560 feet north of mile marker 59. After all 100 cars ran the first leg, we ran the same 55 miles in the other direction. From there we went to the Opera House in Eureka, where the locals put on a delicious barbecue. After returning to Ely, we met at the Convention Center for dessert and to learn the results.

An interesting sidelight to this story was that there was no air cover. This is because the FAA had all general aviation grounded after the terrorist attacks on September 11th. Fortunately, there were no incidents. Another "victim" of the aviation shutdown was fellow MB driver and rookie Neil Villacorta Buer. Neil's wife Tiffany was scheduled to navigate for him but found herself stuck in Indiana. She rented a car to get home but had to miss the race because she couldn't get there in time. Neil was able to enlist a navigator in Alan Burton who regularly attends these events with his wife and inlaws. Alan's wife Barbara navigates for her father in a red 1993 Corvette in the 115 mph class. Since Neil entered the 115 mph class, this put Alan in a postion of competing with his wife! Neither car finished in the top three places, however.

Dave Golder won the unlimited class at 170.2442 MPH; he was clocked mid course with radar at 210 MPH in his (slightly?) modified 1999 Pontiac Grand Prix. The unlimiteds would have been faster except for some rain that fell as they were making their north to south run.

We won second place!

Our calculations were that we were 130 ms (0.130 seconds) late; SSCC informed us that we were actually 344 ms early and that we earned second place. The first place winner was off only 3 ms! Our congratulations to the winner, who was somehow able to nail exactly the time of the "waving flag" start for the second leg. Our intent in preparing and following a detailed "game plan" is to reduce the amount of "necessary luck" (this is Nevada, after all) to a minimum. The winner certainly did a better job of this than did we. Wow, he had an error of three thousandths of a second.

All Mercedes Results:

115 MPH, 6th place, 115.6686 MPH: Neil Villacorta & Alan Burton, 1988 360TE
110 MPH, 2nd place, 110.0105 MPH: Jay and Jan O'Brien, 1997 E420
110 MPH, 9th place, 112.9757 MPH: Tom Adler & Darrall Major, 1994 E400
110 MPH, 10th place, 113.3343 MPH: George Marin & John Uilkema, 2001 E55

Speed Week

SSCC and the Chambers of Commerce from both Ely and Eureka kept us busy during the week between races. There were some "getting started" problems, but the genuine interest and friendliness of everyone involved more than made up for them. Debbie Daugherty from the Ely Chamber and Dan Green from the Eureka Chamber really did their jobs to roll out the red carpet for us. On Monday, some played golf (not our game, sorry) and most enjoyed a BBQ at the White Pine County Fairgrounds. On Tuesday, we were hosted on a very informative (hard hat) tour of the Ruby Hill gold mine at Eureka that produces 10,000 oz. of gold per month. On Wednesday, we rode the "ghost train" of the Nevada Northern Railway on the "high line" east of Ely.  On Thursday, we ran the upcoming race course while others went to Baker and the Great Basin National Park (Lehman Caves); Thursday evening was a "Block Party" in a downtown Ely park. We enjoyed meeting the other Speed Week participants and we'll do it again.

High Speed Practice

Friday started with four 120 MPH five-mile runs on Nevada highway 893 east of Ely. As our car was "teched" for 124 MPH, we signed up to run the practice run at 120 MPH. We were the slowest car to complete the runs we made!  It was really great fun, and well worth it. Unfortunately the only other Mercedes that planned to run with us in the race Sunday had a problem after completing the high speed runs. Dean and Diane Albrecht from Alberta, Canada, had to have their E500 towed to Las Vegas to have a module replaced. Dean rented a Jaguar S class, and on Sunday they were able to conquer "Lucas, the prince of darkness" and finish the race with the rest of us. But that left only Jan and me to fly the three pointed Mercedes star!

Silver State Classic Challenge

The Silver State Classic Challenge, complete with air cover (thanks, FAA!) went well until the 170 MPH class. Carl and Ellen Young, known to most of us as very serious contenders, blew a tire on their Porsche Twin Turbo and flipped. All the safety equipment required for their speed paid off, and they survived the accident. They were air lifted to Las Vegas, where they are said to be recuperating from their injuries. Racing does carry its risks, and the safety requirements are necessary.

Our Race

This race was an eye-opener to us. All was well until just before the "narrows", the two mile curving part of the race that starts 70 miles into the 90 mile course. We could run the narrows at 110 MPH, but to allow for rain and other unforseen situations, we "put 5 seconds in the bank" before the narrows and bleed it off going through the narrows, slowing down to 100 MPH or so. Just before the narrows we were passed by the car that was two positions behind us on the grid. He started a full minute behind us! Once in the narrows, he slowed down in front of us to 75 MPH, and it isn't safe to pass in the narrows. We were spitting nails! Once safely around the road block, we were 14 seconds behind our plan. Fortunately, as we had check points every mile, we were able to speed up (to 124 MPH, our maximum allowed speed) and make up the lost time. Our measurements put us 50 ms fast at the end of the race; SSCC's official timing, learned at the results dinner, says we were actually 132.5 ms slow. We won another second place! The winner's error was 59.5 ms.

Ely Dinner: Results

Most of the race participants head south after this race to the Awards dinner in Las Vegas. Many of us, however, prefer Ely, and a no-host dinner is held for us. The results are faxed from Las Vegas, and even though the trophies are in Las Vegas, we learn of our successes (and failures) and the SSCC mails our earned trophies to us. We had 36 attendees at the Ely dinner, and seven trophies were won by those at the Ely dinner. Ex-Mayor Barlow White announced the results:
150 MPH 2nd Doug DeMots/Randall Marsh 0.1710 (26)
140 MPH 3rd Craig Homchick/Maureen Homchick 0.1703 (11)
135 MPH 1st Ken Potter/Patricia Mueller 0.9020 (8)
130 MPH 2nd Craig Loeck 0.5777 (11)
110 MPH 2nd Jay O'Brien/Jan O'Brien 0.1325 (26)
100 MPH 2nd Michael Borders/Kenneth Jordon 1.1830 (6)
95 MPH 1st Richard Hannon 2.7373 (5)
The number following the names is the error in seconds from the target time, and the number in parenthesis is the number of entrants in the class.

Wrapup for 2001

The first "Speed Week" was a success, and we'll be there next year. The SSCC folks, and the "Ely-ans" and "Eureka-ans" really made this a memorable occasion for us. Thanks to all who put this on for us. To those of you who haven't been there, we hope you will join us in 2002.

Jay and Jan O'Brien

Here's what we received in the mail from SSCC on July 19th:
Forms to fill out and send back, schedules and other useful information.

Lots to read and process! It was worth it...

Registration! That's Bunny Hill in the middle and Dani O'Leary on the right.

George Marin's 2001 E-55 at Broadbent Park 9/15/01

Neil Villacorta Buer's superpower 1988 360TE at Broadbent Park 9/15/01

Westbound on US Highway 50 just before Nevada 278 turnoff to the north

Northbound on Nevada 278 just north of US Highway 50

Jay and Jan O'Brien ready to race: Gold Rush Challenge 9/16/01

Tom Adler's 1994 E500 ready for Gold Rush Challenge

Mercedes Drivers before Gold Rush Challenge: (L-R)
Jay O'Brien, George Marin, Neil Villacorta Buer, TomAdler

And here we go....  Start line Picture by Ruben Gonzales, Fantasy Studio, Ely

Eureka Opera House 9/16/01 after Gold Rush Challenge

Barbecue inside Eureka Opera House 9/16/01

Our Trophies

Our Tour Group at the Ruby Hill Gold Mine

Jan and one of the little trucks that hauls ore at the Ruby Hill Mine 9/18/01

On the Ghost Train headed east, 9/19/01

120 MPH during test runs 9/21/01

Windshield Tech Stickers for both races and practice run

Jay and Jan O'Brien ready to race: Silver State Classic Challenge 9/23/01

Traffic in the Narrows

Ely dinner after SSCC Race 9/23/01 (1 of 3)

Ely dinner after SSCC Race 9/23/01 (2 of 3)

Ely dinner after SSCC Race 9/23/01 (3 of 3)

Barlow White reads race results

Our trophies

Click here for more information on the Silver State Classic Challenge Races.

Click here to see our other race pages.