Working communications for the 90th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) made for a long day. Arriving at 3AM to set-up, and finishing after 8PM, it proved taxing and rewarding. The race was delayed 37 days due to the Waldo Canyon Fire (I worked emergency shelter communications during the fire), and was launched on August 12th. A good review of the fastest (and longest) PPIHC ever, can be found here, with the course map. “Ham” radio reporting spotters (Pikes Peak ARES members) were positioned at regular intervals along the race course; their purpose is to provide near real-time feedback on race progress and conditions. Course preparation starts long before race day. Repeaters must be installed and tested to be sure that all spotter locations have clear communications using VHF and/or UHF (144MHz or 440MHz) frequency bands. Driving the course the day before yielded some amazing views (photo courtesy of Melissa Bishop):
On race day, I settled my Jeep Wrangler safely above Gilley’s Corner, laid out the solar panels, fired up the radios, and performed communications checks on all primary & alternate frequencies:
Communications hardware was powered by an 80 Amp-Hour AGM battery running a pure sine wave inverter that everything was plugged into; providing the advantage of constant-voltage output, even as the battery discharged. This turned out not to be a problem as the solar panels kept the battery over 13.1V while the sun was shining, and after sunset, it never dropped below 12.4V (but I did bring a spare battery). 12V equipment was run from a 110VAC to 13.8VDC switching power supply; some inefficiency, but again, constant output voltage. All DC runs were terminated with Anderson Powerpoles (30, 45, & 75A) and fusing.
Here’s a video of classic car racers taking the corner (I was reporting from the red Jeep). Mmm-mm can you smell the nitro?
The only severe crash closed the course for an hour or so; amazingly, no fatalities, but several folks tried to make off with pieces:
Late in the afternoon, a storm blew in which caused the finish line to be moved down the mountain. The storm caused a repeater to fail intermittently due to high-voltage induction on the antenna; this was a shocking (but not lethal) discovery made by one of the hams resetting the repeater. Subsequent investigation uncovered a faulty ground connection.