Potential Record Runs at Pikes Peak Foiled by Tesla’s Touchscreen

·4 min read
Photo credit: Larry Chen
Photo credit: Larry Chen

If you’ve ever driven a Tesla of any kind, you have no doubt stared in wonder at that car’s all-inclusive, all-powerful 17-inch touchscreen. Words of advice: Learn the screen’s many menus before you drive out of the showroom. Because some master the screen quickly, navigating through its many menus with ease to address any and all needs to drive their motoring pleasure. Others have a more difficult time.

So imagine if you are championship racer Randy Pobst with 90 road racing victories so far, who can handle almost anything on a race track and come out ahead, and suddenly the windshield of your Unplugged Performance Tesla Model S Plaid starts to fog up. The fog hit all the racers at Pikes Peak last weekend. Some racers in more conventional cars were able to hit a big red “FAN” toggle switch and clear things up right away. Others had to master the 17-inch Tesla Touchscreen.

“Great run up Pikes Peak today until the windshield fogged up leaving me blinded, couldn’t reach it to wipe it clear!” Pobst wrote on his popular Facebook page.

Unplugged Performance founder Ben Schaffer, who was behind Pobst’s entry this year and in previous years, was equally astounded by what the mountain can throw at you.

“Crazy!” he wrote on Facebook. “Dark Helmet (the team’s name for Pobst’s Model S Plaid) and @RandyPobst bested (competitor David) Donner’s Porsche 911 time (Donner finished 2nd place out of all 72 entrants) on the first two sectors at Pikes Peak. Then this happened! Windshield fog in line of sight!”

A video shows Pobst loosening his shoulder harness and trying desperately to clear the windshield with the back of his driving glove.

“Randy loosens his harness & tries to wipe the windshield with his hand while racing! Damn this race is madness! Finished 19/72 total as a result.”

Fellow Tesla driver Blake Fuller was likewise scrolling through submenus at 125 mph trying to switch on the defrost.

“I felt like an older person trying to program a VCR in the middle of my run,” Fuller told The Gazette. "It’s a combination of pressing the buttons and scrolling wheels. It's like juggling, and I don't juggle well."

There was also a NAV function on his Tesla’s screen, which in theory could have showed the drivers where they were, but it didn’t offer the accuracy a racer needs.

“It’s almost like this false sense of security,” he said. “It shows a straightaway, but on Pikes there really is no real straightaway. There’s a straightaway that has a kink, one with huge bumps where you need to be in the right spots.”

Photo credit: Blake Fuller
Photo credit: Blake Fuller

Indeed, the story at Pikes Peak every year is full of craziness, usually driven by the weather. While past years have featured clear skies at the start line and snow at the top, this year it was the blinding fog that shackled the drivers. Overall race winner Robin Shute was shaking his head and flashing a thumbs-down as he topped out in his Wolf TSC-FS at the foggy peak.

Photo credit: Larry Chen
Photo credit: Larry Chen

"I enjoyed the road itself," Shute told The Gazette. "I was basically idling towards the top when the lines disappeared. These were some of the toughest conditions we've ever driven in, racing or not.”

Because of the visibility, the official 12.42-mile race course was shortened this year, running from its traditional start down below the tree line to mile marker 16 where the fog got too thick, cutting the race course roughly in half.

Shute’s winning time was thus 5:55.246 on the shortened course. He was followed on the winner board by the overall record holder Romain Dumas, who set the ultimate full-course time in 2018 in an all-electric Volkswagen I.D.R but finished this year with a 6:31 in a 2019 Porsche 911 GT2RS Clubsport. Third place went to past Pikes Peak overall winner Paul Dallenbach with a 6:31, driving his own creation of a 2006 PVA-003 Dallenbach Special.

Check out full results here. And study the owner’s manual on your Tesla now, before next year’s race!