"Here's where I went off in the F40," says Amir Rosenbaum, gesturing to a steep mountainside covered in scrub brush and rocks. We're doing an RV tour of the twenty-two corners on the Speed By Spectre 341 Challenge course, and this one, fortunately, faces into the hillside. "I went up the hill there, came back down, and drove out of it. The car wasn't wrecked, but I was definitely done for the day." As an afterthought, Rosenbaum adds, "This is a bad place to try a new rear brake-pad compound." Yes. And Tijuana is a bad place to try a new dentist.
Rosenbaum, the founder of Spectre Performance, is the man reviving the event formerly known as the Virginia City Hill Climb. From 1972 to 2002, a motley crew of speed freaks convened annually in Virginia City, Nevada, to pit man and machine against the many perils of State Route 341. Those hazards include blind corners, camber changes (sometimes between the two lanes in the same corner), and a very Wild West attitude toward guardrails. Turn seven, which includes all three of those exciting features, once launched a man and his Ultima GTR into low orbit. We stop at turn seven and peer over the edge.
"That one looked more like a plane crash than a car crash," Rosenbaum tells the crowd of increasingly worried-looking drivers. "There was wreckage a half mile from where he went off." That guy, amazingly, lived to tell his tale. Which, judging by a makeshift memorial at the edge of the cliff, apparently wasn't the case for someone named Bruce. "I don't know who Bruce was," says Rosenbaum as we pile back into the RV. I'm beginning to wonder what I've gotten myself into.
(Top right: Route 341, the race course, is normally the truck route into Virginia City -- coincidentally, three minutes, 41 seconds is a milestone time for a run up the hill. Bottom right: Amir Rosenbaum gives drivers a prerace tour of the course in an RV, pointing out the many opportunities for disaster. The 911 looks like a visitor from the future on the town's main drag.)